Wordplay in English Online News Headlines

Roya Monsefi, Tengku Sepora Tengku Mahadi


Within the endless stream of information available on the news media market, news headline language is characterised by several linguistic, pragmatic, rhetorical and functional features that distinguish it from other varieties of language that are not specialised. In the present study, the rhetorical features of English news headlines, through wordplay investigation, using a sample of 100 headlines were studied. Wordplay is investigated because it leads to the persuasiveness of message that is sometimes so subtle that the readers might not even recognise it. A taxonomy of wordplays was constructed according to Leigh’s (1994) model which made it possible to access a comprehensive checklist. The way the persuasive element, i.e. wordplay, was presented for the English headline readers was examined using the descriptive method and in light of textual rhetorical analysis. The outcome of the study suggests that English news headlines are likely to contain one or more clearly defined wordplay. The most frequent wordplay is that of tropes or more specifically metonymy. However, there are some wordplays such as polysyndeton, anadiplosis, antimetabole, epistrophe and polyptoton that are absent in English headlines. The majority of unused categories fall under the category of schemes.

Keywords: wordplay, news headlines, schemes, tropes, rhetoric

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