Edited by Susan C. Herring
[Journal of Historical Pragmatics 4:1] 2003
► pp. 19–44
Textual structures in eighteenth-century newspapers
A corpus-based study of headlines
Newspapers have recently become attractive objects of interest to linguists, but little research has been done thus far on news discourse of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The present study contributes to filling this gap by reporting results from a corpus-based study of early English-language newspaper headlines. The analysis reveals that the modern segmentation of news into the three elements of headline, lead, and news story cannot be applied to forerunners of modern newspapers. Instead, a classification model is proposed that takes account of the specific properties of the genre. The physical organisation of early newspapers is first considered, so as to be able to identify typographical categories of headings. In a second step, the intended textual functions of headlines are identified, along with typical correlations of headline forms and functions. Applying these categories to an eighteenth-century corpus reveals general tendencies of text structuring in early newspapers.
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