A Pragmatic Perspective on the U.S. Print Media Coverage of the Tunisian Revolution

Boutheina Ben Ghozlen


Though its names may change with changing perceptions and insights, the Jasmine/Dignity/Cactus Revolution’s overall impact is so solid, cumulative, and intense that it defies any shaking or destabilizing force. This unprecedentedly massive popular movement in Tunisia ignited interest in the research topic to be developed in this paper. The focal argument of the present study is grounded on the premise that words are not transparent labels that people stick to things. In view of this, different “wordings” reflect different perceptions of the external world. As such, reference is the major pragmatic theoretical model which is utilized in order to account for the mechanisms through which referential strategies can be deployed to communicate media producers’ attitudes about depicted events, entities, and propositions. This linguistic identification of evaluation is tackled at the level of lexis through recourse to the sociolinguistic framework of "power" and "solidarity" as well as an originally semantic concept with a pragmatic effect, namely connotation. To meet these research objectives, the current paper puts under scrutiny 18 articles on the Tunisian Revolution published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times from 12th to 17th January, 2011. Results revealed that the naming system is pragmatically-grounded, given that it is being manipulated in accordance with the subtle attitudes of the two newspapers. The work’s implications touch upon the persistenceof the traditional role of mass media as the mouthpiece of the discourse of existing power-holders as well as the intriguingly manipulative potential of media language.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5789/10-2-265


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