A critical discourse analysis of the selected Iranian and American printed media on the representations of Hizbullah-Israel war

Mahdi Yaghoobi

Tabriz University, Iran. As of 2013: Islamic Azad University, Marivan Branch, Iran


This study examines the relationships between language and ideology and how such relationships are represented in the analysis of texts, following Systemic Functional Linguistics and transitivity analysis developed by M.A.K. Halliday. In this study, it is tried to show that news structures are working apparatuses of ideology and store meanings which are not always obvious for readers. Through a comparative analysis of an Iranian newspaper and an American magazine with opposing ideologies, the researcher attempts to reveal how these ideologies are represented differently in these printed media with regard to Hizbullah-Israel last war in 2006. It also suggests that these printed materials mystify the agency of processes by using various strategies such as passivization and nominalization. In other words, critical text analyses reveal how these choices enable writers to manipulate the realizations of agency and power in the representation of action to produce particular meanings which are not always explicit for all readers.

Keywords:CDA, transitivity system, ideology, power, Hizbullah-Israel war

1. Introduction

There are different purposes for which one may want to analyze a text. The goal of this study is to investigate the social function of language as a powerful social practice in a specific discourse, such as media discourse generally and printed media discourse particularly. In this study, as Fowler (1991) maintained, "I am not gunning for the press" (p.8) but scrutinizing the structures of two selected printed media for the aim of making clear the representation of Hizbullah-Israel conflict in their last war in printed media discourse, using Halliday's transitivity system.

Moreover, by analyzing these printed media, it is not aimed to show that there is an intrigue on the part of these news writers to deceive and betray the public. Rather my major purpose is to show how media workers and journalists' linguistic choices differ from a diverse ideological point of view to another one in the treatment of the same event. Thus, the more practical objective of this study is conscious-raising through focusing upon language.

Several lines of interest converged to make me do this research. Firstly, Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA) has become the ground for some of the theories that focus on the studying and analyzing written and spoken texts. The underlying aim of these theories is examining the language and discourse of the press.

Secondly, since most of the contents of a paper convey through a text on the one hand, and what we know in current life is basically from mass media in general and printed media in particular, investigating or analyzing linguistic choices of printed media critically is crucial which confirms or rejects our world view. Thirdly, one of the most disturbing, outstanding and affecting events of 2006 was the proliferation of violent incidents in the Middle East, involving Hizbullah group and Israel army. I was keen on the representation of this conflict in the media discourse, especially in the press.

As the scale of violence of this event increased, public order and disorder in that context during this period was a controversial matter to think about and discuss. Therefore, a basic tool in formulating ideology in public discourse, not only in that situation but throughout the world, was printed media in that moment. In fact, the reactions to this incident were dissimilar. So, this study seeks for answers to the following question:

There are three factors which put a limit on the findings and discussions of this study. First and more important of these three factors, since I live in the context of Iran, as one of my examined contexts, I have paid attention to keep myself safe from any ethnic bias that might influence the results of study. That is, it is tried to reduce the intrusion of one's subjectivity as an Iranian. Taking this point into account, it is intended to examine and describe the language of texts more adequately without preconceptions in favor of the context of Iran.

In the next place, educational system of Iran compelled me to choose a magazine and a newspaper because it was not found a newspaper or a magazine which appears weekly in English language in Iran and also any American or British newspaper which will be disseminated daily in Iran. Therefore, I was forced to select these printed media which have two dissimilar discourses to analyze.

The other one concerns the data of this study which are drawn from two selected printed media and may not take into account the discursive practices and ideological viewpoints of these printed media, since these news stories and articles are chosen at random.


2. Review of Literature

2.1 Critical Discourse Analysis

One of the influential approaches to discourse analysis is CDA. It was the late 1970s that this method was considered as a field of investigation. "In the 1980 and 1990s", as Van Dijk (2004) mentioned, it was highlighted that "discourse analysis should have a critical dimension" (p.17). As a matter of fact, critical linguistics was proposed by Roger Fowler and his colleagues at the University of East Anglia. They proposed this term based on their work on language and ideology. To be more precise, this term was concerned to analyze critically the relationship between language and social meanings. Printed media, among others as my interest here, are obvious examples of discourses where particular assumptions or ideologies are embodied.

Besides, Halliday's Systemic Functional Linguistics was adopted by these theorists, i.e. critical linguistics was strongly influenced by the work of Halliday and his Systemic Functional Grammar. For Brookes (1995), the primary purpose of CDA is to "uncover how language works to construct meaning that signify people, objects and events in the world in specific ways" (p.462). Thus, the major concerns of CDA are how discourse is shaped and constructed by relations of ideology, power and systems of knowledge or belief and how texts are used to maintain or create social inequalities through representation of so-called reality which are not explicit to discourse participants.

In 1991, Fowler claimed that the relationship of text with its context construct the basic framework of CDA. In other words, based on Fairclough (1995a, p.7) "discourse is the use of language seen as a form of social practice, and discourse analysis is analysis of how texts work within sociocultural practice." By this definition, analyzing texts should not be isolated from the surrounding situation in which texts are produced. Obviously, by this explanation three factors should come into account in critical linguistic studies, viz. discourse practice, text production and sociocultural practice. CDA looks to establish connection between these three elements. I have illustrated these interrelated dimensions of CDA in the following figure.

Figure 2.1 Three dimensions of CDA

2.2 Ideology

As prominent focus on printed media here, in his influential book, Language in the News, Fowler (1991) claimed, "news is not just a value-free reflection of facts. Anything that is said or written about the world is articulated from a particular ideological position" (p.101). In other words, according to Gee (1999), "when we speak or write we always take a particular perspective on what the world is like" (p.2). Moreover, people can be both informed and controlled by language, and of course can inform and control others, or as Kress and Hodge (1993, p.6) said, language is "an instrument of control as well as communication".

When we are talking about ideology, the first thing which comes to the mind is power. For Van Dijk (2000), "if there is one notion often related to ideology it is that of power" (p.25). By this definition, power is the possession of the ability to shape actions. Since the most prominent feature of mass communication like printed media is conveying information and interaction between reader and writer, it is not free from the struggle for influence over any other. Therefore, the exercise of power is accomplished through ideology.

Moreover, ideologies which are natural and habitualized in the community become a basis for background knowledge which will be activated in an appropriate time and place. One more point is that Fairclough (1989) utilized the term of member's resources (MR) when he has demonstrating background knowledge which is activated in an interaction. He defined it as something "which people have in their heads and draw upon when they produce or interpret texts— including their knowledge of language, representation of the natural and social worlds they inhabit values, beliefs, assumptions and so on" and he kept going that MR "are socially generated, and their nature is dependent on the social relations and struggles out of which they were generated " (p.24).

To summarize the discussion so far, ideologies form the social representations of the beliefs shared by a group and consequently allow new social opinions acquired and at the same time distributed in society when its members are encountered with new events and situations, as was the case for Hizbullah-Israel during their last 33 days of war in 2006. In Iran, for example, propositions of anti-Zionism ideology in reaction to Israel attacks as well as pro-Islamic ideology in the support of Hizbullah defense and may be its invasion, influence the development of attitudes about confirming actions of Hizbullah and as a result control the discourse of such events. Iranian newspaper readers know the discourse and its meaning in advance, predictively bringing relevant mental models or schematic knowledge, which are to be confirmed in the act of reading. The same is true for the relation between social context and the minds of media workers in America. Therefore, when ideologies can control the social practices of a group in a society, it is believed that they also control the structures of text and talk in media discourse, which I now turn to it in more details.

2.3 Media Discourse

Because my study is interested in elaborating and representing Hizbullah-Israel war in two different contexts unrelated to the situation of war, what most media users in Iran and America know and think about this war will largely be due to the mass media rather than to personal experiences and opinions. Thus, this part of study is allocated to the role of media discourse and exercise of power in news reports.

It is supposed that attitudes affect the way we behave in a society. Printed media, as an instrument for (re)producing attitudes, "are not simply vehicles for delivering information. They guide the ideological stance of the reader" (Reath 1998, p.50).

Different media influence our understanding and knowledge of the world we live in, when they employ a specific language. In effect, this language is not authentic since it is determined and administered by dominant world-views or ideologies or as Fowler (1991, p.11) said, "the world of the press is not the real world, but a world skewed and judged". In other words, a paper presents "its perception of 'reality' in the form which it regards as most suitable for its readership" (Hodge & Kress 1993, p.17). That is, keeping the power of media discourse hidden from the mass of the population is a natural tendency in current life. Media workers' goal in this bias is perhaps keeping the media users in a stable point in which they are not even engaged in the negotiation with their surrounding subjects.

Another important factor regarding media discourse is access. Which groups in the community, here in Iran and America, have more or less access and opportunity to represent their opinions in the media and who has the power to impose limitations and constraints on access? As Fowler (1991) asserted, "newspapers in part adopt this language for their own and, in deploying it, reproduce the attitudes of the powerful" (p.23). Van Dijk called these powerful people elites who can influence the structure of language and then society. On the other hand, common people do not have active role in shaping media discourse. They just formulate conversations with their families, friends and partners. As a result, media's power, role and influence in shaping and (re)production of media users' attitudes are crucial.

3. Methodology

3.1 Data Selection and Sampling

This study was conducted in sociopolitical context of Iran with an American magazine and an Iranian newspaper, namely NEWSWEEK and Kayhan International, respectively. Below, the reasons for selecting these printed media will be discussed.

First of all, as already stated, printed media typically legitimize some versions of the dominant ideology that operates in a society. Therefore, ideologically, the Newsweek as an American magazine is pro-Israel whereas the Kayhan International is anti-Israel. In (re)producing and formulating ideology in printed media two factors, based on Fowler (1991, p.122), should be considered, viz. scale of publication and how many people read this printed media in a day or in a week? which I call them quantitative and qualitative, respectively. The Kayhan International, a morning paper, is a strongly pro-conservative newspaper with vast circulation and the publication frequency of this newspaper is daily. That is, this newspaper is affluent quantitatively.

Furthermore, since, as Fairclough (1995b, p.36) asserted, "an account of communication in the mass media must consider the economics and politics of the mass media: the nature of the market which the mass media are operating within, and their relationship to the state, and so forth" I selected this conservative English newspaper which dominated the market in Iran. That is, it has influential access to the minds of the largest part of the population. The leading stories and main events of this newspaper have always initiated against America and its allies and continue to do so with the present situation of Hizbullah-Israel war. Then, right-wing or conservative politicians have direct access to this paper which tends to blame western policies in regard to their performance, or to be more precise their ideologies, in the world.

In this study, copies of these printed media from July 12 to August 14 in 2006 were examined. This yielded many reports dealing with Hizbullah-Israel war in these two printed media. Of these news stories, two news reports, since they were very long and detailed, were selected by the researcher as corpus of data for analysis and then Halliday's Systemic Functional Grammar within the ideological function of language was applied throughout the texts. In so doing, I hoped to gradually break off the structures of these reports to unmask the construction and (re)production of dominant ideology embedded within the structure of these two printed media.

One more point which has been focused here is that my enquiry is a type of content analysis. Content analysis is a kind of investigation which serves as "an important function by comparing the same material as presented in different media within a nation, or between different nations; or by comparing media content with some explicit set of standards or abstract categories" (Watson & Hill 1989, p.47). Additionally, I am interested in news stories and not editorials which require different methods of analysis since they have a genre different from other news stories and articles.

Also, I have overlooked issues of graphical organization and graphic format of the pages, such as layout and non-verbal properties of news, like photographs. In other words, I am concerned with macro phenomenon, i.e. the underlying structure which accounts for the organization of a text or discourse, rather than with micro-organization of news discourse. This means that knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and ideologies may act and perform in the representation of macrostructures.

3.2 Method of Analysis

Having and following a method of analysis is essential in CDA, since "it is not possible to 'read off' ideologies from the text" (Fairclough 1995a, p.71). I would like, in this study, to follow Halliday's transitivity system (1985), since one of the most prominent theorists of text and context relationship regarding the development of CDA has been M.A.K. Halliday.

One of the dominant components of Halliday's ideational function is transitivity. Halliday (1985) maintained that there is a set of interrelated systems in the general framework of linguistic system: transitivity, mood and theme. He also suggested two approaches to the analysis of the clause in terms of participants and processes. The first one is transitivity system in which he distinguishes six kinds of processes and their specifically associated participants, each with its own grammatical relations. The second is ergative interpretation in which we indicate, "the process may happen by itself or be caused to happen" (Thompson 2004, p.135). That means asking about agency and affected participants or who or what is affected or benefits from the process.

Clauses in language represent events and processes of various kinds and transitivity aims to make clear and show these processes which they represent. How the action is performed, by whom and on what, are all encoded in the clause by various syntactic mechanism, in a general system of transitivity.

In the interrelated linguistic systems, the structure of a clause is not arbitrary, and can not be determined in isolation from other clauses in the events, processes and participants represented and mentioned in the text. Based on the above explanations my hypothesis is that certain clauses have different functions in transmitting the information of the text and these functions are expressed or reflected in the syntactic structure of the clause. In other words, these clauses convey different ideologies of the media workers to the media users. The application area I chose to evaluate my hypothesis is that of analysis of the two selected printed media using the general theory of transitivity system. Based on the above discussion, transitivity is a fundamental concept in Hallidayan linguistics which could be used in the analysis of representation in the text and I also employ it throughout my methodology of this research.

Accordingly, the data from each printed media, in line with the principles of CDA, have been analyzed separately, but of course in different times of the outbreak of thirty-three days of hostilities between Hizbullah and Israel, and interpretations of findings have been discussed. Moreover, I provided the main participants' role in percentages and also the distribution of the process percentages with the help of SPSS software. Therefore, throughout the analyses I made comparison between the Kayhan International's representation and that of the NEWSWEEK to illustrate differences and similarities in the representation of warfare between Hizbullah and Israel. Also, the data are reproduced in the appendix and paragraph numbers have been inserted for ease of reference.

4. Data Analysis and Discussion

Intercultural communication in its most basic form refers to an academic field of study and research. It seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures behave, communicate and perceive the world around themselves. It also can be described as the interpersonal interaction between members of different groups, which differ from each other in respect of the knowledge shared by their members and in respect of their linguistic forms of symbolic behavior.

Fifty years ago the study of culture conflict for anthropologists was limited to people who lived in close proximity to each other. After World War II, no one could have predicted that United States would eventually be involved in conflicts in places as remote from North America as Lebanon, Korea, Somalia and Vietnam. One engagement seems to have a different character than all of these others is the American engagement with Iran.

There are innumerable cultural differences between America and Iran, but it seems that some cultural and political differences between America and Iran can be drawn between the two countries. A grave threat between Iran and America relationship, especially in last years, is demonstrated by the war between Iranian-backed Hizbullah militants and American-backed Israeli forces.

As a matter of fact, the summer war will likely prove to be one episode within a larger confrontation between regional powers. A relatively safe conclusion to draw from the recent conflict is that its meaning goes well beyond a Hizbullah-Israel war. In Iran, for instance, most reports indicate that Tehran perceived the summer war to have very mixed results. On the one hand, Iran benefited greatly in credibility and popular support in the Arab and Islamic world for the stronger performance of Hizbullah. On the other hand, putting Hizbullah into this intense political conflict with Israel wasted much of Hizbullah's deterrence power against Israel.

Meanwhile, strong messages of support for Israel and Hizbullah from their allies were published. Foreign media reporting became the central feature in the war, often disclosing information about Israeli targets to Hizbullah, for example, in NEWSWEEK and Hizbullah's targets to Israel in Kayhan International. Indeed, every paper tried to convince the reader that this war was not a zero-sum game for their adherents.

There are a range of choices that a writer can make at the level of syntax that can evoke different responses in the reader. In any representation of processes in a text, as Fairclough (1995b) described, writers have to decide "what is included and what is excluded, what is made explicit or left implicit, what is foregrounded and what is backgrounded, what is thematized and what is unthematized, what process types and categories are drawn upon to represent events, and so on" (p.104). Thus, I seek answer(s) for what presences and absences, foregrounding and backgrounding, characterize the text and what process and participant types are there and how are processes and participants categorized?

In every news story, first paragraphs represent the main events of that article. These introductory paragraphs act as a point of departure for emphasizing or de-emphasizing our assumptions and background knowledge, concerning a particular event. For Van Dijk (1985) "first paragraphs are used to build full macropropositions, to confirm (or reject) the initial macro-assumptions of the reader and to further extend the macrostructure and the model of the text" (p.84). In other words, the first paragraph of the text (technically lead of the article) is the most important paragraph of the news story. It establishes the main theme and gives information about the basic facts and people involved in an event. Unsurprisingly, as data analysis revealed, both the Kayhan International and the NEWSWEEK initiated their reports with 'Zionist warplanes' and 'Hizbullah fighters', respectively.

What is obvious in these two first paragraphs is that the Kayhan International demonstrated the story with the active participation of Zionist army, 'Zionist warplanes fired missile', without acknowledging the involvement of Hizbullah guerrillas, in the first place. On the other hand, not only the major participants in the NEWSWEEK are Hizbullah fighters but also the story is demonstrated in an actorless process. When s/he, for instance, described the incidents of warfare which happen 'in the blasted town of Bint Jbeil', the writer outlined these events as though the town is blasted by its own action or by a mysterious force!











Table 4.1 Hizbullah and Israel's role in percentages in the Kayhan International (July 29, 2006)

In the Kayhan International, the Zionist army is doer of negative processes in active sentences or goal of actorless processes. As actors, the Israeli soldiers 72/7 % of the time are included in material process which is shown in table 4.1. That is, the role of Zionist army is usually foregrounded.

Foregrounding is a term which is introduced by Garvin (1964) and by definition in foregrounding "linguistic features can themselves be foregrounded, or 'highlighted', 'made prominent', for specific effects, against the (subordinated) background of the rest of the text" (Wales 1984, p.182). In other words, by using foregrounding here, the writer is drawing attention to 'vicious attacks' by Zionist army and making the reader view it in a certain way. Now, I will present some observations arising out of these analyses. For a start, look at the first words of three different paragraphs in the Kayhan International newspaper:

Parag. 1: Zionist warplanes fired missiles at dozen of targets

Parag. 3: Zionist fired missiles at…town of Nabatiyeh

Parag. 5: Zionist also destroyed two buildings

Closer inspection of the above clauses reveals that the Zionist army is the actor of all these processes and Hizbullah and Lebanese people are the goals and thereby affected through these negative processes. Accordingly, the agency of Hizbullah fighters who may be engaged the enemy will be syntactically played down by the use of passive sentences and their role may be wholly eliminated by actorless passives. Consider the following processes:

Parag. 10: In return for freedom for the three Zionist soldiers taken captive

Parag. 9: Thirty-three Zionist soldiers have been killed in the fighting

in which the function of Hizbullah guerrillas is backgrounded and this backgrounding obscured the actor of the process in paragraph 10. In the other given sample, the role of Hizbullah army has been deleted entirely from the grammatical position of subject or actor in the process. On the other hand, the NEWSWEEK portrayed Israel as recipient of attacks and destructive actions and Hizbullah is represented as actor of processes in active structures.

Parag. 3: They've reportedly destroyed three of Israel's advanced Merkava tanks

Parag. 5: Hizbullah launched more than 200, with almost as many on Friday

Parag. 9: Hizbullah added airline hijacking and the taking of America and European hostages to its repertoire.

In all above reproduced sentences, Hizbullah is directly the actor of ferocious events in the conflict which destroyed Israel's tanks in paragraph 3, launched more than 200 missiles into Israel in paragraph 5 and furthermore adds airline hijacking and taking people as refuges to its repertoire in paragraph 9 that all these introduce Hizbullah as an obstructive to ceasefire in the region. In these samples, Israeli forces are simply portrayed as victims; not victims of their own actions but victims of Hizbullah fighters. In this way, the reporter has applied active construction to foreground or highlight Hizbullah guerrillas as the most active participants in the processes. In fact, by being the goal of these processes, Israeli soldiers were represented as passive participants who did not act upon others, i.e. they were identified as helpless victims.

In addition, the NEWSWEEK employed the strategy of repetition of negative actions which are done by Hizbullah group throughout the text in the hope of convincing reader of Hizbullah's dangerous actions in the region. Take the following phrases into consideration as an example of applying this strategy;

Parag. 3: They've…implanted listening devices along the border

Parag. 3: Hizbullah even managed to eavesdrop successfully on Israel's military communications

Parag. 13: They were eavesdropping on Israeli military communications.

In these three processes, Hizbullah, undoubtedly, is not only the actor of a negative action, namely eavesdropping but also presented Israel's military as goal of these functions and put Hizbullah forward as an army with high-tech instruments like listening devices.











Table 4.2 Hizbullah and Israel's role in percentages in the NEWSWEEK (August 14, 2006)

As the table 4.2 illustrates, Israel was the actor of material process 38/2 % of the time. Although this percentage is not more than, let's say, its counterpart, viz. Hizbullah, the point is that the NEWSWEEK justifies Israel's offensive actions before or during the processes. Below, I provided some of these examples:

Parag. 2: It was untouched…which lay mangled in an Israeli counterstrike

Parag. 6: Supplies coming from Iran via Damascus, and last week Israel bombed the last roads

Parag. 13: Israel launched a massive retaliation from a Hizbullah raid

Though Israel is the actor of these events, the NEWSWEEK applied some justifications for these bloody actions. In paragraphs 2 and 13, using the words 'counterstrike' and 'retaliation', the writer tries to convince reader that Hizbullah started the war machine and then Israel was compelled to defend itself against this invasion. In paragraph 6, since Iran and Syria help Hizbullah through these roads, Israel has the right to bombard these roads into its neighbor. In other words, transitivity analysis suggests that even though there are some attacks namely force, aggression and bombardment against Hizbullah, they are ordinary features for controlling the crisis! All in all, the NEWSWEEK represented Hizbullah group as trouble makers and victims of their own actions and thus deserving punishment.

It is evident from the comparison of the Kayhan International and the NEWSWEEK—which are considered to hold opposing ideological positions—that the broader framework of these dynamics and the war itself consist of an American-Iranian struggle to shape the region and formulate their role in it. Below, I provided two models of this struggle. At first, in its news reporting of Hizbullah-Israel warfare, the NEWSWEEK not only accused Iran of establishing and then sponsoring Hizbullah army but also representing Hizbullah and its patron, Iran, as terrorist groups in the world. First glance over the following examples substantiates this accusation against Iran:

Parag. 3: Their arms are from Iran and not just AK-47s and RPGs.

Parag. 6: Hizbullah depends to some extent on supplies coming from Iran via Damascus

Parag. 9: The group was first pulled together in 1982 by members of Ayatollah Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards

Parag. 11: Iran has underwritten Hizbullah with $ 100 million a year

Transitivity analysis confirms that Iran is the actor of material processes like paragraphs 9 and 11 or the range of these processes like paragraph 6. The other role which is assigned to Iran by Halliday's transitivity system is the 'attribute' of sending sophisticated weapons to Hizbullah guerrillas. Tying Hizbullah group to Iran strengthen this point that meaning of this war goes well beyond Hizbullah-Israel hostilities.

In the second place, since most of the people in Iran are Muslims, the Kayhan International tries to create an environment which can stimulate the religious emotions of people, activate the relevant background knowledge, i.e. have an abhorrence of Zionism, and as a result affect their judgments of the violence. In the examples which follow;

Parag. 1: Zionist warplanes fired missiles at dozen of targets

Parag. 3: Zionist jets fired missiles at a…town of Nabatiyeh

Parag. 8: The Zionist started the vicious attacks on July 12

and also many other examples, the writer not only categorized Israel as actor of these negative actions but also used Zionist(s) as a reference to Israel army.

In some structures verbs and adjectives can be identified syntactically as nouns. This process of making nouns from verbs and adjectives is called nominalization. By this definition, one of the striking features of nominalization is that it allows for the elision of both actor and goal of the process. In other words, nominalization is a strategy that the writer cuts off the process from here and now and a lot of information has not been released in the text and most of the time omitted data are the participants, since there is no verb in the pattern.

In the NEWSWEEK, some of the processes in which Israeli soldiers were involved were nominalized. The tendency to use nominal groups rather than verbal processes has a number of major effects on text. It is a means whereby all reference to people can be omitted. That means Israeli forces do not occupy the grammatical position of the subject or actor;

Parag. 7: They are well prepared for this kind of invasion (my emphasis)

The NEWSWEEK reporter applied the verb of invade as a noun in this process. Thus, although, we know that there were an actor and an affected in the material process of invade, the specific identities of both have been lost and consequently our attention, as reader, is directed to what is present and directed away from what is no longer there, i.e. 'Israel army invaded Lebanon'.

Parag. 9: Thirty-three Zionist soldiers have been killed in the fighting (my emphasis)

Comparing with the NEWSWEEK, the Kayhan International also employed nominalization in paragraph 9. Actually, the actor of this ferocious action is not specified and the reporter used the verb of fight as noun. In this grim picture which the writer draws for reader, since there is one participant, Israeli soldiers are shown as only potent participants. Therefore, nominalization is one of the crucial linguistic resources deployed in the news reports. But as the examples suggest, it can be exploited or abused, i.e. there is not an obvious answer to the questions like 'who is to blame?'

Now, I deal with the systematic choices of elements like passivization over a stretch of words in a text. Indeed, the other approach that we come across in linguistic structures related to ideological positions of printed media is the passivization of the process. Fowler et al. "were able to show that news bias can even be expressed in syntactic structures of sentences, such as the use of active or passive constructions, which allow the journalist to express or suppress the agent of news acts from subject positions" (Van Dijk 1985, p.73). Indeed, the passive participants do not act upon others. By application of passive construction the writer puts the actor in a less dominant position and in this manner s/he backgrounds the role of the actor.

Regarding the data, in paragraph 9, the Kayhan International utilized passive construction in the hope of shift the reader's attention away from those who committed the violent action and the cause of the process is deleted so that it may be difficult to recover the actor of the killing in the process. In other words, choosing the passive voice has the effect of making the actions of Israel more salient than the actions of Hizbullah guerrillas. Likewise, choosing to place the term 'thirty-three Zionist soldiers' first has the effect of minimizing the actions of Hizbullah.

Taking figures 4.1 and 4.2 into account, transitivity analysis displayed that both the NEWSWEEK and the Kayhan International are assigned the relatively same quantity for material processes, viz. 56% and 57% of the time, respectively. The higher percentages of the material processes in comparison with other processes make visible the higher focus of the printed media on the events of the warfare.

Figure 4.1 Distribution of the process percentages in the NEWSWEEK (August 14, 2006)

Figure 4.2 Distribution of the process percentages in the Kayhan International (July 29, 2006)

Two more differences will be recognized by a cursory glance at these two figures. In the first place, the Kayhan International used more verbal processes in comparison to the NEWSWEEK, 35% and 14% of the time, respectively. Interestingly, none of these processes are assigned to Hizbullah sources in the Kayhan International. That is, Israel for the most part is the source of information. Therefore, a reader can easily reject or accept these statements, on the one hand. Since there is not specified any role for Hizbullah as 'sayer', we can admit information which are released in the Kayhan International newspaper that Hizbullah is undoubtedly the goal of the processes, on the other hand.

Secondly, a further consequence of the transitivity analysis undertaken here is that the NEWSWEEK magazine employed more relational processes, namely identifying and attributive processes, than the Kayhan International, 20% and 8% of the time, respectively. According to Reath (1998, p.94), "when an opinion is given via a clause with a relational verb, it is easier to recognize that an opinion has been offered…by removing the relational verb, the writer can influence the opinion and ideological stance of the reader." In other words, we can easily agree or disagree with these ideas and they are, indeed, open for discussion whereas a clause with other verbs refers to an accepted belief(s) and taken for granted. Accordingly, because the Kayhan International applied a low percentage of relational processes the writer avoided to set up the relationship between events and their broader context, Middle East.

One more interesting point in this domain draws attention to the type of value and token analysis in relational processes which paved the way for more understanding of the writer's value system. This also creates a situation to answer logically a set of questions like "what types of behaviors are more valuable for a media worker who tries to convey them to a media user?" I just presented here two samples from the NEWSWEEK;

Parag. 6: Hizbullah depends to some extent on supplies coming from Iran

Parag. 9: The short answer is: experience, leadership and Iran

These examples put clearly forward the value system of the writer. In the first example the writer clarified that not only supplies coming from Iran are the value of a general token of Hizbullah fighters but also this straightforward announcement of the relationship of Iran and Hizbullah intensified the conflict at least in the clauses of the text! The same conclusion could be made for second example that experience, leadership and Iran are specific values of the broader token of short answer to the question of 'how Hizbullah morph from its terrorist roots?'

Certain general conclusions can be drawn from this section. First of all, as clause analyses demonstrate, some constituents do not have any functions in analyses. That is, these elements of the clause are not making experiential meaning. The explanation for this is that some constituents are really in the clause in order to express interpersonal and textual meanings rather than experiential meaning. Thus, while some of these clauses are affluent in interpersonal or textual meaning they express, simultaneously they are bare, left unanalyzed for transitivity and empty of ideational meanings and do not get labelled for a transitivity role.

Secondly, we can recognize the dominant patterns encode a view that war and violence are the major actions between these two major participants and Israel is overwhelmingly in the actor role, while the Hizbullah is always goal of the processes in the Kayhan International. That is, the NEWSWEEK put more emphasis on the agency of the Hizbullah, using specific constructions and thereby weaken the involvement and participation of the Israel army as active participant in conflict.

Moreover, I showed how even syntactic structure, such as the use of active and passive voice or nominalization may emphasize or de-emphasize the agency and hence the responsibility for certain actions. The choice of active structure can focus the attention of the reader on the actor, present a particular picture of an individual or group and emphasize the actions in which one side of the conflict does something to another. It is as if people imagine things being directly enacted under their nose. Such actions may clearly have political or ideological functions as indeed they had in the examples I analyzed. For instance, by using such structures in these printed media, the writers may emphasize their accusation of Hizbullah fighters for criminal, illegal and aggressive behavior or with conditions reversed for Israeli forces. As a result, there are subtle differences in these two printed media's treatment of the same event which could be called bias in media discourse.

5. Conclusion and Implication

In this study I elaborated on the function of language as a social practice in media discourse. I have made systematic analysis of news structures in the two selected printed media, namely the NEWSWEEK and the Kayhan International, considering especially Halliday's transitivity system and also Hizbullah-Israel last war.

In line with my discussion, the analysis dealt with language in use i.e. how the invisible and embedded meanings of these texts are socially constructed, using Systematic Functional Linguistics in general and transitivity system in particular. It is also critical since a primary outcome of this analysis is to make obvious the influences of the Iranian and American contexts on meanings which a reader dealt with in the act of reading.

Since texts are the product of choices of linguistic system, I tried to shed light on the nature of ideology by examining these textual structures. Thus, identifying processes and the role of participants involved in those processes was the major concern of data analysis. The examples analyzed and discussed in the last section showed the way language which can support a specific system of beliefs.

The results of textual analysis of randomly chosen news stories in this study demonstrated that the representation of the same news actors, Hizbullah and Israeli forces, by two different and ideologically opponent printed media opposed each other. By the same token, these printed media presented facts in a way that will influence the reader's view of these incidents.

Transitivity analysis also disclosed that there were patterns of mystification of agency or actor of the processes by using some strategies like passivization and nominalization. The NEWSWEEK for example, indicated Israel could have been involved in. On the other hand, since the Kayhan International gave Hizbullah a good share of press support, Hizbullah is easily manifested as victim of the Israeli forces in this newspaper, thus they deserve sympathy and support.

One of the main implications of this research is that it highlights academically a systematic analysis of printed media considering their political dependency. The other as Fairclough (1989, p.4) said, is "a contribution to the general raising of consciousness of exploitative social relation, through focusing upon language" and analyzing it critically which do not allow us to be a lay person, unsuspecting and credulous in the community. In fact, this implication is a personal conscious-raising which readers are actively involved in the process of discourse by trying to understand and unravel the text. By reading through paragraphs, they do shape and produce their beliefs and opinions or hold certain views.

Furthermore, something that needs more attention in language teaching is the development of the learner's capacity to examine and judge the world carefully and, if necessary, to change it. The critical approach of language study is consistent with this view. Thus, syllabus designers can incorporate this analysis in this study into a foreign language program in order to conduct students into a critical way of thinking. In other words, CDA can help teachers and students to explain critically the underlying features of the text types associated with these types of writing like printed media. Thus, this model of analysis may serve to raise awareness of the nature of teacher or learner interaction with these texts.

Broadly speaking, this type of applied research can help us in many ways like using language more effectively, to develop language teaching syllabuses and to recognize type of language when people are using it to communicate with others. Researchers can do aforementioned analysis as an activity to challenge and argue against the sustained and taken for granted ideologies by printed media.

As a final remark, since I have looked at just a few of the ways in which the functional analysis of English has been used to help us understand human communication in social contexts, it is hoped that this critical analysis of printed media reporting in the NEWSWEEK and the Kayhan International will stimulate further research in areas beyond printed media to all areas of text and talk to uncover ideological meanings within them. To sum up, language awareness is one of the directions for the current life and also for future and it has much room for development.

Not 1 "a term used in critical discourse analysis to refer to the processes of production, distribution and interpretation that surround a text and which must be taken into account in text analysis" (Richards & Schmidt, 2002, p.164).


NEWSWEEK (August 14, 2006)


Israel shadow-boxes with a surprisingly high-tech foe, inside the new Hizbullah.

1) HIZBULLAH'S FIGHTERS were as elusive last week as they were deadly. Thousands of them were dug in around southern Lebanon, and yet encounters with the hundreds of journalists also in the area were rare, and furtive. Like Hussein, as he chose to call himself, who popped out of the rubble in the blasted town pf Bint Jbeil, site of what Hizbullah is calling its Great Victory, to crow a little. He was in civvies the only way the Hizbullah fighters appear in public, but the walkie-talkie under his loose shirt was a giveaway. The hillside nearby glittered with metal in the bright sun. Here and there lay shell casings, mortar tubes, mangled shrapnel from artillery and bombs. Thousands of cartridges, the gold ones from Israeli M-16s, the duller brown from Hizbullah's AK-47s, all mixed together. This was asymmetrical warfare with a fearful symmetry. Hussein picked up a handful of empty brass. "Very close-range fighting," he said, jingling them in his palm. "You can imagine what weapons we have and what weapons they have."

2) In an olive grove about five miles away, it wasn't necessary to imagine. Under camo netting, half-covered with the broad leaf branches of a fig tree, was a GMC truck with a rocket-launching platform, probably for the 122mm Katyusha, fired wildly into Israel. It was untouched, unlike its twin a football field away, which lay mangled in an Israeli counterstrike. There was no sign of Hizbullah fighters, though, and locals spoke of seeing little kids running like mad from the rocket batteries after they fired. In khiam, a teenager on a motor scooter rolled through town, apparently minding his own business—except that the ear bud of the walkie-talkie hidden under his shirt identified him as one of Hizbullah's many scouts. They were hard to find—until they wanted to be found.

3) Hizbullah is proving to be something altogether new, an Arab guerrilla army with sophisticated weaponry and remarkable discipline. Its soldiers have the jihadist rhetoric of fighting to the death, but wear body armor and use sitcoms to coordinate their attacks. Their tactics may be from Che, but their arms are from Iran, and not just AK-47 and RPGs. They've reportedly destroyed three of Israel's advanced Merkava tanks with wire-guided missiles and powerful mines, crippled an Israeli warship with a surface-to-sea missile, sent up drones on reconnaissance missions, implanted listening devices along the border and set up their ambushes using night-vision goggles. NEWSWEEK has learned from a source briefed in recent weeks by Israel's top leaders and military brass that Hizbullah even managed to eavesdrop successfully on Israel's military communications as its Lebanese incursion began. When Lt. Eli Kahn, commander of an elite Israeli parachutists outfit, turned a corner in the southern Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras early in the month-old war, he came face to face with this new enemy. "He had sophisticated like mine and looked more like a commando," he recalled. Lieutenant Kahn ducked back around the corner and reached for grenade, but before he could pull the pin, the Hizbullah fighter had tossed one around the corner himself. The Israeli picked it up and throw it back, just in time. "They didn't retreat," says Danny Yatom, a former director of Mossad. They continued to fight until the death.

4) The combination of modern lethality and Old World fanaticism has taken a deadly toll. By the end of last week, 45 Israeli soldiers had died, and as many as 250 Hizbullah fighters had perished. Thirty-three Israeli civilians had been killed in the rocket barrages, while more than 480 Lebanese had died. But Hizbullah was boasting of its success. As Israel continued to push its ground offensive, progress was painfully slow, one small Lebanese village at a time. Diplomacy was stalled, too, despite agreement on a U.N. ceasefire resolution expected to pass early in this week. By Saturday the Israeli Defense Forces, with sex brigades—could claim only to have subdued half a dozen villages, a long way from their goal of establishing a secure buffer zone, possibly as forth north as the Litani River.

5) Israel's cabinet approved the campaign ground after its air war had failed to suppress Hizbullah's fire. On Wednesday the Israelis declared they'd destroyed two thirds of Hizbullah's missile arsenal, but on Thursday Hizbullah launched more than 200, with almost as many on Friday. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to strike Tel Aviv if Israel bombed Beirut again, and some thought he might be able to.

6) The whole calculus of this sort of warfare has changed, as even the Israelis gave grudging high marks to their opponents. The sort of weaponry Hizbullah is deploying is normally is associated with a state, and states can be easily deterred by a superior military force like Israel's. They have cities to protect, vital infrastructure. Hizbullah depends to some extent on supplies coming from Iran via Damascus, and last week Israel bombed the last roads from Syria into its neighbor. But the organization is believed to have laid in supplies for at least another month, and when it suits, the Hizbullah fighters can disappear into the population. "We live on onions and tomatoes," said Hussein in Bint Jbeil, as he pulled one a vine in an abandoned garden.

7) Last week, when Sheik Ahmed Murad, a Hizbullah spokesman, showed up at the Tyre Hospital to rant against the civilian casualties Israel had inflicted, he was in his Shiite cleric's turban and robes. After the press conference, Murad was escorted away by three bodyguards, then reappeared on the street in untucked shirt and slacks, apparently just another civilian. "Their strategy is a strategy of disappearance," says one Israeli military official, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he was talking about operations. "They are well prepared for this kind of invasion. [But] we are much stronger than them. We can bring a much greater force than they can deal with."

8) But the Hizbullah's guerrilla are well aware of that, too, and they know how averse the Israeli military and public have always been to taken casualties. "The strategy is to make them lose as many [soldiers] as possible," said Hussein, on the cartridge-strewn hillside at Bint Jbeil. "Israel does not care about the [loss of a] tank. They care about the people." As the prospect of a quick victory faded from Israeli view, Israel's military tried to regain the initiative, raiding a Hizbullah safe house in Tyre on Saturday, killing at least three militants in a ferocious shoot-out. Earlier in the week it took five Hizbullah prisoners in a raid on a hospital in Baalbek. "It was an attempt, to re-create the days of Entebbe," said a senior Israeli security source who is not authorized to speak on the record.

9) How did Hizbullah morph from its terrorist roots 20 years ago to the formidably organized force of today? The short answer is: experience, leadership and Iran. The group was first pulled together in 1982 by members of Ayatollah Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards as a way to spread Tehran's influence while fighting against Israeli forces that had laid siege to Beirut. The following year the organization became infamous for the suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut that cost 241 Americans their lives, and simultaneous attack on French forces that killed 56. Soon, Hizbullah added airline hijackings and taking of American and European hostages to the repertoire.

10) In 1992, Israeli helicopters blew up the then leader of Hizbullah, Abbas al-Musawi, along with his wife and son. His successor was Hassan Nasrallah, the militia grew quickly into the single most disciplined and powerful political force in the country. It built schools, hospitals, provided social services and got its members elected to Parliament. At the same time, its soldiers honed their skills at guerrilla warfare battling against Israeli troops will occupying southern Lebanon, studying their tactics, learning their week points.

11) All this cost money, but there was plenty to be had. By Israeli estimates Iran has underwritten Hizbullah with $100 million a year. But Hizbullah also gets contributions and "tax" payments from wealthy Shiites in Lebanon and abroad and revenues from both legal and illegal business worldwide. According to recent study by terrorism expert Mangus Ranstorp at the Swedish National Defense College, its shopping list included night-vision goggles, Global Positioning Systems, advanced software for aircraft design, stun guns, nitrogen cutters, naval equipment, laser range finders and even ultrasonic dog repellers.

12) Over the years, Nasrallah has dressed like a cleric, but talked like clear-eyed politician, reciting facts that suited him, cracking jokes and vowing to keep his promises. Cool and charismatic, he broadcast his message not only to all of Lebanon, but to much of the Arab and Muslim world over Hizbullah's Al-Manar satellite television station. The organization's purpose, Nasrallah said, was to fight Israeli occupation. When that ended with an Israeli pull out from South Lebanon in 2000, he argued that Hizbullah must keep its arms and build up its arsenal. The reason: "deterrence."

13) The effects of Hizbullah's built up were a dismaying surprise to the Israeli from almost the first day of fighting, when Israel launched a massive retaliation for a Hizbullah raid across the border. That had cost them eight soldiers killed and two captured. "The Iranians invested far more than people thought," said the source, who had been briefed by Israel's most senior leaders. "The command and control centers were state of the art. They built a whole network of underground tunnels that enabled them to trap Israeli soldiers … They were eavesdropping on Israeli military communications with the equipment they received." Hizbullah's high-tech communications heighten its basic advantage as a guerrilla force fighting on home turf. "The plan was to go deep, but we didn't finish it," said 19-year-old Nahum Fowler, a corporal in Israel's Nahal Brigade who fought in South Lebanon last week. "They know what they're doing. They know their villages really well." His unit never saw the enemy he said. "We mostly heard them."

14) A diplomatic end to the fighting may be just as hard to find as Hizbullah's rocket launchers. By last weekend the French and Americans finally agreed on a daft U.N. Security Council resolution calling for "a full cessation of hostilities." But diplomats cautioned this is the beginning of the process, not the end of it. Hizbullah quickly said it would keep fighting as long as Israeli troops were left on Lebanese territory. And Israeli Ambassador to Washington Daniel Ayalon told NEWSWEEK on Saturday that Israel expects Hizbullah to do more now just hold its fire. "What is important to us is not that just Hizbullah's operations end but also the arms shipments from Iran and Syria. And first they must release the two abducted soldiers." In that case, countries like French and Italy would be reluctant to honor pledges to send peacekeeping troops. "An international force arriving in Lebanon without the war having been stopped … would be exposed to Iraq-style risks," said Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema. Worse, they would be up against Hizbullah.

Kayhan International (July 29, 2006)

Hizbullah Resistance Continues

1) Zionist warplanes fired missiles at dozens of targets across southern Lebanon overnight Friday, including buildings that were reduced to rubble.

2) Zionist defense forces said aircraft hit a total of 130 targets in Lebanon on Thursday and early Friday, including a Hizbullah base in the Bekaa valley, where long-range rockets were stored, and 57 Hizbullah structures, six missile launching sites and six communication facilities.

3) Zionist jets fired missiles at the three-story building near the southern Lebanon market town of Nabatiyeh, destroying the building and killing a Jordanian man who was hit by shrapnel in a nearby home, Lebanese security officials.

4) The building housed a construction company believed to be owned by a Hizbullah member, the officials on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk with the media. The strike also wounded four children nearby, they said.

5) Zionists also destroyed two buildings in the village of Kfar Jouz near Nabatiyeh, and civil defense teams were struggling to rescue people believed buried in the rubble, witnesses said.

6) Warplanes pounded roads in southern Lebanon, a Lebanese army checkpoint in Ansar village and a castle in Arnoun village near the Lebanese-Israel border. In addition, Zionist jets fired more than 30 missiles in the southern part of the country, security officials said.

7) Meanwhile the guerrillas continued to launch rockets into northern Israel on Friday, with 10 fired at the towns of Ma'alot, Karmiel and Safed by midmorning, the army said. No casualties were reported.

8) At least 438 people have been reported killed in Lebanon, since the Zionists started the vicious attacks on July 12, most of them Lebanese civilians. But Lebanon's health minister estimated Thursday that as many as 600 civilians have been killed so far in the offensive.

9) Thirty-three Zionist soldiers have been killed in the fighting and 19 civilians have been killed in Hizbullah rocket attacks on Israel's northern towns, the army said.

10) Hizbullah and Palestine's Hamas have both demanded the release of Hizbullah and Palestinian prisoners in return for freedom for three Zionist soldiers taken captive, but the Zionist regime has flatly refused.


The research reported on in this article is part of a thesis submitted to Tabriz University for Teacher Education in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of M.A. in English language teaching. The author would like to thank Dr. Behin and Dr. Behnam for critical and helpful comments on previous versions of this paper.


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About the Author

I received an M.A in applied linguistics at Teacher Training of Tabriz University. My research interests are in the areas of discourse analysis and sociolinguistics. I teach a variety of courses at Azad University and Payamnoor University of Mariwan.

Author's address:
Zip code: 66716-38397,
No. 1, Saadat Alley, Talaghani St. Mariwan, Kurdistan Province, Iran.
Tel: 0098-9183840665
E-mail: yaghoobimahdi@yahoo.com

Journal of Intercultural Communication, ISSN 1404-1634, issue 21, Octobre 2009.
URL: http://www.immi.se/intercultural/.