University of Alberta

Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

Élisabeth Le's Homepage




Democracy and media are concepts that go hand-in-hand. While numerous debates pinpoint to the continuous need to reinforce democracy, financial difficulties keep plaguing Western media. In their strategies of news presentations, print and online newspapers may reflect public spheres linked to various types of democracy; this may have an impact on their ability to attract readers. This paper explores the print and online ‘news at a glance’ of the French quality daily, Le Monde, through a frame and heteroglossia analysis. This analysis of language use reveals how the introduction of a new technological support has been accompanied by a change towards a more ‘open’ and less authority-prone conception of media function in society, a change that contributes to a shift from an active monitorial to a facilitative news media role.

This special issue on ‘Media in minority contexts’ includes some of the best papers presented at a 2012 conference on the same theme held at the University of Alberta. The issue comprises as well three articles written by media practitioners in response to the researchers’ work. It also provides a general literature review of the field distinguishing two main strands of research: the status of media in minority contexts, and the participation of minorities in national, transnational and international debates. This second strand can itself be divided into three different subfields: cultural representations, communicative structures and sociocultural conditions for media access and use. The first article is an introduction to the special issue. It underlines how each of the articles in this special issue adds to the two strands and their subfields. It lays out some questions to explore further and argues that the research framework thus outlined ought to be considered from a multidisciplinary perspective.

In the context of ‘mediamorphosis’, this paper explores how the French quality daily, Le Monde, presents ‘news at a glance’ on paper and online with its headlines. A corpus of six constructed weeks of front pages and home pages published from September 2010 to February 2011 is analyzed in terms of news selection, framing and construction by different actors. The analysis shows that the most prominent headlines on the front pages and home pages share a similar focus whose strong tendencies are emphasized in the top headlines. However, the home page may appear less ‘elitist’ by the way its headlines reflect the rapid turnover of online news, by being less ‘highbrow’ in what it covers, and by including more and different voices thanks particularly to the pictures accompanying the top stories. These differences might indicate an evolution in the concept of journalism and its links to citizenship. It is suggested that keeping neighbouring but separate desks for the print and online editions is worth trying for the survival of Western print quality media.

French public discourse, whether directed at an internal audience or an international one, has been characterized by its reliance on two basic texts that both originate in the French Revolution: the national motto, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” [Liberty , Equality, Fraternity], and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) that carries value of constitutional law. The latter contains a number of principles that were later to be incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Thus, the issue of human rights in the French socio-political context is closely connected to questions of national identity while being also linked to universal ethics. The present paper explores how editorialists from the French elite daily, Le Monde, take advantage of the double-filiation for human rights in the French context when they advance their own interpretation of the national motto in the conduct of European and international affairs; in other words, how “universal ethical appeals” can be made and are being made to further individual and national positions, thus making it particularly difficult to differentiate between individual, national and international interests.

Editorials define at a given time how media construct their socio-cultural environment and where they position themselves in it. In this sense, they are snapshots of media socio-cultural identities whose study is crucial for the understanding of media actions and interactions on the political stage.  This book contributes to the study of media roles in politics with a methodological “discursive communication identity framework” and its application to a corpus of editorials. This allows for the definition of editorials as a genre, and it reveals that, thanks to a very adroit interweaving of their socio-cultural identities, news media can play a much more active role on the political stage than studies on framing and agenda setting have hitherto shown. The place of media in political communication models might therefore need to be reviewed. This book is intended for all those interested in media and politics whatever their academic specializations.  

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This qualitative exploratory study of Vietnamese interpreters in Vietnam purports to submit that the progressive dispelling of the interpreters’ invisibility myth must be accompanied by an accrued importance paid to interpreters’ identities during their training. Indeed, the type(s) and extend of interpreters’ visibility depends on the type of identity(ies) they assume in interpreted-mediated events. The success of these events affects not only interpersonal relations but also the socio-cultural and economic development of nations, especially when developing countries are concerned.

As part of a larger project on media identities and roles, this paper presents a methodological framework for the investigation of editorials' genre(s), "genre" being primarily defined in terms of the purpose of the text type. The methodological framework follows the first steps of Askehave and Swales’ “text-driven procedure for genre analysis” (2001) and combines different types of analysis: complex speech acts representing the general line of argumentation, delimitation of the public spheres through the definition of the directives' addressees, positive and negative attitude values, and types of professional roles in which editorialists present themselves. The application of this framework to a corpus of Le Monde's editorials uncovered how the general structure of the editorials serves their stated purpose and more. Indeed, it revealed the concept Le Monde has of its role in the national, European, and international public spheres. It showed very clearly that Le Monde as a media is not only a place where some public sphere's interactions can take place, but also that it is a full participant in various public spheres with its own values and positions. The application of the proposed framework unveiled fragments of Le Monde’s identity, but for a fuller description of its role(s), an enrichment of the framework is needed.

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This chapter aims to underline the benefits of working with textual information hierarchy in discourse studies. This hierarchy is revealed by the application of a model of coherence analysis that is based on cognitive psychology. It is claimed that the model allows to link micro- and macro- uses of language at the text and society levels. The model has been used to investigate formal textual characteristics. Used in connection with contextual analyses, it has also been instrumental in explaining how texts function in society. Furthermore, the model allows the combination of the benefits of qualitative and quantitative studies. On the one hand, the revealed textual information hierarchy functions as a grid on which a broad, detailed qualitative study can be grounded; on the other, it exposes the most salient elements that can be investigated further with a quantitative study.

The French elite daily, Le Monde, in its stylistic guide explicitly recommends its journalists to stay away from on, the third person singular indefinite pronoun : “l’usage répété du ‘on’ est déconseillé (Le Monde 2002: 48) . However, 237 on have been recorded in 101 editorials from a corpus of 150 editorials published from August 1999 to July 2001. Le Monde’s purpose in advocating the avoidance of on is that of being clear and precise. Thus, why does it include it so often? This article looks at who on ‘covers’ under its guise of anonymity, where it intervenes in the hierarchical structure of the argumentation, what it says, and to which ends Le Monde lets on’s voice be heard. It appears that the danger and power of on, the reason for prohibiting its use and the necessity behind its actual use hold in one word: its indefiniteness.

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This paper examines the cultural identities that Le Monde and The New York Times project of their respective national societies not only to their national readers but also to their international audience that includes cultural, economic and political decision-makers. The corpus for this study is composed of all unsigned editorials published on Russia in both newspapers from August 1999 to July 2001. These editorials represent the official position of elite newspapers on an issue of foreign policy. It is advanced that linguistic and cultural features found in Le Monde's and The New York Times' editorials could partially explain the accusations of arrogance that the French and American diplomacies face on the international stage. More generally, this paper underlines the difficulty of perceiving the socio-cultural impact of one's discourse, and thus the necessity of a much better cultural awareness of oneself and of the Other in the conduct of international affairs.

In recent years, a number of studies on the construction of national identities in media discourse have appeared in leading academic journals. The majority of these studies have been conducted in the framework of Media Studies, although a few are based on a linguistic approach. This paper brings a linguistic perspective to the integrated field of Media Studies and International Relations that has not yet attracted much attention. It does so by investigating language use in foreign policy editorials from the influential dailies, Le Monde and The New York Times, in the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis , and by looking at how this media discourse is connected to French and American diplomatic discourses.

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  • 2006; The Spiral of 'Anti-Other Rhetoric' - Discourses of Identity and the International Media Echo. Series: Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 280 p. 

How do media inform our representations of the Other and how does this influence intercultural / international relations? While officially dialogues between different national societies are conducted by diplomats in bilateral and multilateral settings, in practice journalists also participate every day in such dialogues through the phenomenon of the “international media echo” in which they report on each others’ societies. Until now, media have been investigated for their potential role in the foreign policy of specific States. In a case study involving media in three national cultures and languages (French, American and Russian), this book presents an interdisciplinary framework that combines quantitative and qualitative analyses for the study of the international media echo in an intercultural / international relations perspective. In particular, the fundamental functioning of “spirals of anti-Other rhetoric”, i.e. media wars, is examined in a Critical Discourse Analysis approach completed with Social Identity Theory and International Relations theories.

  • 2006; "Collective memories and representations of national identity in editorials: Obstacles to a renegotiation of intercultural relations"; Journalism Studies; 7(5): 708-728.

This study addresses the question of the extent to which the representation of a national identity is a 'prisoner of its past' and thus represents an obstacle to the improvement of intercultural communication. Following a Critical Discourse Analysis approach, this paper investigates in particular how French and American collective memories of Communist Russia frame representations of post-Communist Russia in 1999-2000 editorials of Le Monde and The New York Times when shared representations of this country were still being constructed. It appears that both newspapers rely principally on a Cold War framework, and that this negative framework is updated with mentions of post-1991 events. The reliance on this framework is reinforced when the newspapers construct a negative image of Russia. It seems that the French and American conceptions of history and the newspapers' roles in their respective societies resulted in Le Monde's bleak outlook on Russia ’s future in contrast with The New York Times' more positive perspective.  

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  • 2004; "The role of paragraphs in the construction of coherence - Applied linguistics and translation studies"; International Review of Applied Linguistics; 42(3): 478-510

This paper presents and illustrates a formal model of linguistic analysis in order to explain a phenomenon that is fundamental to translators in their practice: the construction of coherence. First, the role of paragraphs in the construction of coherence is explained with the application of the model to a newspaper editorial. It is shown, in particular, how a change in the paragraph division of this text affects its meaning. Second, the paper underlines the theoretical usefulness and practical limitations of text linguistics for translation studies. In this sense, this paper calls for a better understanding between specialists in both fields.

  • 2004; "Active participation within written argumentation: metadiscourse and editorialist's authority"; Journal of Pragmatics; 36(4): 687-714

This paper aims to demonstrate how the elite newspaper, Le Monde, constructs active participation within its editorials' argumentation to establish its authority. This active participation is revealed through the analysis of three metadiscursive categories, evidentials, person markers and relational markers, in connection with the editorials' argumentative structure. It appears that Le Monde's editorialists present themselves as responsible and competent journalists, as representatives of public opinion, and as independent and committed intellectuals in the French tradition. These strategies attest to Le Monde's persuasive abilities in playing one part of its audience (public opinion) against the other (ruling elite), or appealing to them together on a matter of foreign policy. In conclusion, the role of context in the use of evidentials, person markers and relational markers in editorials is underlined; the question of a theoretical framework for media audience is raised; and the role of world guardian of "Truth, Justice, Reason and Universality" that is apparent in Le Monde's polyphonic discourse is critically questioned.

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  • 2003; "Information sources as a persuasive strategy in editorials - Le Monde and The New York Times"; Written Communication; 20(4): 478-510

The media, which includes editorials, has been shown to play an important role in the definition of priorities in public agenda. In the domain of international matters, where the public relies heavily on the media, editorials play an even greater role. This paper examines how explicit mentions of external sources of information function in the argumentative structure of editorials to achieve a persuasive effect. A corpus of 40 editorials dealing with Russia (Le Monde / The New York Times; August 1999 to March 2000) has been studied using a cognitive-based linguistic model of discourse analysis. It is shown how, under the guise of bringing some objectivity to the editorials' argumentation, external sources of information facilitate and enhance their subjectivity.

  • 2002; "The concept of Europe in Le Monde's editorials: Tensions in the construction of a European identity"; Journal of Language and Politics; 1(2): 279-325

The enlargement of the European Union places it at an important threshold in its development. Fundamental questions on its nature and functions have to be discussed and agreed upon by its members. France , as one of these members, has repeatedly shown concern about the reform of the Union 's institutions. The French elite daily, Le Monde, reflects this important debate in its news coverage, and ties in its own position, particularly through its editorials. This paper examines the concept of Europe as it is presented in Le Monde's editorial discourse from 1999 to 2001. The study is conducted in the constructivist approach and within the methodological framework of Critical Discourse Analysis. This perspective adds to other studies on European identity by strengthening the background of their argumentation, integrating their sometimes apparently contradictory conclusions, and describing the construction of identity from a national perspective in a more detailed and nuanced manner.  

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  • 2002; "Human rights discourse and international relations: Le Monde's editorials on Russia"; Discourse & Society, 13(3): 373-408

Editorials on Russia published by the French newspaper, Le Monde, during the first months of the second Chechen war (August 1999 - March 2000) are analysed in the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis. A new linguistic model of analysis is proposed for the study of the various texts taken as an entity. Its application results in a three-dimensional synthesis of the editorials that brings to the fore their premises. It appears that Le Monde's discourse on human rights belongs to a discourse of French national identity whose roots can be found in the 18th century. Journalists from three Russian dailies (Izvestija, Segodnja, Nezavisimaja Gazeta) seem to have perceived this discourse as a media war against their own national identity. The analysis explains how Le Monde's comments on the humanitarian situation in Chechnya could have resulted in such an intercultural impasse. The question of the role of human rights discourse in a "globalising" world is raised.

  • 2002; "Themes and Hierarchical Structure of Written Texts" in Max Louwerse & Will van Peer (Eds.): Thematics: Interdisciplinary Studies; Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins; 171-187.

Using a model of coherence analysis that is based on cognitive psychology and reveals the hierarchical structure of written texts and the themes it contains, this article proposes a definition of linearity for argumentative texts and compares indexes of linearity for French and English academic texts. 

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  • 2000; "Pour une analyse critique du discours dans l'étude des relations internationales - Exemple d'application à des éditoriaux américains sur la guerre en Tchétchénie"; Études internationales; XXXI(3): 489-515. Russian translation:  "Лингвический aнализ политического дискурса : язык статей о чеченской войне в американской прессе",  Полис, 2001 (2): 93-112.

The study of international relations can be tackled from different disciplinary angles (historical, political, juridical, economical, sociological). Each of these disciplines has its own methodological tradition, but all of them have to take into account the same fundamental element, discourse, be it oral or written language or another semiotic form. This article presents a method of discursive analysis, that fits into the interdisciplinary theory, Critical Discourse Analysis (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999). An example of its application is provided with four American editorials on the war in Chechnya. It is shown how the integration of linguistic and cognitive psychology research into a model of textual analysis allows for an interpretation that goes beyond the intuitive reading of the text by underlining the text sub-text. It is suggested that this methodology provides reliable starting points for studies of the research object in question in other branches of social sciences.

In this paper, differences in the use of paragraphs between French and English academics in the domain of Public International Law are brought to light. First, the concept of paragraph (‘macrostructural basis’) in text linguistics is defined formally with relations of coordination, subordination and superordination. Second, a typology of pararaphs is established. Third, after the distribution of paragraphs in the corpora has been examined, it is shown how they combine and what their roles are. Thus are defined the first steps towards a grammar of paragraphs. Furthermore, it appears that English authors would tend to build their argumentation within their paragraphs, while French authors would use paragraphs to build their argumentation. The explanation for this difference might be cultural.

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