Article published in:Changing Genre Conventions in Historical English News Discourse
Edited by Birte Bös and Lucia Kornexl
[Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics 5] 2015
► pp. 163–190
Comparing discourse construction in 17th-century news genres
A case study of murder reports
In this paper I shall examine aspects of discourse construction in 17th-century crime reports. To this purpose I shall select four news genres which circulated in the 17th-century news market, reaching a heterogeneous cross-section of society: news broadside ballads, occasional news pamphlets, newsbooks, and The London Gazette as an example of an early newspaper. The news genres will be compared in terms of structure and lexis so as to highlight similarities and differences in their murder presentation and reporting. By referring to van Dijk’s (1988) categories of news discourse, I shall focus on the layout, the lead (which will be called “proto-lead”) and the body of the news. In particular, the proto-lead and the body of the news will be inspected for authorial comments, factuality and metadiscourse, their distribution and realisation being indicative of the news values and ideology behind the news report. Frequent instances of discourse interrelatedness among the news genres testify to a certain degree of continuity in terms of authorial intrusion, blending of factuality and sensationalism, and Puritan stance. At the same time, however, forms of discourse variation – especially from the second half of the century – highlight changes in the direction of objectivity, impersonalisation and brevity. The analysis will show how authorial commentaries and metadiscourse progressively withdraw from the murder account with a consequential foregrounding of factuality as the major ingredient of a high-quality report.
Keywords: 17th-century murder reports, discourse construction, news values, occasional publications, periodical publications, Puritan ideology
Published online: 24 July 2015
Corpora, archives and tools
EBBA = English Broadside Ballad Archive
University of California at Santa Barbara. http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu.
EEBO = Early English Books Online
LNC = Lancaster Newsbooks Corpus
Compiled by Tony McEnery & Andrew Hardie. http://cqpweb.lancs.ac.uk.
The London Gazette Archive
The Official King James Bible Online
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674–1913
Leech, Geoffrey N. & Michael H. Short
Cited by 1 other publications
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