Referring Expressions Analysis In Political News In Ny Times And Wa Post

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People refer to things near them, far away from them, or something they wear. It is happen every day and probably every time in every conversations. It is constantly happened that people can overlook the importance of such expression. Without the appearance of such expression, the communication can be inefficient, ineffective, or outright impossible. Such situation of course never happened or at least rarely, as the referring activities is too common in every language. Human adopts the referring activities as soon as when they are a baby. The referring activities in this stage is as simple as pointing as the baby cannot talk yet. As the baby grew, the activities become more complex. The baby can refer to something with their baby language like referring a dinosaur as “aar” from the sound the dinosaur make. The complexity will later evolve and the baby will need to learn the referring expression used in his or her language. The referring expression is what makes referring to something more easy. Since without it, referring to object near you will need a lot of effort. The expression used to refer to two object may be different from one another. As for example, we say chair and stool differently while both function similarly or said dining table as different from table commonly found in the living room while both simply are tables. Moreover, people that speak different variation of a language may refer to an object differently than other people whom use the standard variation of the same language which one of way to identify the variation of a language.

One of the example is the differences of what American and British think of chips. The American refer chips as the potato that is sliced thinly and fried, but British refer chips as potato sliced into several pieces and bigger from the American counterpart. This big different explain how a similar word can refer to different object if said by people with different background. The differences in the referring expression are crucial to understand in the communication activities as mentioned before. The people who joined the conversation should know almost all of what the referring expression referring to as the failure to do so would result in a failed communication. Most if not all of information can be misunderstood or not understood at all. This mini research is discussing and analyzing about the referring expression used in the writing or several author of famous English language news media websites. The news media is Washington Post, and The New York Times, the two being the most famous if not the famous news websites in America. Another similar research of referring expression is done by Hye-Kyung Lee with her Refering Expression in English and Korean Political News. This research is focused on comparing the the use of referring expression in both English news outlet and Korean news outlet. Meanwhile this research is more focused on the use of referring expression.

The referring expression is not only helping to point out an object, but also helping in ease the writing in several aspect. One of them is news about politics. Politics is always a hot subject to talked about in news which is why major news outlet is always has special section for political news in all of their media, being the written on paper to online one. As the media to spreading news, news media should be able to make the audience understand about the news they are about to say or write. Hence, it is important for them to gives a proper, simple yet understandable explanation about the situation and the news. The news obviously will refer to other people, news, or event that is happened or will happen in the future. This reference mainly is used to help the audience or give some example. While when referencing to other people, it may be used to help people understand the object. Moreover, it is also important as the news media may use different way to refer to people like write them in full name or just write them with his/her nickname. This will bring different message or different kind of understanding about the news. It might be also simply how the news media stand toward the said person. The major problem that will be analyzed in this research is the usage of referring expression in the political news in American news media. The referring expression will be analyzed using pragmatics approach to understand what the writer/speaker really meaning to when is using them. As the matter of fact understanding what the news is really meant to say is important in this era where news can help influence people or people’s point of view about a situation. This reason is why a news should be able to gives clear views about the news presented. In this research the question will be more focused on the broader view of what the use of the referring expression used by the news media and how it help to clarify the news itself.

The objective is to describe and identify how the referring expression that is used by the news media. The politic themed words will obviously making it hard for the reader or the watcher to understand the news. The situation may get more complicated with the appearance of words from other theme or other subject. The study may improve the understanding of how the news media used the referring expression to make the reader or watcher understand more about the news and or giving them view or influence about the news itself. This will hopefully be useful when fellow student wanted to try writing news about political subject and wanted to make them more clearer to the reader. Pragmatics itself has many interpretations. Yule (1996:3) stated that pragmatics is the study of relationship between words they communicated or write and the user of those words. Moreover, it is also possible that pragmatics study the intended meanings, assumption, goals, and the actor’s action that they are performed when they speak. This advantage opens a way for researcher to study not only the words itself but also what messages that is not written or spoken. Moreover, pragmatics is capable of bringing human into the calculation when analyzing the data. The human itself can also become the part of data. It is preferably out of two other studies that are the syntax and semantics study.

Meanwhile, Leech (1983:6) pointed out that pragmatics itself is study that related with the situation where the speech is happened. The situation here is not entirely about where the speech occurs, but more focused on the situation in general. He also adds that pragmatics also can solve the problems that occurs both from the speaker’s perspectives and the hearer’s perspectives. The problems of both source and receiver may be different from one another. It may occurs in several scenario, even the written medium not safe from this problem. In the source (speakers/writer), the problems is the planning of an utterance, how to make it heard properly. While the receiver (hearer/reader) the problems is interpreting the utterances. Moreover, as stated by Osisanwo (2003: 57), the scope of pragmatics can deals with how the massages are delivered, how are the participants including in the situation, their knowledge about the world they shared, the deduction that is made from the text, understanding of what is left unsaid or supposed to be said, and the impact of non-verbal aspect in meaning. This means that all of aspect that happens in a verbal communication can be used to or explained by the study of pragmatics in that aspect. Yule (1996:17) starts with the idea of what the reference itself. For him, reference is “an act in which a speaker, or writer, uses linguistic forms, to enable a listener, or reader, to identify something. ” This means that the act of referencing is an act of a source (speaker/writer) helping the receiver (listener/reader) to identify something through the uses of language be it a word, or phrase which Yule itself is states as referring expressions. He split the referring expression into four group; proper nouns (Catherine, Shakespeare, Jakarta), noun phrase which are definite (the car, the man, the author), indefinite (a car, a man, an author) and pronouns (he, she, it). He then also adds that the main reason a person choose a type of referring expression than the others is based on what the speaker assumed the listener already knows.

If a similar context is already shared between the speaker and the listener a simple pronouns that function as deictic expression will be sufficient. However, when both is having no similar context, more elaborate referring expressions is necessary. The referring expression is still a debatable concept in linguistics as by concept itself, an form or similar form may has different interpretation (Hye-Kyung Lee. 2010). Furthermore, she adds that for simplicity, people can separated it into two branches. The first category includes the studies of what are known as definite descriptions, including proper names, pronouns on the other hand, fall into the difference category. This research is using methods of descriptive qualitative method. The qualitative methods will be used to describe the phenomenon of language use in its context by interpreting the data. Vanderstoep and Johnston (2009: 166-167) stated that, qualitative research relies on people’s interpretation of their own experience. (2009;8) It gives clear description and narration about the subject of analysis. Hence, the qualitative aspect is more about the making the description than to predicting the data.

The data is taken from the news writing of two major news media in United States. The data will be in form of description paragraph, at least one for each sample of news. The news itself will be two news per news media and both came from different author in the same news media. The data context itself will be the written referring expression and its probable reference. The similar referring expression is not explained twice as to simplify the result as the research itself is not focused on how many a words is appeared but more focused on how the referring expression itself is considered proper for the said situation or not or it is clear or not. Lincoln and Guba (in Vanderstoep and Johnston, 2009: 188-9) state that the important instrument for a qualitative method research is human. Furthermore, they add that as the instrument of a certain research is shaped by his/her experience and he/she can adapt easily to the circumstance of the research. In this research, the researcher will act as the key instrument and involved in all research process. The researcher will also plays the roles as the designer, the collector, the analyst, the interpreter, and the reporter of the data findings. As stated by Vanderstoep and Johnston (2009: 189) that qualitative studies have four types of data collection technique which are interviewing, ethnographic observation analysis of documents and material culture , and visual analysis This study will choose to use analysis of document and material culture methods. The steps of collecting the data in this research is (1) searching for the news in the news websites, (2) reading the news from the websites, (3) analyzing and taking notes about the referring expressions used in the news. Later, when the data is collected, the researcher will start the data analyzing phase. The technique the will be employed is the content analysis. Denscombe (2007:236-7) stated that content analysis is a method that can be used in any text to analyze the content of the data. The analysis will by focused on the usage of address terms by the main characters. The result of data collecting will be examined with the following steps: (1) the notes will be analyzed by matching the notes with the actual probable reference, (2) linking the referent with the referring expressions, (3) analyzing how the referring expression explaining the referent.


The findings of the research are shown below:

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Sample 1: For Trump, a Glittering Gala Ends a Winter Vacation Rooted in Routine By Emily Cochrane and Michael S. Schmidt Dec. 31, 2017: New York Times

The use of referring expression in this article is not really varied. Most of the time, the authors is using proper name then followed with their position title like the treasurer. The following mention will be in form of anaphora where the consequent referring expression will be inform of pronouns. Even though the use of proper nouns is dominating the article, the mention of the president itself is mostly using the pronouns 'he'. Even in the early part of the article, the authors choose to use he instead of using 'Trump' or 'President Donald Trump' while the mention of the rest of the families is in form of proper nouns and even rarely employing anaphora. In result in the article we will see multiple mention of both the name of his wife and their children. Moreover, to avoid confusion of who is that person is, the authors are using cataphora also. This is shown in the first paragraph mentioning Melania Trump being his wife Melania.

Sample 2: Partisans, Wielding Money, Begin Seeking to Exploit Harassment Claims By Kenneth P. Vogel Dec. 31, 2017: The New York Times

The uses of referring expression in this article is heavily leaned to using proper nouns instead of using pronouns. It being felt more formals. Not to mention that the author decided to use horrific like ms, and mrs, in almost all of the name in the article. The formal tone being used to ensure the feeling of formality in the such sensitive and serious news. Moreover, the use of anaphora that explaining make event and position is making trying to understand the news easier. The majority of the referring expressions is straightforward and placed in uniform manner of following anaphora styled for the majority of the article. The author also seems like avoiding difficult words and constantly mentioning or explaining the subject beforehand before introducing it to the article. Most of not all of the reference in this article is regulated inside the article itself and the author making sure this is the case for the article.

Sample 3: Chief Justice Roberts says courts will examine protections against sexual harassment By Robert Barnes December 31 at 9:04 PM: The Washington Post

The use of referring expression in this article is similarly also using the more anaphora than regular referring expression. The author of this article use formal tone as the theme of the text itself is a sensitive subject. The author noticeably using more direct quotes to get more credibility feeling. The referring expressions is always refer to something that is already explained before. This behaviour leads to the much clearer article as there is rarely any kind of referring expressions that is left having referred to hard subject. The author also noticeably refer to something commonly known and choose to not explained it like when referring to positions or institutions.

Sample 4: Ticket prices go up for Trump’s ‘very glam’ New Year’s Eve bash at Mar-a-Lago By Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lori Rozsa and Ashley Parker December 30: The Washington Post

The authors are referring to something multiple time in the article. The use of internal reference is shown by always referring to something after it was explained or if not exactly before it was explained. The authors also using unexplained referring expressions but these referring expressions is only refer to something commonly known to almost all people already like celebrities’ names. The tone of the article is relaxed as it tells about the President's new year holiday instead of the coldness of politics world. Most of the time, the author uses the proper nouns and pronouns as the referring expression. All of the samples: Based on the Yule category, the majority of the nouns that are being used are the pronouns and proper nouns category. Arguably due to the news itself is leaning about the people in the politics itself instead of the law(s) or policy that is being ensued by the government. Most of the news is talking about the Trump’s New Year Party in the time of writing this research. This is due to the most of the sample is from 30th of December when people, politicians included, are having holiday far from the hubris they occasionally face in their ordinary day to day work. This is understandable as the politic may leads to a stressful job. Meanwhile, the second news is about the sexual harassment in law institutions. Most of the part news did not referring to the law, instead they mostly referring to the culprits and the victims of the sexual harassment. This is obviously resulted in the news articles mostly using the pronouns and proper nouns instead of using the indefinite one. While the mention of this is also visible, it is small in comparison with the usage of proper nouns and pronouns in this article.

Based on those, the appearance of the type of the referring expressions is based on the tone of the news articles and mostly of what the news articles is focusing on. A news about a case may focus on the culprit, the victims, and the people surrounding them like the witnesses, or the judge. Meanwhile, a news about a regulation(s) or law(s) may focus on the law(s) or the regulation(s) itself while adding the people’s opinions in the side. This different in focus may leads to bigger discovery. The next is how the writer using the referring expression in the news articles. The usage of the referring expressions is varied but mostly using the same principle in all 4 news articles. The articles are always using the referring expressions in the same manner both from The Washington Post and New York Times. The usage is mainly by referring the object first using the proper nouns and the call it latter with using the pronouns. While sometimes using the other way around for variety, but this kind is really rare and only found in certain news articles. The reason why the writers prefer to using the pronouns in the back (anaphora) may be due to the nature of this formation is more familiar. Hence, the readers are not feeling awkward when reading it and feeling confused to link the referring expressions.

The news article is meant to be read by the masses not just a certain community, hence the using of the more familiar structure. Furthermore, this structure will make sure that all of the referent is already in the news articles, something that will be act as the anchor point for the reader to refer to. This way, the reader did not need to have any kind of background knowledge before the reading the article, hence more accessible for everyone. Furthermore, the last aspect is how the article is structured in using the referring expressions. The writer apparently always focusing on the clarity in mind when using the referring expressions. The appearance of the proper nouns in one sentences and the following always using the pronouns mostly only used when the article is still talking about the said person. When the article move to another one and came back to it, the article mention the proper noun again. This is not only happened in one article, but in almost 4 of the articles. This methods was used to be more clear on what the referring expressions referring to as the referring link is no longer there between the referring expressions and the referent already mentioned.


In conclusion for samples is rarely employing external reference which is referencing something outside the texts. The authors always makes sure that they refer to something that is already mentioned or explained before in the articles. This act of using internal reference is obviously will help the reader that is new to the subject to be able to grasp the meaning and the information that is presented in the news. Moreover, the authors is also depends on the tone of the articles. For the serious or sensitive article, the authors use horrific like using Mr. or Mrs. multiple times. For the commonly known reference, the authors is not trying to explained it and just assumed that the reader is understand to what the authors is referring to.

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