Meaning in the Media: Discourse, Controversy and Debate

Overview

Meaning in the Media addresses the issue of how we should respond to competing claims about meaning made in situations 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. He analyses deception, distortion, bias, false advertising, offensiveness and other kinds of communicative behaviour that trigger interpretive ...

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Meaning in the Media: Discourse, Controversy and Debate

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Overview

Meaning in the Media addresses the issue of how we should respond to competing claims about meaning made in situations 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. He analyses deception, distortion, bias, false advertising, offensiveness and other kinds of communicative behaviour that trigger interpretive disputes, and 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: 9780521136402
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2010
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (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

Acknowledgements xi

Introduction 1

0.1 Meaning troublespots 2

0.2 Approaches to meaning 5

0.3 Historical context for a media dispute culture 11

0.4 Outline of main arguments 13

0.5 Why meanings matter 14

Part I Communication failure and interpretive conflict 17

1 From personal disagreement to meaning troublespot 19

1.1 Introduction 19

1.2 Interpretive disagreement 19

1.3 Informal disagreement and more public 'media' disputes 21

1.4 Communication and the nature of disagreement 25

1.5 The concept of 'meaning troublespots' 26

1.6 Types of interpretive dispute 29

1.7 The problem of interpretive gridlock 30

1.8 Summary 32

2 Signs of trouble 33

2.1 Introduction 33

2.2 Three kinds of trouble 33

2.3 Interaction between communication categories 41

2.4 Usefulness of communicative distinctions 43

2.5 Communication and social harm 45

2.6 Summary 46

3 Different kinds of meaning question 48

3.1 Introduction 48

3.2 Limits of interpretation 48

3.3 Meaning not a single question 50

3.4 Conflicting attitudes towards questions of meaning 63

3.5 Summary 64

Part II Making sense of 'meaning' 65

4 Meaning and the appeal to semantics 67

4.1 Introduction 67

4.2 Meaning not an 'open and shut' case 67

4.3 Meaning wonderland 69

4.4 Meanings of meaning 72

4.5 Problems with applying semantics in interpretive disputes 78

4.6 Summary 79

5 Interpretive variation 81

5.1 Introduction 81

5.2 Should a hundred meanings blossom? 81

5.3 Code and inference 84

5.4 Creativity and risk 87

5.5 Boundaries of legitimate inference 89

5.6 Public circulation of meaning 93

5.7 Summary 94

6 Time-based meaning 95

6.1 Introduction 95

6.2 Meaning in the mind 95

6.3 When does a meaning become a meaning? 96

6.4 Closure and continuing dialogue 99

6.5 Meaning approximation 101

6.6 Given time and attention 103

6.7 This will mean more later 107

6.8 Summary 108

Part III Verbal disputes and approaches to resolving them 111

7 Meaning as a knockout competition 113

7.1 Introduction 113

7.2 Fighting over meaning 113

7.3 Argument culture 115

7.4 Need for counselling in a meaning triangle 116

7.5 Conflict and cooperation 120

7.6 Caught up in the act 122

7.7 Clever footwork between meanings 126

7.8 Summary 127

8 Standards of interpretation 128

8.1 Introduction 128

8.2 Adjudicating meanings is different from interpreting 128

8.3 Sources of interpretive authority 129

8.4 What creates a 'standard'? 131

8.5 Conceptual and procedural standards 133

8.6 Interpretive standards and legal outcomes 142

8.7 Summary 144

Part IV Analysing disputes in different fields of law and regulation 145

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

9.1 Introduction 147

9.2 Libel and the meaning of words 147

9.3 Defamatory potential: an illustration 151

9.4 Ordinary and extended meaning 162

9.5 Capable of bearing the meaning attributed 168

9.6 Defamatory meaning and common knowledge 171

9.7 Summary 173

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

10.1 Introduction 174

10.2 Commercial information and persuasion 174

10.3 Advertising and promotional discourse 176

10.4 How discourse represents products and services 177

10.5 Advertising law and regulation 179

10.6 Product and service claims 180

10.7 Beyond product and service claims 191

10.8 Deciding what an advert is telling you 192

10.9 The average consumer 195

10.10 Generalised interpretive strategies 196

10.11 Summary 198

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

11.1 Introduction 199

11.2 Meaning and boundaries of acceptability 199

11.3 Cause for complaint 201

11.4 Meaning in action 213

11.5 Interpretive variation and standards 219

11.6 Symbolic shock effects 222

11.7 Summary 223

Part V Conclusion 225

12 Trust in interpretation 227

12.1 Introduction 227

12.2 Meaning and speculation 227

12.3 Risky information 231

12.4 Trust and suspicion 235

12.5 Pragmatic interpretation 237

12.6 Summary 239

References 240

Index 250

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