Vol 25, No 3 (2021): Emotionalisation of Media Discourse


Emotionalisation of contemporary media discourse: A research agenda

Zappettini F., Ponton D.M., Larina T.V.


This special issue continues the discussion of the role of emotion in discourse (see Russian Journal of Linguistics 2015 (1) and 2018, 22 (1)) which, as testified by the burgeoning body of literature in the field, has become more prominent in different spheres and contexts of public life. This time we focus on emotionalisation of media discourse. We highlight the intensification of emotions in media and, showcasing contributions from international authors, critically reflect on constructions, functions and pragmatic purposes of emotions in media discourse. Our aim is to investigate emotions in the media from semiotic, pragmatic and discursive perspectives against the contemporary socio-political background in which traditional notions concerning the role of media are being noticeably changed. In this introductory article, we also put forward an agenda for further research by briefly outlining three main areas of exploration: the logics of media production and reception , the boundaries of media discourse, and the semiotic resources deployed to construct emotionality . We then present the articles in this issue and highlight their contributions to the study of linguistic representations of emotions. We then summarise the main results and suggest a brief avenue for further research.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):586-610
pages 586-610 views

“Stirring it up!” Emotionality in audience responses to political speeches

Bull P., Waddle M.


Speaker-audience interaction in political speeches has been conceptualised as a form of dialogue between speaker and audience. Of particular importance is research pioneered by Atkinson (e.g., 1983, 1984a, 1984b) on the analysis of rhetorical devices utilised by politicians to invite audience applause. Atkinson was not concerned with emotionalisation in political speech-making, rather with how applause was invited in relation to group identities through ingroup praise and/or outgroup derogation. However, his theory has provided important insights into how speakers invite audience responses, and a powerful stimulus for associated research. The purpose of this article is to address the shortfall of emotionalisation research within the realm of political speeches. We begin with an account of Atkinson’s influential theory of rhetoric, followed by a relevant critique. The focus then turns to our main aim, namely, how key findings from previous speech research can be interpreted in terms of emotionalisation. Specifically, the focus is on audience responses to the words of political speakers, and how different forms of response may reflect audience emotionality. It is proposed that both duration and frequency of invited affiliative audience responses may indicate more positive emotional audience responses, while uninvited interruptive audience applause and booing may provide notable clues to issues on which audiences have strong feelings. It is concluded that there is strong evidence that both invited and uninvited audience responses may provide important clues to emotionalisation - both positive and negative - in political speeches.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):611-627
pages 611-627 views

Hyperbole and emotionalisation: Escalation of pragmatic effects of proverb and metaphor in the “Brexit” debate

Musolff A.


(How) Can the use of hyperbole in metaphorical idioms and scenarios contribute to an increase in emotionalisation of public debates? Using a research corpus of quotations from British politicians’ speeches and interviews and of press texts 2016-2020, this paper investigates hyperbolic formulations in Brexit-related applications of the proverb ‘You cannot have your cake and eat it’ and related scenarios of national liberation, which appear to have strongly boosted emotionalised public debates. For instance, Brexit proponents’ reversal of the cake proverb into the assertion, ‘We can have our cake and eat it’, and their figurative interpretation of Brexit as a war of liberation (against the EU) triggered highly emotional reactions: triumphant affirmation among followers, fear and resentment among opponents. The paper argues that the combination of figurative speech (proverb, metaphor) with hyperbole heightened the emotional and polemical impact of the pro-Brexit argument. Whilst this effect may be deemed to have been rhetorically successful in the short term (e.g. in referendum and election campaigns), its long-term effect on political discourse is more ambivalent, for it leads to a polarisation and radicalisation of political discourse in Britain (as evidenced, for instance, in the massive use of hyperbole in COVID-19 debates). The study of hyperbole as a means of emotionalisation thus seems most promising as part of a discourse-historical investigation of socio-pragmatic effects of figurative (mainly, metaphorical) language use, rather than as an isolated, one-off rhetorical phenomenon.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):628-644
pages 628-644 views

The UK as victim and hero in the Sun’s coverage of the Brexit ‘humiliation’

Zappettini F.


This paper discusses how emotions were mobilised by the British tabloid press as discursive strategies of persuasion during the public debate on the implementation of Brexit. Using the case study of the Sun’s coverage of the alleged UK’s ‘humiliation’ at the Salzburg meeting (2018) during the Brexit negotiations, the analysis addresses the questions of how and through which linguistic means actors and events were framed discursively in such an article. The findings suggest that The Sun elicited emotions of fear, frustration, pride, and freedom to frame Brexit along a long-established narrative of domination and national heroism. The discourse was also sustained by a discursive prosody in keeping with a satirical genre and a populist register that have often characterised the British tabloid press. In particular the linguistic analysis has shown how antagonistic representations of the UK and the EU were driven by an allegory of ‘incompetent’ gangsterism and morally justified resistance. Emotionalisation in the article was thus aimed both at ridiculing the EU and at representing it as a criminal organisation. Such framing was instrumental in pushing the newspaper agenda as much as in legitimising and institutionalising ‘harder’ forms of Brexit with the tabloid’s readership. Approaching journalist discourse at the intersection of affective, stylistic, and political dimensions of communication, this paper extends the body of literature on the instrumental use of emotive arguments and populist narratives and on the wider historical role of tabloid journalism in representing political relations. between the UK and the EU.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):645-662
pages 645-662 views

Narrativised simile and emotional responses to Brexit

Dancygier B.


This study looks at two figurative ways in which popular media and social media represent the public’s response to the process of implementing Brexit. Specifically, it contrasts analogies, which construe the nature of Brexit in terms of the nature of the problems arising (e.g. the impossibility of taking the eggs out of the cake ), with tweets relying on simile to express emotional responses. The focus of this study is on the nature of simile, as the trope of choice in profiling emotional responses, and especially on narrativised similative constructions, such as Brexit is like X , where X as an extended narrative. These similes match the real story of Brexit, which lasted several years, with other narrative scenarios. Crucially, the scenarios created are focused on how the person feels about the ‘story of Brexit’ (e.g. the long period of hesitation and indecisiveness) and not on political affiliations and arguments. In effect, Brexit is like X framing could be loosely paraphrased as Experiencing Brexit makes me feel similarly to experiencing a narrative such as X , where X is a made-up story, depicting unimportant social events or movie genres. The emotions targeted in the Brexit is like X examples (such as disappointment, boredom, feeling exasperated or bemused) are complex emotional reactions to a narrative failing to reach a satisfying resolution. From the perspective of figuration, Brexit is like X similes suggest the need to re-evaluate the nature of simile as a conceptual mapping and to consider the role fictive stories play in expression of emotions. Also, the complex syntactic forms used to represent the narrative structure of X provide the material for reconsidering simile as a construction.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):663-684
pages 663-684 views

Emergent impoliteness and persuasive emotionality in Polish media discourses

Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk B., Pęzik P.


The focus of the paper is to identify and discuss cases of what we call emergent impoliteness and persuasive emotionality based on selected types of discourse strategies in Polish media which contribute to increasingly high negative emotionality in audiences and to the radicalization of language and attitudes when addressing political opponents. The role and function of emotional discourse are particularly foregrounded to identify its persuasive role in media discourses and beyond. Examples discussed are derived from current Polish media texts. The materials are collected from the large Polish monitor media corpus monco.frazeo.pl (Pęzik 2020). The analysis is conducted in terms of quantitative corpus tools (Pęzik 2012, 2014), concerning emotive and media discourse approaches (Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk and Wilson 2013, Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk 2015, 2017a, 2017b). The analysis includes a presentation of the ways mass media construe events (Langacker 1987/1991) in terms of their ideological framing, understood as particular imposed/constructed event models and structures (cf. Gans 1979). Special attention is paid to the negative axiological evaluation of people and events in terms of mostly implicitly persuasive and offensive discourse, including the role emotion clusters of harm, hurt and offence, anger and contempt play in the media persuasive tactics. The research outcomes provide a research basis and categorization of types of emergent impoliteness and persuasive emotionality, which involve implicit persuasion directed at negative emotionality raising with the media public, as identifiedin the analyzed media texts.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):685-704
pages 685-704 views

Markers of emotionality in Russian news coverage of the 75-th anniversary of WWII Victory

Dobrosklonskaya T.G.


The article explores how emotionality is manifested in the news texts covering politically sensitive topics, using as the case study coverage of the 75th anniversary of WWII Victory in news programmes of the Russian TV “Channel One”, “Russia TV” and RT. Proceeding from the key theoretical assumption of medialinguistics defining media texts as an integral unity of verbal and media components, the author singles out and analyzes markers of emotionality at both - language and media levels, paying special attention to lexis and the way it is supplemented by illustrations and video footing. The analysis of the news flow is based on the information model, which allows to structure the process of news formation according to the following stages - selection of events for news coverage, interpretation of facts, shaping images, forming stereotypes and cultural-ideological context. The goal of the study was to identify markers of emotionality and analyze how emotionality affects the interpretation and the perception of facts, paying special attention to realization of the category of broadcasting style defined as the tone of voice, or tonality news media use when addressing their audience. Conceiving emotionality as both explicitly manifested and implicitly present quality, the study singles out its three types as represented in the analyzed media texts - 1) specific pretentious style, used by newsreaders and commentators to stress the dignity and solemnity of the event; 2) deliberate affectation disguised as emotionality on the part of news anchors while presenting topically sensitive news items; 3) emotionality as spontaneous display of sincere emotions observed in interviews, dispatches of correspondents and commentaries of the participants of the events. The results of the study could serve as a basis for further analysis of emotionality markers in different types of media discourse, including news, commentary and debate on politically sensitive issues in traditional media and social networks.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):705-722
pages 705-722 views

War yesterday and today: The image of Russia in British media discourse

Solopova O.A., Kushneruk S.L.


The paper focuses on diachronic framing analysis of Russia’s images in British media discourse. The importance of the research is determined by a need to work out adequate linguistic foundations to counteract information war, generated by some foreign media and aimed at distorting Russia’s history and eroding its spiritual values. Few scholars have drawn on any systematic research into analysis of Russia’s images in foreign media discourses of different historical spans. The major objective is to compare Russia’s images and their emotional charge in the British media in chronologically divided periods of war and peace under the influence of changing historical and ideological factors. The authors account for the mechanisms by which Russia’s images are framed and transformed in the contexts of the largest war of the XX century and the information war of the XXI century. The material comprises 500 samples per period. The data covering two historical spans are investigated through a framing approach. The criteria for diachronic analysis are dominant diagnostic and prognostic frames, constituting the macroframe WAR. The significant difference in Russia’s images in war- and peacetime consists in their emotive load: Russia’s contemporary negative images are contrasted to positive images activated in the retrospective period. The findings support the idea that British media discourse focusing on Russia is subject-centered: Russia’s image is determined by the geopolitical situation, Great Britain’s political priorities and objectives, and the bilateral relationship between the countries. The results can be used to further develop the linguistic basics of war theory.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):723-745
pages 723-745 views

Threat and fear: Pragmatic purposes of emotionalisation in media discourse

Ozyumenko V.I., Larina T.V.


The impact of mass media on individuals and society is to a great extent based on emotions. We concentrate on fear as it is one of the basic emotions triggered by risk and threat, which is claimed to play a key role in the twenty-first century consciousness (Furedi 20018). The study focuses on the emotionalisation of fear in contemporary media discourse about Russia, more specifically, on constructions of ‘Russian threat’ and ‘fear of Russia’ in Anglo-American media texts to highlight pragmatic effects and to speculate on possible purposes of such discourses. The study aims to explore the functioning of the lexemes threat and fear , in textual contexts with the focus on their pragma-discursive characteristics. It identifies the mechanisms as well as linguistic tools involved in media strategies of scare-mongering. The dataset was derived from quality British and American newspapers in the period 2018-2020, and was analysed drawing on an interdisciplinary approach combining critical discourse analysis, pragmatics, medialinguistics, psycholinguistics and the theory of proximisation. The paper argues that appealing to emotions as well as constructing emotions is aimed at enhancing the persuasive function of media and fulfilling their own agenda. The persistent use of the words ‘threat’ and ‘fear’ in relation to Russia as well as the obsessive discussion of this topic in media aim to shape a certain negative public opinion of Russia among readerships. The findings show that to achieve this goal different strategies and linguistic tools are used including: exaggeration, repetition, proximisation, interrogative headlines, presupposition, among others. The results go beyond linguistics, and may find implementation in political studies, since they provide researchers with tools for understanding contemporary social and political processes.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):746-766
pages 746-766 views

“Never in my life have I heard such a load of absolute nonsense. Wtf.” Political satire on the handling of the COVID-19 crisis

Ponton D.M.


This paper problematises political satire in a time when the COVID-19 virus has provoked numerous deaths worldwide, and had dramatic effects on social behaviour, on a scale unknown in western nations since World War II. Most populations have endured ‘lockdown’, periods of enforced domestic imprisonment, which led to images of the empty streets of big cities appearing in media, symbols of the drastic changes that the health emergency was making necessary. Yet, from the outset, comic memes began to circulate across (social) media, while in mainstream print media political satirists continued to lampoon official responses to the ongoing crisis. The paper thus aims to explore the connection of political satire and humour, asking two principle research questions: firstly, how to explain the humorous effects of these multimodal artefacts in such depressing circumstances; secondly, from a pragmatic perspective, to account for their overall socio-political function.The study uses memes taken from various online sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google) during the crisis, analysed according to a mixed approach that blends notions from Humour studies, especially incongruity (Morreall 2016), with insights from linguistic pragmatics (e.g. Kecskes 2014). The findings emphasise the emotional dimension of this form of satire, as the memes work against the backdrop of a range of feelings (anger, bitterness, disappointment, frustration, despair, etc.), many of which have been widely generated by the COVID-19 crisis and political responses to it. In short, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin (2008: 378), man may ‘run out of tears but not of laughter’. The findings contribute to our understanding of online satire as an emergent genre, one that uses the affordances of new media to extend the social potentialities of a traditional subversive discourse form.

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):767-788
pages 767-788 views

Trump, memes and the Alt-right: Emotive and affective criticism and praise

Way L.C.


Internet memes are the most pervasive and malleable form of digital popular culture (Wiggins 2019: vii). They are a way ‘a society expresses and thinks of itself’ (Denisova 2019: 2) used ‘for the purpose of satire, parody, critique …to posit an argument’ (Wiggins 2019, see also Ponton 2021, this issue). The acts of viewing, creating, sharing and commenting on memes that criticise or ‘troll’ authority figures have become ‘central to our political processes… becom[ing] one of the most important forms of political participation and activism today’ (Merrin 2019: 201). However, memes do not communicate to us in logical arguments, but emotionally and affectively through short quips and images that entertain. Memes are ‘part of a new politics of affectivity, identification, emotion and humour’ (Merrin 2019: 222). In this paper, we examine not only what politics memes communicate to us, but how this is done. We analyse memes, some in mainstream social media circulation, that praise and criticise the authoritarian tendencies of former US President Donald Trump, taken from 4Chan, a home of many alt-right ideas. Through a Multimodal Critical Discourse Studies approach, we demonstrate how images and lexical choices in memes do not communicate to us in logical, well-structured arguments, but lean on affective and emotional discourses of racism, nationalism and power. As such, though memes have the potential to emotionally engage with their intended audiences, this is done at the expense of communicating nuanced and detailed information on political players and issues. This works against the ideal of a public sphere where debate and discussion inform political decisions in a population, essential pillars of a democratic society (Habermas 1991).

Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):789-809
pages 789-809 views


Review of Andreas Musolff. 2021. National conceptions of the body politic. Cultural experience and political imagination. Cham, Springer. ISBN 978-981-15-8739-9 ISBN 978-981-15-8740-5 (eBook)

Breeze R.



Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):810-815
pages 810-815 views

Review of Rodney Jones (ed.). 2021. Viral Discourse Cambridge Elements in Applied Linguistics Cambridge University Press. ISBNs: 9781108986625 (PB), 9781108986465 (OC)

Al-Salman S.



Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2021;25(3):816-822
pages 816-822 views

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