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美国康涅狄格大学 (University of Connecticut)新闻学硕士assignment留学生英语论文代写高分范例Language Features of English News Headlines

美国康涅狄格大学 (University of Connecticut)新闻学硕士assignment留学生英语论文代写高分范例Language Features of English News Headlines
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详细描述

 

 

Language Features of English News Headlines

 

 

ABSTRACT

English news serves as a way to widen one’s knowledge of international community and plays a significant part in our daily life. As the start of a news report, headlines play a special role in news reporting. Thus we should place special emphasis on the characteristics of news headlines. This thesis focuses on the study of news headlines in terms of their language features: Grammatical characteristics, musical characteristics, humorous characteristics and cultural characteristics of headlines all contribute to making English News headlines an “attention-getter”. In other words, English news headlines’ writing distinguishes itself from other styles of writing by its special characteristics. Such a study seeks to benefit the readers in their understanding of what the editor wants to convey.

 

Keywords: English news, news headlines, language features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

摘要:英文新闻拓宽了国际社会的知识而且在我们的日常生活中扮演着重要的角色。 作为一篇新闻的开始,标题在新闻中担任一个特别的角色。 如此我们应特别的强调新闻标题的特性。本论文集中讨论了新闻标题的语言特征:语法特性、音乐特性、幽默特性和文化特性。这些使英文新闻标题成为 “注意获取物”。换句话说,英文新闻标题的写作藉着它的特别特性与其他文体写作区分开来。 本论文旨在研究编者想要传达的信息,以有益读者对新闻的理解。

 

 

关键词:英文新闻 新闻标题 语言特征

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the enhancement of cultural exchange between China and English-speaking countries, we are faced with more authentic English cultures, of course, including the news, so the having a good understanding of the features of the news, especially the news headlines poses a big problem.

As an indispensable part of news, headlines play an irreplaceable role. News headlines are a guide to news contents. In this sense, headlines function like a filter—for readers to make a decision whether or not to read the news stories under the headlines. What is more, the language of newspaper headlines is the model of language that is intensively compact and cleverly designed to serve the major purposes of telling the news, drawing attention and establishing character. Considering this fact, the author places special emphasis on the grammatical characteristics of news headlines.

Given the fact that a detailed study on the characteristics of English headlines is all the more important, few of published books provide us with systematic elaboration on the grammatical characteristics of news headlines. Encouraged by such thought, the author chooses this topic and tries to make a comprehensive survey of the grammatical features of news headlines.

1. Introduction

1.1 Definition of Headlines

The concept of “a news headline” has been defined by numerous journalists and scholars. For instance, Bruce H. Westley, in his News Editing (Second Edition), wrote, a headline is “any line or collection of lines of display type that precedes a story to introduce or summarize it” (Westley, 1972: 141). And authoritative English dictionary defines a headline as follows:

“The heading printed in large letters above a story in a newspaper” (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 1998: 706). Another enduring definition of news headline is offered by Longman Dictionary of the English Language, which goes “a head of a newspaper story or article, usually printed in large type and devised to summarize the story or article that follows” (Longman Dictionary of the English Language, 1984: 676).

The present writer also agrees with the definition offered by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: A head of a newspaper story or article, usually printed in large type and devised to summarize, give essential information about, or interest readers in reading the story or article that follows (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1961: 1042).

From the above definitions, we can see that news headlines are defined in terms of the role, function and form, namely, the role of news headlines is to summarize and make comments on its contents; the function is to interest readers in reading the news; the form is in concise wording.

1.2 Roles of Headline

The news headline is the fundamental part of any piece of news. In a time when it’s harder to get people’s attention, good writers always spend too much time and creative energy working on their headlines because they know that the headline is one of the most important parts of their work. According to Bruce H. Westley, from the standpoint of the reader, newspaper headlines serve the following purposes (Westley, 1972: 141):

—To tell the news by the headline alone.

Headlines summarize the news, so by glancing over them, the readers will know what the story is about.

—To index the news.

Readers can quickly locate the parts that interest him most by following the sequence of the news points line by line.

—To convey the relative significance of the news. Headlines rank the importance of stories by the size of the print and placement on the page.

—To transmit the relative seriousness of the news.

For instance, Italics and various decorative typographical devices such as boxes, star dashes, and so on, indicate that a story is primarily included for its entertainment value rather than its significance.

—To produce attractive effects.

Headlines are essential to attract the reader’s attention with large print and sometimes with language of shocking or sensational effect.

—To establish character and stability.

The consistent use of familiar headline structure gives the newspaper a relatively familiar and welcome personality.

—To attract potential readers.

This purpose is specified for the front page of a newspaper. Nowadays, electronic media can transfer information more quickly. To compete for a share of the public’s time, the front page plays the most important role of attracting the eyeballs of the readers. Since newspapers are usually sold on the newsstands with just the top-half of the paper showing to the passengers, reporters of newspapers try every means to make the banner headlines across the top of the page attractive enough to be a crowd-stopper.

1.3 Requirements of Headlines

Through our previous discussion we have a general idea of the functions of English news headlines. So we say that a good headline, in general, must meet the following requirements.

1.3.1To Advertise the News

Newspaper reading is in fact a communication between news people and readers. And a successful communication is possible or not depends on whether the communicator has obtained the attention of the receiver. As the beginning of the news, a news headline is designed to fulfill many functions especially that it must serve to attract the readers’ attention.

When readers open a newspaper, the first thing that catches their eyes is the headline. A bad headline will make the readers’ eyes glaze and drift immediately to another story on the same page or even to another newspaper. A good headline, however, can intrigue readers to read and invite them into the story. In this sense we say that headlines help to sell news and merchandize newspapers, which is very important in such a competitive media world.

1.3.2To Summarize the News Content

Naturally readers buy newspapers in order to keep posted on daily happenings, but to serve kinds of purposes, today’s English newspapers are getting fatter with a great number of pages. For example, a daily newspaper has ranged from about 20 pages to about 80 or 90 pages. And newspapers on Sundays sometimes include more than 200 pages. Literally no one can read all the stories processed every day. Therefore, many readers have formed the habit of scanning headlines, which makes possible rapid news comprehension. Thus one of the most important purposes of headlines is to inform readers quickly, which means that a well-designed headline immediately tells them the gist of the accompanying story.

1.3.3To Facelift the Newspaper Format

Nothing is more important than packaging the product. A piece of news and its headline resemble the product and the packaging respectively. Only when the headlines grasp the attention of the readers, the whole page can obtain vitality. So we say a final requirement of headlines is to stimulate the reader’s artistic sense. A dull head makes a dull page. But when heads are well written and well placed in forms that have been thoughtfully designed, the pages are clean and good looking. Therefore, news people need to make sure that English headline forms are set to beautify the layout of the newspaper and thus to interest readers in the stories.

All of these requirements, in general, must be handled in a maddeningly small amount of space, with additional restrictions placed by the size of the type used for the head. Obviously not all headlines can achieve all the three objectives, but they are always worked towards these objectives.

2. Grammatical Characteristics of Headlines

English news headlines cover a wide range, for example, politics, economy, military, culture, technology, medicine etc. Any topics in any field could be reported. Due to different purposes, some news headlines just summarize the news briefly and seriously, and some have an artistic flavor and act as lures to attract the public. Therefore, on the one hand, to achieve the purpose of highlighting completely the points of a piece of news in limited space, headlines not only choose words for their brevity and dramatic quality but apply very condensed structure which has been described as “headlinese” (张健, 1994: 2). On the other hand, since a headline is both to inform and entertain readers, skillful application of active rhetoric to headlines can help achieve the headline functions.

Therefore, an English news headline distinguishes itself from other styles of writing by its special characteristics on the grammar level.

2.1 Conciseness of Tenses and Voice

With the competition today between advertisers and editorial for space in newspapers, every reported word involves a cost. Therefore, a headline should try to attract reader’s attention in a condensed way. It is supposed to tell the whole information in one sentence though it may be incomplete. An effective way to abbreviate a headline is to use verbs in their present tense instead of past tense, which requires the participation of auxiliary verb or terminations to indicate past time. On the other hand, freshness strengthens a news story.

Most headlines don’t demand accuracy upon lenses and present tense is frequently used for indicating past time, future time and present perfect. For example:

NASA Spots Possible Asteroid Belt (AP, Apr. 20, 2005)

美国国家航空航天局发现可能的小行星带

It is reported that a NASA telescope has spotted what appears to be an asteroid belt circling a star similar to the sun. But in the headline, simple present is used instead of present perfect for timeliness.

In passive voice, the verb “to be” is omitted because again, it does not carry much meaning. So, we have Traces of Ancient Hunters Found in Siberia (The Associated Press, Jan. 1, 2004)

西伯利亚发现古代猎人遗迹

2.2 Omission of Words

English headlines may be hard to read for Chinese readers who are not familiar with features of English newspaper because most headlines have a short but distinct layout. They are usually incomplete, elliptical sentences or phrases, printed in italics, which mainly consist of nouns and verbs; while modifiers such as adjectives and adverbs are seldom used; Articles, connecting verbs or copular verbs are often omitted. For example:

Gene Project to Trace Migration (The Los Angeles Times, Apr. 13, 2005)

基因计划追寻人类迁移史

Here, the articles “a” and “the” are omitted before the noun phrase “gene project” and “migration” respectively. From the simple words stated, we know, beyond all doubt, that the National Geographic Society is launching a massive project today to trace the human migratory history.

2.3 Rhetorical Devices

In general, a news headline should contain the topics and the most important facts, though it is short and brief. But that is not the reason that headlines are called “attention-getter” (李小华, 1996). Rhetorical devices including metaphor, pun, alliteration, repetition, contrast etc. are widely used which are aimed at creating musical sound as well as vivid images to let the readers obtain spiritual enjoyment. What makes them so attractive to the readers can be showed up as follows.

The New Beetle Hits Town (mataphor)

Egg Talks: Aricultural Advisers Meet (pun)

Desperate Need, Desperate Deed (rhyme)

Overfed, Overpaid, Over-sexed And Over Here! (repetition) (许明武2005:234)

The examples above prove that it is the proper use of some rhetoric devices that actually makes the headlines more attractive and vivid, just as Professor Wang Yu Long said in his English Rhetoric and Writing, “Rhetoric is the art or science of effective communication in words”, and it gives “special emphasis to the employment of figures of speech in virtue of imagination and association so that the language used will be more colorful and expressive, the images created on the reader’s mind will be more vivid and impressive.” (王玉龙, 1996: 19). Rhetorical tools such as pun, alliteration, etc. are common in headlines to achieve a desired effect of humor, phonology and the like.

3. Musical Characteristics of Headlines

Language carries thinking but leeches on to phonic forms, thus first resorting to hearing or inherent hearing. People have long discovered the music of language, just as William Somerset Maugham, an English writer, once said, “If you could write lucidly, simply, euphoniously and yet with liveliness you would write perfectly.” (Maugham, 1949: 36)

We take great pleasure in the musical sounds in writing or a conversation. Realizing this, news reporters also try their best to choose words full of rhythm to give deeper inspiration to their readers. Therefore, numerous figures of phonology such as alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, paregmenon and various kinds of repetitions are favored for bearing music feature. What’s more, In English headlines’ writing, the first three are in the most common use.

As phonological figures, alliteration, assonance and consonance can all contribute to the sound effect of writing. Employing such phonetic devices, news headlines have a special magic to hold people’s attention, and they will stimulate people’s aesthetic feeling and provide them a lot to imagine.

3.1 Alliteration

All the three figures mentioned are rhetorical devices that have more to do with sound than the sense of words for rhetorical effect. They all have one thing in common, i.e. to make use of phonology to produce a musical effect or to give vivid expression, and they are either rhythmic or true to life in reading. Among them, however, alliteration is the most frequently used in English headline writing.

Alliteration is the recurrence of the same initial sound (not necessarily letter) in words in close succession(卢炳群, 2003: 7). As is seen in the following sentence: Magnetic, Magnificent Meryl (范家材, 1992: 205) 美貌动人、美名高筑的美瑞莲

In the example above, alliteration is used for emphasis. Actually, the initial sound /m/ repeats for 3 times without any interruption which makes the lines special and unforgettable.

Of Mice, Men and Medical Concern (Financial Times, Mar.4, 2005)

实验鼠、人类和医学之忧

According to the report, evidence linking certain drugs and products of food industry to risk of heart attacks and cancer respectively has led to a sharp question: how reliable are animal tests of product safety? To spur readers to dig into the long and complicated story, the headline writer decides to introduce such rhetoric device as alliteration to make the news headline more attractive and inviting. Thereby, the headline we now read has the word “Men” to replace “Human” and the word “Mice” “Animal”, which is actually more precise in meaning. In this way, the heading is concise but powerful with a sounding and phonological effect.

Although good for musical effect, alliteration has no correspondent in Chinese language. When alliteration is put into Chinese word for word, the Chinese version would often appear to be absurd. Therefore, alliteration is usually untranslatable directly. Instead, we have to take other figures such as personification, parallelism into consideration although they are not corresponding with alliteration in musical effect or language formation.

 3.2 Assonance

Assonance is the use of the same or related vowel sounds in successive words to create a musical rhythm and sound effect in language (覃海洋, 1998: 153). Assonance is one of the important phonetic rhetorical devices which is widely used to increase rhythm and expressiveness of proverbs, poetry, essays and comments. As is shown in the following proverb:

Truth sits upon the lips of dying men.

Here, assonance is found in the pair of words: sits and lips. The repetition of identical vowel sound /i/ increased the rhythmicity of the proverb and also emphasized its philosophy.

As for the function of assonance in headline writing, we can say that assonance, usually close together quite in rhyme, is aimed at achieving a particular effect of euphony, thus it also remains a preferable means in headline writing. Here are some examples:

McDonald’s Goes for Gold with Olympic Sponsorships (The Washington Post, Aug. 17, 2004)

牵手奥运,麦当劳的掘金路

Alliteration, assonance and metaphor can all be found in this headline. Thus being immersed in the musical world full of rhyme and witty humor, people get information pleasantly and leisurely.

The Digital Village (Business Week, Jun. 28, 2004)

数字化乡村

In this example, the front vowel /i/ is repeated four times. Hence the assonance employed here strengthens the music feature of language and is appealing to ears.

Although there is rhyme in Chinese, the rhyme comes at the end of the lines of poem.

Assonance is not the way to get rhyme in Chinese, so it is not translatable. In translation, one has to convey the novelty expressed by assonance in a creative way that may be of variety. For a clear arrangement, however, we shall discuss this in later section.

3.3 Consonance

As far as rhyme is concerned, consonance also plays a vital role in headline creation. Consonance means the repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words, as in ‘blank’ and ‘think’ or ‘strong’ and ‘string’. Due to its musical feature, consonance is commonly used in English news headlines.

As is shown in both headlines below, consonance remains the same, without any change of the final. So the echo of sound lasts from the beginning of the heading to the end, and thus produces a very pleasant musical effect:

If It Satisfies the Lips it will Air on the Hips (China Daily, Aug. 26, 1994)

口无遮拦肥臀难挡

The report tries to offer advices on how to lose weight and it persuades people not to have excessive food but to take more exercise to keep fit and healthy. In the headline, “hips” and “lips” constitute a consonance, which not only adds musical air but also implies the close relation between ‘lips’ and ‘hips’.

4. Humorous Characteristics of Headlines

What is humor? Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English described it as a capacity to cause or feel amusement. Just as humorous people tend to be more popular in life, English headlines that have a lot of humor in them enjoy much more popularity among the readers. In a comedic manner, humor in an English headline makes the reading easy and arouses smile and curiosity in the readers, who thus accept more easily what the author tries to convey.

Take a headline found on The Economist as an example. The title reads ‘A marriage made in heaven-and in the bathroom’, involving an idiom ‘Marriages are made in heaven’ and the phrase ‘in the bathroom’ which highlights the interesting identity of the “newly-wed”. As a matter of fact, this is a report about the proposed merger happened between P&G and Gillette, two of America’s biggest consumer-goods firms. When reading such a title, we build up a vivid image in our mind’s eyes and will enjoy digging into the story.

4.1 Pun

Pun means “humorous use of a word that has two meanings or of different words that sound the same” (Hornby, 1997: 1202).

A clever pun has a special magic to hold people’s attention for it provides them a lot to imagine and makes them smile or even laugh. It’s quite natural for the headline writers to resort to the use of punning to attract and amuse readers. Therefore, we have:

Sole Survivor (Time, Nov.8, 2004)

足下掘金唯我独存

Getting Pounded (Time, Jun. 20, 2004)

感受英镑

The examples above provide some puns that depend upon different meanings of the same word and create a humorous effect. In the first example, the word “sole” has two meanings—the noun meaning of the underside of a shoe or boot, the adjective meaning of being the only one. In the headline above, the word suggests both meanings at once. By punning on the expression “sole survivor”, the author makes the readers smile successfully. In the second example, “pound” is a pun—in one sense, used as a noun referring to the unit of money in Britain; in the other, used as a verb, meaning to hit with great force. Hence the pun means to say that the author is hit for a very serious inflation.

4.2 Allusion

English allusion is a very powerful rhetorical device. It refers to “some person or event, either historical or fictional, that has dramatic and vivid connotation and is often used in speech and writing.” (王玉龙, 1996: 43)

Every English allusion has its origin and accepted meaning. Usually the meaning of an allusion cannot be taken literally. For example, we may read such a sentence:

That expectation could prove the Achilles heel of the project. (The Economist, Sept. 28, 1992)

Here, “Achilles heel” does not mean simply the rounded posterior portion of the foot of a man named Achilles but a weakness or even a fatal flaw in the project mentioned. English has a tremendous amount of allusions which result from nursery rhymes, Greek mythology, fairy tales, fables, legends, Bible stories and famous literary works and historical events. The example above is just a case in point. The allusion of Achilles or Achilles’ heel comes from a Greek mythology. It is said that Achilles’ mother took him by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx to make him invulnerable from death, but the heel by which she held him remained dry. His heel thus became his weak spot, the only spot in his body by which he could be killed. Therefore, ‘Achilles’ or ‘Achilles’ heel’ becomes the other expression of a weak and vulnerable point in someone or something. Also, an article on The Washington Times of this year carries the phrase “Mideast

Humpty Dumpty”:

Mideast Humpty Dumpty (The Washington Times, Jan. 11, 2005)

中东局势:危如累卵

This is the head for a report on the deepening Middle Eastern crisis. “Humpty Dumpty” in it is cited from an English nursery rhyme: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king’s horses, And all the king’s men, Couldn’t put Humpty together again(冯翠华, 1995: 229).

The ‘Humpty Dumpty’ is believed to be an egg-shaped punchinello who finally tumbled in shatters from the wall, and here it is quoted to show that situation in Mideast is just like something that stays in danger and unable to be repaired if once be mangled. Now we have another example:

And on the Seventh Day We Rested? (Time, Aug. 2, 2004)

我们在第七天休息了吗?

Here, “the seventh day” refers to Sunday, and the allusion comes from the Bible: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.”

老大哥,移过去些

“Big Brother” in the head comes from 1984, a science fiction by George Orwell. In the fiction, a “big brother” runs a surveillance society and watches every goings-on including people’s mentalities 24 hours a day. Hence the heading above quotes “big brother” to make a reference to surveillance technologies limited to governments. Besides, the phrase stands in vivid contrast against “little brothers” in the last paragraph which refers to digital cameras and camera phones used by common people. The headline is thus endowed with a sense of humor and very eye-catching to the readers.

 

 

 

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