A Description of Newspaper Editorials as a Register

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: June 26, 2019

John K. Asiegbor
Master of Art English Language
A Tutor of English Language at Peki College of Education, Department of Language

Journal Full Text PDF: A Description of Newspaper Editorials as a Register (Ghanaian Newspaper Editorials).

The purpose of this academic discourse is to account for a description of Ghanaian newspaper editorials as a register. The total number of words in each editorial had been counted and analysed into the word classes each. It is explicitly evidenced from the various illustrations in the ten (10) editorials used that an editorial with the lexical density of (56.44) percent, is relatively a formal text. It is remarkable to indicate that the nominal groups emerge as the language item at risk in all the ten (10) editorials. The verbal category appears to be the second in the lexical items to be at risk while in the grammatical items, the determiners and the prepositions stand respectively to be at risk.

Keyword: Academic discourse, Ghanaian newspaper editorials, Verbal category, & Grammatical items.


The focus of this write -up is to account for a description of Ghanaian newspaper editorials as a register. The term register was first used by the linguist Thomas Bertram Reid in 1956, and brought into general currency in the 1960s by a group of linguists who wanted to distinguish among variations in language according to the user defined by variables such as social background, geography, sex and age and variations according to use, “in the sense that each speaker has a range of varieties and choices between them at different times” (Halliday et al., 1964). The focus is on the way language is used in particular situations, such as legalese or mot herese, the language of a biology research lab, of a news report, or of the bedroom.

This section discusses the methodology that was employed in this research. It looks at the research approach, research design, source of data collection, sample size, sampling procedures, methods of data collection and methods of data analysis. This study is empirical in its methodological approach because it analysed linguistic features in actual texts (Albakry, 2007). The data was made up of editorial texts which combined both quantitative and qualitative approaches.

2.1 Research Design
The study employed both qualitative and quantitative research approach in collecting and analysing data. The researcher chose qualitative and quantitative research designs because the purpose of this study was to do a register analysis of the lexical and grammatical items of the Ghanaian newspaper editorials. This method enabled the researcher to identify and present in explicit terms, the distribution and frequency of the chosen variables in order to clearly validate the findings of the study. Ten (10) editorials These newspapers were those available at the University of Cape Coast Library at the point of data collection. I settled on these newspaper editorials for the study because they were up to date for six months, compared to the previous months where some days were not available because they were missing from the library or misplaced. The sampling technique used for the study was the non-proportionate stratified sampling procedure. This was to reduce bias that could be introduced into the sample as a result of non-equal numbers of the newspapers in each category in the entire number of newspapers under discussion. Hence, a total of ten (10) newspaper editorials formed the sample size of the study. I have adopted textual analysis as the research design for the study because textual analysis is a method of analysis that interrogates content of a text especially the structure, discourse and many more (Creswell 2007).

2.2 Sources of Data
The source of data for this work is the 2013 Ghanaian newspaper editorials. According to Beard (2004), language tells us a great deal about the ideology of those who use it including politicians, and those who report on the work of politicians. Based on this, the researcher has selected editorials considering various themes. The main rationale for the selection of the editorials was to see if the ideologies expressed in a particular theme might have affected the selection of linguistic items. For this intention, the editorials were selected based on several themes including politics, education, corruption, transportation, agriculture, banking, migration and national disasters among others.

2.3 Sample Size
The sample size of this research was made up of 2013 Ghanaian Newspaper Editorials. The sample size was selected due to the reason that, a manual lexical and grammatical analysis was conducted on the editorials that were sampled so that it could bring out accurate results. This was because the data needed to be dealt with by using a lot of physical energy. The manual analysis was considered appropriate for the researcher because, it will give an appropriate syntactic analysis of both lexical and grammatical items.

2.4 Sampling Procedures
The researcher adopted purposive sampling. The purpose was that this is the sampling method that allowed the researcher to select his population at his own convenience so that it would help him to arrive at the required and accurate data. The type of purposive sampling which encouraged this approach was the theory-based or operational construct sampling. This allowed the researcher to sample data based on the manifestations and revelations of a theoretical construct of interest so as to elaborate and examine the construct. In this sense, data was chosen to fit into a mimic favoured phenomenon chosen by the researcher. The sampling size comprised 30 Ghanaian newspaper editorials portions of the ‘Daily Graphic’. This was chosen for the analysis because the analysis involved physical energy.

2.5 Method of Data Collection
The data that was used for this research was solely the Ghanaian Newspaper Editorials portions of the Daily Graphic in the year 2013. These Editorials was collected from the main University of Cape Coast Library. The corpus of this study was collected as a purposive sampling. This study aimed to investigate only the data that concerned hard news and not editorial cartoons. This is to say that, the data of this study comprised 10 Ghanaian newspaper editorials regarding hard news. The sample for this study is Ghanaian editorials published in 2013 that were retrieved from the UCC library.

2.6 Method of Data Analysis
Kusi (2012) explains that there are several ways of analysing qualitative data and the analytical framework should depend on theoretical and philosophical perspective which will inform the goal of the study, questions addressed and the methodology to be used. The initial step which was carried out was that the researcher has done a thorough and a close reading of the available editorials and was accustomed with both the content and the linguistic choices that were made. After the initial reading, the data was categorised into themes to make it easy for the researcher in the course of his analysis. According to Dornyei (2007), analyzing qualitative data thematically is one of the characteristics of qualitative research. The corpus in the data was categorised on sheets of papers considering nine main categories. This categorisation consists of the traditional eight parts of speech and an additional category known as determiners was the ninth category. This was made up of the lexical and the grammatical categories such as noun, verbs, adjective, adverb, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, exclamations and determiners. The above categories were placed in tables based on each editorial. The linguistic items were syntactically analysed before they were placed at their appropriate columns. The reason for doing a manual analysis was to enable me to achieve accurate findings from the analysis. The interpretation of the analysis was done regarding the themes in the editorials using Halliday’s (1994) register theory. Lexical density was the main part of the analysis of each editorial. The lexical density was also calculated for each editorial so as to see which grammatical structures were more at risk than the others and also, to ascertain how the ideologies presented in the newspapers affect the selection of a particular linguistic item from the other. The findings were based on the final outcomes of the analyses. Analysing the selected editorials took into consideration all the possible contextual factors that could influence the ideological standpoint of the writer. These viewpoints were at last reflected in the editorial as they were hardly hidden (Fairclough 1995, 2001a). The most frequent vocabulary gave a picture of an important indication of the domain covered by the register. Textual analysis may be conducted through genre, stylistic or register methods (Biber
& Conrad, 2009) and each of these approaches is claimed to be a unique engagement. However, it is the register approach that makes the claim that the distribution of linguistic features has communicative implications (Finegan & Biber, 2001; Martin J. , 2010).
It has already been argued in this work that register analysis, such as this work, falls within the general theoretical framework of language and context. It is within this general framework that Biber and Conrad (2009, p. 7) propose the following three procedures for register oriented engagement:
1) a description of the situational characteristics of the genre investigated;
2) a description of the linguistic variables examined; and
3)the functional correlation between the situational features of the genre involved and the distributional patterns of the linguistic variables.
Consequently, the newspaper editorial was analyzed based on the integrated proposal of the Hallidayan/Biber and Conrad framework in which the situational characteristics were complemented with the register variables. The combination of quantitative and qualitative methods in this study required counting the realizations of the lexical and the grammatical structures investigated before describing and interpreting their patterns of distribution. The lexical and grammatical categories evidenced in the data were the basic functional and structural types. The quantitative approach employed content analytical methods. The two fundamental principles of content analysis established categories and counting the instances of evidence of categories (Silverman, 2011, p. 64) were employed at the first level of the analysis. For the purpose of obtaining a fair representation of usage, frequencies, lexical and grammatical items and content analysis, with its precise counting of evidence, has a tendency of ensuring reliability and validity (Krippendorff, 2004; Silverman, 2011).
The next level of the analysis involved exploring the contexts of use of the most frequent patterns. The last level of analysis, also recommended by Biber and Conrad’s (2009), which was
qualitatively inclined, required interpreting distributional patterns of the grammatical structures functionally. This was addressed by relating the lexical and grammatical items with the communicative purpose and the physical situational contexts especially the channel of communication and production and comprehension circumstances of newspaper editorials. This was done with the SFL notion in mind that the use of grammatical structures in a variety is a matter of functional choices people make.
In the analysis plan, cohesion was measured. Texts obviously consist of a large variety of linguistic features, many of which can be identified at a word level (e.g. morpho-semantics, syntactic category, frequency). Biber’s study has shown that these linguistic features are powerful determiners of resemblances and discrepancies between registers. However, despite these impressive results, the theoretical question that remains hanging is to what extent these linguistic features fully capture the nature of a text and thereby the nature of a register. Although linguistic features operating at the word level may identify several register characteristics, it was also known that one of the key features of a text is that it is not just string of words and sentences. Instead, there is a structure in the text that glues the various text components together.
In comprehending the text, the reader or listener constructs a coherent, mental representation of the situations which have been cohesively described by the text. Linguistic features that operate at a word level can currently be reliably identified by regular analyzing the vocabulary items. Lexical chains are discovered by the patterns lexical items establish within a text. The most frequent vocabulary gives us an important indication of the domain covered by the register.
To achieve these objectives, the study begun by identifying the various lexical and grammatical items used in the editorials. The study employed two theoretical frameworks, namely the register theory of Halliday and Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) cohesion theory. The lexical items were analysed in line with these two theories. The register theory considered three social functions that correspond to language. These social functions are field, mode and tenor. Field, is the subject or communicative event that the registers revolve round, mode refers to the medium that the field is presented to the audience and tenor also refers to the relationship which exists between the participants whether permanent or temporal. The lexical items were analysed considering the effects and the appropriateness of the registers which were at risk in relation to these three factors. The study adopted the qualitative research approach and the textual analysis research design due to the descriptive and exploratory nature of the study. The qualitative research approach focuses on describing and interpreting data such as texts. The study employed the textual analysis as the research design as well as the register and cohesion theories in analysing, interpreting and discussing. Register analysis was done especially by categorizing the registers into their lexical categories, that is to say that the lexical and the grammatical items were identified and isolated from one another based on their usage. These lexical items were counted in their frequencies and percentages identified in order to support and check the effectiveness, the appropriateness and their relevance to the field under which they were categorized.

2.7 Summary
This chapter briefly talked about the methods upon which compilation of corpus of this study was based. It has described the research design, research approach, data collection procedures, sample size, sampling procedures and data analysis procedures together with explanations that influenced their selection for the study. This has involved the principles guiding the selection, coding and tagging of the 30 newspaper editorial texts from Ghanaian newspaper. The chapter has established methods for analyzing the data. Quantitatively, the evidences of linguistic features in each editorial was counted and compared with one another so as to see the differences in their distributions. This comprised qualitative principles of frequency counting and quantitative interpretation of the functional motivations underpinning the distribution of evidenced lexical and grammatical items. The task of this chapter was that it paved the way for subsequent analysis.

According to M.A.K Halliday and R. Hasan (1976), ‘register’ is referred to as “the linguistic features which are typically associated with a configuration of situational features with particular values of the field, mode and tenor…”. Field, according to them, is “the total event, in which the text is functioning, together with the purposive activity of the speaker or writer; includes subject-matter as one of the elements”. Mode is ‘the function of the text in the event, including both the channel taken by language – spoken or written, extempore or prepared – and its genre, rhetorical mode, as narrative, didactic, persuasive, ‘phatic communion’, .’ The tenor refers to ‘the type of role interaction, the set of relevant social relations, permanent and temporary, among the participants involved.’ These three values – field, mode and tenor – are thus the determining factors for the linguistic features of the text. ‘The register is the set of meanings, the configuration of semantic patterns, that are typically drawn upon under the specified conditions, along with the words and structures that are used in the realization of these meanings’. Register, in the view of M.A.K. Halliday and R. Hasan, is one of the two defining concepts of text. ‘A text is a passage of discourse which is coherent in these two regards: it is coherent with respect to the context of situation and therefore consistent in register; and it is coherent with respect to itself and therefore cohesive’.
One of the most analyzed areas where the use of language is determined by the situation is the formality scale. Writers (especially in language teaching) have often used the term “register” as shorthand for formal or informal style, although this is an ageing definition however.. Linguistics textbooks may use the term “tenor” instead (Halliday 1978), but increasingly prefer the term “style” – “we characterise styles as varieties of language viewed from the point of view of formality” (Trudgill, 1992) – while defining “registers” more narrowly as specialist language use related to a particular activity, such as academic jargon. There is very little agreement as regarding how the spectrum of formality should be divided.
Martin J. (1961) describes five styles in spoken English: Frozen: also referred to as static register. Printed unchanging language, such as Biblical quotations, often contains archaisms. Examples are the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States of America and other “static” vocalizations that are recited in a ritualistic monotone. The wording is exactly the same every time it is spoken. Formal – one-way participation; no interruption; technical vocabulary or exact definitions are important; includes presentations or introductions between strangers. Consultative – two-way participation; background information is provided – prior knowledge is not assumed. “Back-channel behavior” such as “uh huh”, “I see”, etc. is common. Interruptions are allowed. Examples include teacher and student, doctor and patient and expert and apprentice Casual – in-group friends and acquaintances; no background information is provided; Ellipsis and slang are common; interruptions are common. This is common among friends in a social setting. Intimate – it is non-public; intonation is more important than wording or grammar; private vocabulary. Also includes non-verbal messages. This is most common among family members and close friends.

For an effective analysis to be done, the linguistic items were categorized into their categories of usage such as nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, and determiners. It is important to have in mind that poly- syllabic words would be considered as one word for the reason being that they refer to only one idea or entity. It is also paramount to note that all the ‘be’ forms of the verb would be considered as grammatical items rather than lexical items for the fact that ‘be’ has become grammaticalised.

Editorial No: 1
Nouns 119
Verbs 97
Adverbs 27
Adjectives 34
Pronouns 16
Prepositions 81
Conjunctions 29
Determiners 93
Lexical Density = All the lexical items 100
All the words in the text
= 277 = 55.85

4.1 Discussion
The editorial number 1 is entitled Nkonya, Alavanyo must dialogue’. The paper opens with the nominal item ‘peace’. This is the theme and for that matter the old information. This exemplifies the unmarked situation, the editorial does not indicate the name of the author hence the second person pronoun ‘we’ is used as the pronominal. The text distances itself from the readers hence it shows a vertical relationship which is a feature of a highly formal text. It is discovered that the rheme or the end focus approach according to Halliday is used because the new information is located at the end of the clause. This appears in “Peace and for that matter peaceful co-existence has been encouraged as a prerequisite for development in society’ because the editorial talks about the conflict between Alavanyo and Nkonya, it exemplifies the ideational usage of language. In this text, the nominals are predominantly used for the purpose of indexicallity or reference. There are a lot of rankshifted phases and clauses in the editorial. There are a lot of cohesive devices such as substitution, reference, conjunctions and lexical cohesion in the text, for easy flow of ideas in the text, In this text, the modals are used to demonstrate both epistemic and strong root modality. The clauses use in the text exhibit various levels of dependency.
Talking about the lexical density of the text, nouns are extremely used to demonstrate the fact that an editorial highly uses nominal categories as the word class at risk. The tables entitled editorial 1, demonstrate the occurrences of the various word classes in the editorial, It is discovered from the above table that nouns highly occur as the part of speech at risk. It is also realized that verbs, prepositions and determines are the other word classes at risk. Because of the high frequency use of complex sentences, there are varied degrees of dependencies.
It is obvious to indicate that editorial number 1 is highly a formal text as it demonstrates to the fact that the lexical density is fifty-five percent (55.85)