AMBIGUITIES IN NEWSPAPER HEADLINES: A CASE STUDY OF DAILY TRUST AND VANGUARD NEWSPAPERS

AMBIGUITIES IN NEWSPAPER HEADLINES: A CASE STUDY OF DAILY TRUST AND VANGUARD NEWSPAPERS

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CHAPTER ONE

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The crux of this research is semantic ambiguity as it affects communication effectiveness of media headlines of print media. Semantic ambiguity is concerned with meaning relations at sentence level which is a sub-field in the study of semantics that deals with the influence of one word upon another in sentences. Other related terms are tautology, redundancy, paraphrase, anomaly. Ambiguity is defined as a grammatical phenomenon in which an expression can be given more than one interpretation and could be caused by syntactic and semantic factors. Semantic ambiguity is a situation in which an expression can be given more than one interpretation based on the meaning of a word or words which in themselves can be misinterpreted. Syntactic ambiguity on the other hand is caused by the

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grammatical construction of the phrase or sentence which bring about misinterpretation.

A headline like, “Fashola meets ex-girlfriend in Paris” from Vanguard newspaper of June 4, 2013 could be ambiguous and as such could be misinterpreted. The word ‘meets’ has several meanings and denotes a lot of things. It means among others (1) to come face to face with someone coincidentally or unexpectedly (2) to converge or come in contact and finally touch or have sexual intercourse with someone (3) to come together in conflict (4) to gather for a formal discussion. The construction has therefore distorted a direct translation of the sentence to mean Fashola, saw his former girlfriend in Paris coincidentally.

The invention of printing before AD 220 represents one of the greatest landmarks in human history. The development of printing has made it possible for books, newspapers, magazines, and other reading materials to produce in great numbers and it plays an important role in promoting

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literacy among the masses. The printing press made possible wider dissemination of knowledge through the rapid flow of ideas from one country to another and the popularization of learning. This research considers a sentence from the point of view of its semantic structure which are ambiguous as regards to media headlines of print media.

The Newspaper headlines in their ambiguous state could be misinterpreted by reader based on the construction of phrases or sentences. Taking a close look at the second headline “Republican GRILL IRS Chief over lost emails” from Daily Trust newspaper of August 22, 2013 could be understood as Republicans harshly question the chief about the emails or that Republicans cook the chief using email at the fuel. It is clearly understood that ambiguous statements in themselves are incomplete, though they make some sense but could be analysed differently by people. It’s a perfect tool to demonstrate careful reading, showcase the need for editing and encourage, creativity and

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divergent thinking. Therefore this research wishes to create awareness that the media headlines of some newspapers are ambiguous. It is based on this that the research intends to do x-ray of media headlines of print media that are sentences in nature.

1.2    STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The researcher is aware that diction and audience should be put into consideration when constructing newspaper headlines. It is therefore important to investigate the use of diction in the print media because language especially the choice of words depends and differs according to context.

Meanwhile, the study attempts to focus on two major areas. The misapplication of language use and confusion arising from different meaning, the same word can have, which are relevant in most Nigerian dailies.

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1.3  OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The objectives of this research are:

(i)   To analyse semantic ambiguity in the headline structure of the print media.

(ii)   To find several possible meanings of the ambiguous headlines.

(iii)    To find out if reasons exist on why the newspaper choose to be ambiguous in their headlines.

1.4    SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The research is of great significance considering the level at which people misconstrue the facts and meanings of the concept of newspaper arising from the use of ambiguous words or language by the news editors and writers.

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In view of this, the research work when completed would be significant to readers of newspapers, school libraries as well as general public. This is because it will facilitate their understanding of information transmitted to in the newspapers.

1.5  SCOPE AND DELIMITATIONS

This research work shall be limited to the study of semantic ambiguity in the newspaper headlines. It does not intend to look at the lead, content and other elements of the newspaper such as advertisement, columns, letters to the editor, opinion etc.

This research work shall be delimited to DAILYTRUST and VANGUARD. The aforementioned newspapers are taken as samples because of their popularity in the area in which this research is carved out.


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