Investigating Conflict Discourses in the Periodical Press

by Giuliana Elena Garzone (Volume editor) Mara Logaldo (Volume editor) Francesca Santulli (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection 244 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 261


The contributions collected in this book deal with the representation of conflict in the periodical press, which has often been an arena of adversarial stances, staged and enacted either within the same publication or enlarged to involve various newspapers and magazines in a series of provocations and replies. Underlying all the contributions is the awareness that the periodical press provides an ideal terrain for research on the discursive representation of conflict, having the prerogative to combine insight with a constant updating of the debate. The issue is approached in an interdisciplinary perspective, bringing linguistics and discourse analysis with Periodical Studies, hence highlighting the connection between language and ideology. The focus on lexical choices and rhetorical devices used to tackle current controversial issues such as Brexit, immigration, violence in sports, policies regarding health and food, women’s role and legal matters ultimately transcends national boundaries to become more widely representative of today’s discourses of conflict.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Investigating Conflict Discourses in the Periodical Press: An Overview
  • Populism and the Press: Contracting and Expanding (Dis)agreement Space in UK Editorials on Brexit
  • Representations of Diplomatic Discourse in the Periodical Press after Sir Ivan Rogers’ Resignation as UkRep to the European Union
  • A Clash of Opinions in the Italian Press: Context and Contest
  • On the Mediatisation of the Palm Oil Debate in the British Press
  • Conflict and Supremacy in Chinese Sports News Commentaries: A Case Study
  • The Representation of National and International Football-Related Conflicts in the British Press: From Hooliganism to Terrorism
  • Addressing Immigration in English-language Online Newspapers: Lexical Choices and Their Ideological Implications
  • Arab Women in Western News Discourse during the Arab Spring: Fading Stereotypes and Emerging Images
  • Arenas of Linguistic Conflicts: The Legal Periodical Press in Belgium and Estonia
  • Notes on Contributors

Paolo Giovannetti


This book may be considered as a spin-off of the international Conference on ‘Conflict in the Periodical Press’ held at IULM University, Milan, on 28th–30th June 2017. It was the Sixth Annual Conference of the European Society for Periodical Research (ESPRit), an association whose aim is to examine the constitution of a specific periodical field within the wider framework of ideological and cultural fields. In this volume, with a few additions, it is possible to read some of the most notable linguistic contributions presented in Milan.

The linguistic concern was a remarkable presence at the ESPRit Conference, and a sign of the involvement of less-practiced methodological features. As a matter of fact, in the domain of periodical studies research has predominantly been a literary one, and mainly focused on Modernism. The interest towards this period issued from the circumstance that all over Europe the cradle of important modern literary movements was often a journal or a review. This induced scholars to acknowledge that a sort of periodical awareness was born at the end of the 19th century, as part of a ‘system’ of new activities and social behaviors that could support programs and works of Modernism.

Hence the myth of the ‘little review’: young and penniless writers, rejected by the public establishment (and rejecting it from their part), who chose genres and artistic styles far from la langue de la tribu, and were therefore almost compelled to found reviews. Although destitute of economic funds and with little or no editorial support, those writers were rich in creativity and ideals. The example of Blast is paradigmatic. Founded by Ezra Pound, this journal can be considered the seminal literary institution of poetic Modernism all over the world, despite the very limited extension of its life: just two issues between 1914 and 1915. Does it ensue that the (economically) poorer, the (symbolically) richer? Generally speaking, yes. It is a sort of artistic rule, which has been theoretically proved by the noteworthy enquiry of Pierre Bourdieu in the cultural and artistic champ.

←7 | 8→

If we recognize that a periodical champ does exist, then journals and reviews may no longer be relegated to the periphery of literature or art. The prestigious ‘little review’, which is supposed to have a very limited importance indeed within a larger context, is actually able to affect a system. Although ESPRit seems mainly to focus on the former aspects – the context dominated by specific editorial, economic, and entrepreneurial rules – this connection with a wide spectrum encompasses political, sociological and macroeconomic questions.

As the life of any review is obliged to reckon with everyday life commitments, it is even too easy to stress that language is one of the most important commitments. Maybe the fundamental one, the dominating one. The papers collected in this book are a good example of the existence of something like a ‘linguistic leadership’ which must be taken into account. What is very instructive, at least from the point of view of a literary scholar like me, is that a well-constructed linguistic examination is immediately on the prowl. The basic questions are caught directly; contrasts, conflicts, conundrums, and whatsoever, almost magically appear in front of us in their sheer essence. Questioning language means disclosing the kernel of a largely deployed structure.

All these essays share methods of critical discourse analysis. This kind of approach is affected both by the mastery of ancient rhetoric and by the modern tools of pragmalinguistics. Both disciplines deal with some general human attitudes as they are expressed through language. A linguistic act is an action interpreted in terms of words, clauses, propositions, texts, etc. Ancient and modern rhetoric reminds us that every utterance is joined to strategic and social procedures that condition it, even (or mainly) in absence of a kind of subjective awareness. So, discourse analysis draws from the (almost) non-historical sources of our experience. Its methods and principles deal with an a priori which cannot be discussed. Narrating, praising, arguing, describing… are linguistic universals. Just as the Latin genera, deliberativum, judiciale, epideicticum effectively describe some attitudes of public speech that still retain their importance – at least in a democratic context.

And here is unquestionably the core of the problem. The last observation concerning the rules of a modern society (although its tradition dates back to 5th-century BC Athens), may permit us to tackle a remarkable issue. For example, in facing how different kinds of populism are ←8 | 9→triggered in the discussion about Brexit, discourse analysis is obliged to evaluate the correctness of the strategies at stake, the coherence of their rhetorical engagement. Something like a ‘truth effect’ is implied, and even stirred up. There is no innocence at all when you (have to) choose between argumentation and epideixis, between an open discussion and an alleged, symbolic call to the arms.

Periodicals may therefore be at the same time arenas of democracy and, dialectically speaking, of its negation. When China decides that national football policy must represent not only an economic investment but also a symbolic benchmark for a possible supremacy, the decision of shaping a sport reputation is not very far from a lie. Only an authoritarian strategy may aim at deceiving a population with the mirage of a football leadership. And when an Arab scholar investigates into how European journals report female struggles during the Arab Spring, she is supposed to judge the journals, their ideology, from the point of view of a very solid quantitative analysis as well as against the real, objective condition of women in Arab states. Likewise, if you want to understand the effectiveness of communication in front of the use of palm oil, for instance, you may discuss all the nuances of arguments and scientific descriptions, but you always have to remember that palm oil is the cheapest alimentary oil, and that this sheer fact matters.

I would argue that the actual contrast between linguistic universals and history needs the mediation of journals, at least in front of some everyday emergences, what we call ‘the news’. And a scientific analysis can reconstruct something which – in the limits of the democratic modern world – may look like truth. Language and discourse are the most important touchstones of the persisting actuality of these objectives. It is not by chance, I think, that all the essays published in this book rely upon national issues. In a global world, if you want to study the origins of a really shared public argumentation, you must start by looking at a national domain. Enlightenment has taught us that a national background can be the basis for a universal philosophy. Is it still the same for us? I think so. As long as national languages exist, the most violent contrasts will be active there: language being always able to mirror something outside of it, the essential actions and intentions of daily life.

←9 |

From this point of view, a discursive analysis of periodicals may be regarded as the most direct way to seize ideological moves in a modern society. Literary and artistic procedures may be more dialectic and indirect in their surveys; they may detect what is not immediately visible, even what is wordless. Linguistics will never fail to deconstruct communicative practices, the seeming normality of which we accept without suspicion, but behind whose action something different (and, often, dangerous) is bound to be discovered.

I am sure that these peculiar attitudes are genetically related to the origins of periodical publications. The bearing of discourse analysis is optimism, I dare say. All the clues I have discussed so far suggest such a conclusion. “The circulation of periodicals multiplies those activities of the human mind on which the improvement of our ideas and customs depends”, wrote Cesare Beccaria in the pages of a seminal Italian review, Il Caffè, in 1764. Printed words, human minds and ideas: a connection exists which is liable to enhance a progress. For in periodicals the first engagement is debating the public interest, public opinion. These are the ideal roots of the periodical press, its original mission.

←10 | 11→Giuliana Elena Garzone

Investigating Conflict Discourses in the Periodical Press: An Overview*

This book approaches the issue of conflict discourse in the periodical press from a linguistic and discursive perspective.1 Rather than offer a straightforward, sequential summary of the chapters, in this opening chapter I present an overview of the concepts of conflict and conflict discourse, their coverage in the periodical press, and provide a review of relevant research. This is followed by reflections focusing on the use of discourse analysis in this area of investigation, with a brief discussion of some of the analytical tools most frequently deployed.

This task is particularly challenging as the study of conflict discourse in the periodical press brings together various strands of research: on the one hand specifically linguistic and discourse analytical investigations of conflict communication, its inception, its evolution and its representation, and on the other hand research on discourse in the news and in other periodical publications. This chapter aims at providing a broad overview of some of the most salient issues in these two main lines of research, without claiming to be exhaustive due to space limitations.

The chapter is organized as follows. In § 1, some general indications are given as to the approaches to the study of communication through the press in general, and in particular of its role, inherent characteristics and distinctive features. These indications represent a necessary background for any piece of research focusing on aspects of news discourse. ←11 | 12→In § 2 the attention shifts to the notion of conflict, as its definition is indispensable for the demarcation of the object of research, while in § 2.1 an account of linguistic and discursive studies of conflict talk is provided. § 3 looks at conflict discourse in the periodical press, examining in very broad terms the topics dealt with in the essays collected in this volume, and introduces the main methodological tools deployed in the analysis. The next two sub-sections take a closer look at the peculiarities of two of the most important of such analytical frameworks, Critical Discourse Analysis (§ 3.1) and Argumentation Theory (§ 3.2). In § 4 some closing remarks follow.

1 Analysing texts from the periodical press

Thomas Jefferson wrote “… were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter” (letter to Edward Carrington, 16 January 1987, in Jefferson 1787/1955).

This statement testifies to the crucial importance attributed to the press in the period when the now universally accepted idea of its fundamental role in democracy was being established. A free press came to be considered a bulwark against despotism and a site for public debate through which the truth could be achieved and correct information provided to enable the public to form opinions and make informed political choices.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
Periodical press Conflict discourses Lexical choices and ideologies Brexit Populism Diplomatic discourse Health and food policies Sports and politics Immigration
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 244 pp., 3 fig. b/w, 17 tables.

Biographical notes

Giuliana Elena Garzone (Volume editor) Mara Logaldo (Volume editor) Francesca Santulli (Volume editor)

Giuliana Elena Garzone is Full Professor of English, Linguistics and Translation at IULM University, Milan. Her research interests are mainly in ESP, which she has explored in a discourse analytical perspective, integrating it with corpus linguistics. She has co-ordinated several research projects and published extensively on legal, scientific and business discourse as well as on translation and interpreting. Mara Logaldo (PhD in English Studies from the University of Genoa) is Assistant Professor of English Language and Translation at IULM, Milan, where she holds courses of ESP (English for public relations, media and specific academic purposes) and Audiovisual Translation. Her research interests include rhetoric and discourse analysis with a focus on media discourse. Francesca Santulli is Full Professor of Linguistics at the University of Venice «Ca’ Foscari». Her research has focused on various aspects of language and linguistics, ranging from history of linguistics to philology, from phonetics to language contact. She has published many articles and a book on the theoretical aspects of language change. She works extensively to examine scientific and legal communication with a rhetorical and discourse analytical approach, with special attention for themes connected to the social and medical implications of disabilities.


Title: Investigating Conflict Discourses in the Periodical Press
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246 pages