Conversationalization of TV news reporting in Taiwan

Sai-hua Kuo

National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, Taiwan


Fairclough (1992, 1995) identifies conversationalization, which models public discourse upon the discursive practice of ordinary life, as a major tendency of contemporary media. Other researchers (Kress 1986, Fowler 1988) have also observed that media discourse is taking on an increasingly conversational character marked by a shift to informality of language.

Adopting Fairclough’s multidimensional approach, which is a synthesis of socially- and linguistically-oriented views of discourse, this study aims to explore, both qualitatively and quantitatively, conversationalization in Taiwan’s television news. Data were taken from 24 hours of videotaped television news by 4 male news readers and 4 female news readers. The analyzed linguistic features which are associated with informality and conversationalization include (1) personal pronouns we and you, (2) questions, (3) direct quotations, (4) the mixing of local dialects, and (5) interjections and utterance-final particles.

My preliminary analysis shows that these conversational features tend to appear in soft news, which focuses on leisure, style, sports, and other human interest subjects. In fact, with the dominance of 'soft' news and the marginalization/trivialization of 'hard' news, conversationalization has become a pervasive feature in the news I analyzed. Another interesting finding is that female news readers are much more likely to adopt conversational features in news reporting than their male counterparts. This result not only conforms to previous studies (e.g. Tannen 1990) which indicate that women’s communicative style is more involving and interactional but also lends further support to ‘feminization’ of television news presentation (van Zoonen 1991).

Finally, echoing Fairclough (1995), I argue that this trend of conversationalization is closely linked to the increasing commercialization and marketization of media discourse. To compete for the attention of potential audiences, the entertainment values and emotional qualities of news are stressed and a more intimate, feminine, and conversational mode of speech is adopted by TV journalism.


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Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold.

Fowler, Roger. 1988. Orality models in the press. Oracy Matters, (eds.) by

Margaret Maclure, Terry Philips and Andrew Wilkinson, pp. 135-46.

Milton Keynes:Open University Press.

Kress, Gunther. 1986. Language in the media: The construction of the

domains of public and private. Media, Culture and Society 8: 395-419.

Tannen, Deborah. 1990. You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in

Conversation. New York: Morrow.

Van Zoonen, Liesbet. 1991. A tyranny of intimacy? Women, femininity and

television news. Communication and Citizenship, (eds.) by Peter Dahlgren

and Colin Sparks, pp. 217-235. London and New York: Routledge.

Session: Paper session
Television 1
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 03