Discursive Construction in News Coverage and Translation: A Critical Discourse Analysis of The New York Times Bilingual News on Snowden Topic


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date15 Sep 2017


As an interdisciplinary approach to discourse, critical discourse analysis (CDA) has developed discourse analysis from the mere analysis of textual features to the analysis of the social facet. News is not always an entirely factual presentation of reality; it is embedded with ideology – the cognitive representation of “reality” that reflects the fundamental interests and values of a group and its members and contributes to the establishment, maintenance and restructuring of social relations. Such a reality is constructed through news language by news producers as the representatives of the institutional and social power. News translation has long been a vital part of news production, but its role and subsequent ideological influence are somehow overlooked. In the globalization age, news dissemination has become faster, wider and more diversified. To meet the needs for globalization and marketization, more and more news agencies have launched multilingual news services and syndicates, which has drawn our attention to the institutional self-translation, a translation practice undertaken by the institution producing the original news.
While monolingual news discourses have been extensively explored in CDA research, few CDA studies have taken bilingual or multilingual news discourses as an object of inquiry. The present dissertation has adopted a critical discourse approach to bilingual news discourses and developed a theoretical framework based on Fairclough’s three-dimensional model. Discourse is seen as the combination of three-dimensions – text, discursive practice and social practice. The analysis of bilingual news within this framework consists of (1) description of linguistic features of the source and target news at the textual level; (2) interpretation of manifest intertextuality and discourse organization in the source and target news at the discursive-practice level; and (3) explanation of linguistic and discursive features in the source and target news within the situational, institutional and social contexts at the social-practice level.
To substantiate the theoretical deliberation outlined above, a case study is conducted to examine bilingual news reports extracted from the Chinese-language website of The New York Times on Snowden topic with a view to observing the discursive construction/reconstruction of social events in the bilingual news, so as to reveal the ideological mediation in such a discursive construction/reconstruction and to discuss the relationship among the ideological positioning, the institutional force and the underlying social power.
It is found that while the source text and the target text are slightly different regarding linguistic choices and information organization at the textual level, an intra-institutional ideological alignment between the source and target news discourses is maintained. For instance, the demarcation between us and them established in the source news discourse is further naturalized through translation. As such, it shows that despite a few adjustments on the textual surface, the institutional stance in the bilingual news discourse is ultimately maintained.
The present dissertation argues that news translation studies should go beyond a dichotomy discussion of either being faithful to the source discourse or catering to the target audience’s need, as it is observed from the study that the institutional self-translation practice in The New York Times does not naturally follow such an either/or principle; instead, the core principle of translation in the news agency is to endorse its institutional stance in the news event and to serve the interests of the institution and its underlying social power through an ideological penetration into the target society.
With these findings, the study has attested the feasibility of the theoretical framework for bilingual news discourse in revealing ideological construction through linguistic devices and could provide theoretical and methodological support for other relevant studies of news translation. On the academic dimension, it hopes to bring researchers’ attention to the critical discourse approach to news translation and encourage further research on news translation and bilingual news discourse analysis. And regarding practice, it hopes to raise the target audience’s critical awareness when reading bilingual news or translated news and call the translator’s attention to both textual details on the surface and underlying social factors when doing news translation.

    Research areas

  • news translation, news discourse, critical discourse analysis, ideology