Meaning in the Media: Discourse, Controversy and Debate

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Meaning in the Media addresses the issue of how we should respond to competing claims about meaning put forward in confrontations between people or organisations in highly charged circumstances such as bitter public controversies and expensive legal disputes. Alan Durant draws attention to the pervasiveness and significance of such meaning-related disputes in the media, investigating how their 'meaning' dimension is best described and explained. Through his analysis of deception, distortion, bias, false advertising, offensiveness and other kinds of communicative behaviour that trigger interpretive disputes, Durant shows that we can understand both meaning and media better if we focus in new ways on moments in discourse when the apparently continuous flow of understanding and agreement breaks down. This lively and contemporary volume will be invaluable to students and teachers of linguistics, media studies, journalism and law.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Brilliant, highly readable, sophisticated, and illustrated with a wealth of well-chosen examples, Meaning in the Media offers a major new analysis of disputes about meaning in public life, and of the linguistic, legal and social factors that affect their resolution. Essential reading not only for linguists, media scholars and specialists in language and the law, but for anyone who has ever been involved in a debate about defamation, honesty in advertising, or offensive language.' Deirdre Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, University College London and co-author with Dan Sperber of Relevance: Communication and Cognition

'Meaning in the Media is that rare find: a work accessible to students and researchers whose clarity and readability will give linguistics the type of visibility it deserves in our meaning-suffused society. For scholars and students working in a number of fields, in law and beyond, it offers a common vocabulary and analytical model with which to tackle contested meaning.' Graeme Dinwoodie, Professor of Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, University of Oxford

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521199582
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2010
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Durant is Professor of Communication at Middlesex University Business School, London. His previous publications include How to Write Essays and Dissertations: A Guide for English Literature Students (2nd edition, 2005) and Ways of Reading (3rd edition, 2007). He was also co-editor of The Linguistics of Writing: Arguments Between Language and Literature (1987).
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Pt. I Communication failure and interpretive conflict 17

1 From personal disagreement to meaning troublespot 19

2 Signs of trouble 33

3 Different kinds of meaning question 48

Pt. II Making sense of 'meaning' 65

4 Meaning and the appeal to semantics 67

5 Interpretive variation 81

6 Time-based meaning 95

Pt. III Verbal disputes and approaches to resolving them 111

7 Meaning as a knockout competition 113

8 Standards of interpretation 128

Pt. IV Analysing disputes in different fields of law and regulation 145

9 Defamation: 'reasonably capable of bearing the meaning attributed' 147

10 Advertising: 'not only what is said, but what is reasonably implied' 174

11 Offensiveness: 'If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable' 199

Pt. V Conclusion 225

12 Trust in interpretation 227

References 240

Index 250

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