A Functional Analysis of Nominalization in News Discourses

Abstract: The focus of this study is to investigate how nominalization is used in English news reportings in terms of three metafunctions, that is, ideational, interpersonal, and textual functions.Nominalization is the process by which either a noun or a syntactic unit functioning as a noun phrase is derived from any other kind of unit. The nominalizations are characterized by an objective, solemn and precise style, which is typical of social science works, official articles, reviews of newspapers and periodicals, legal documents, and business letters, etc. Considering its distinctive features and crucial role in our social life, the present study chooses to investigate its possibilities in news discourses. The research materials analyzed in the present study are mainly collected from New York Times, Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek in America; The Guardian and Times in Britain; China Daily and People’s Daily in China; etc.The analysis of the data has yielded the following major findings:First, in news discourses, especially in headlines, nominalization can condense information into a smaller space by encapsulating processes or other elements into nouns, thus achieving the effect of economy. Furthermore, nominalization is an effective way to transfer a clause complex into a one-clause statement or assertion, in which logical relation between clauses in the clause complex can be intensified by condensing it into a process verb (process slot). Besides, in the condensed one-clause statement or assertion, the theme or subject can also be nominalized. This kind of nominalization can even presuppose something uncertain as certain or established. In this way, the nominalized theme or subject as presupposition also have the emphatic effect, because presupposition is non-negotiable and remains constant even when the sentence is negated. Finally, in the condensing process, nominalization also contributes to the shaping of the stylistic features of journalistic genre so as to make the information more natural and acceptable.Second, in the process of information condensation, nominalization deletes the subject and the finite elements of the mood system. The deletion of the subject can impersonalize the information and obscure the agent responsible for the reported event; the deletion of finite elements can objectify the reported information and make the information more non-negotiable. In terms of modality system, nominalization can help to delete or disguise the source of modality, therefore, the meaning conveyed by the news becomes difficult to challenge and the reporters’personal evaluation can be taken for as a fact by the public.Third, nominalization, due to its strong ability of encapsulating information or condensation, can serve as the theme of a clause, form a special thematic progression pattern and therefore promote thematic progression, which in turn facilitate textual cohesion and coherence. In so doing, nominalization can help to push forward the momentum of argument or promote the information flow because it can repeatedly presuppose some information as background information to highlight other information or to achieve end-focus effect. Nominalization can also help to optimize sentence structures in news discourses and achieve certain rhetorical effects, such as parallelism, aestheticism.Finally, the three functions of nominalization in news discourse are interrelated with each other. To be more specific, these functions are not in isolation but as an integrated whole.The functional analysis of nominalization also has strong pedagogical implications. First, to be an effective communicator, it is of high necessity to have an adequate knowledge of nominalization, because it facilitates communication, especially written communication or communication for specific purposes or of specific genre. Second, in English learning, a knowledge of nominalization will promote the creativity of the target language use on the part of the students, for nominalization is viewed as a most powerful resource for creating grammatical metaphor and a highly flexible and generative linguistic device in English. Besides, a good mastery of it will speed up students’acquisition of English and improve their synonymous language choices. Third, a better understanding of nominalization also enables people to see the importance of combining language forms with their functions in the process of English learning and teaching…
Key words: nominalization; ideational function; interpersonal function; textual function; news discourses

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