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Macrostructures of english and vietnamese radio news: different or similar? Vo Thi Kim Thoa Phu Yen University


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MACROSTRUCTURES OF ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE RADIO NEWS: DIFFERENT OR SIMILAR?

Vo Thi Kim Thoa

Phu Yen University

Abstract

Writing for broadcast news, especially for radio news (RN), is a unique discipline because it writes for the ear. Its listeners get one and only one chance to hear. Hence, the message has to be produced to be understood very quickly if it is not to vanish. The structure of meaning of RN denoted by the term of Macrostructures which identifies what is the most important information announced in the lead, the specifics of the story developed logically in the body and the facts flow smoothly to the story’s conclusion in the snapper works as a gatekeeper shaping news item in a way that it can be interesting to a great number of listeners and maintains their interest. There are principles which give English Radio News writers and Vietnamese Radio News ones a rock bed of certainty to employ the language with care in order to deliver their message effectively and efficiently. But you may also wonder writing for RN is an art or an in-borne talent. Indeed, it is, after all, an art as Rick Thompson (2005) stresses: “There is no universal writing style. Style is subjective”. Depending on each culture, constructing a radio news story is not always the same as Stanley J. Baran (2003) focuses: “Culture provides useful guidelines for choosing the language and constructing stories in news.” With a wish to draw the differences and similarities in English Radio News and Vietnamese Radio News, this paper will produce side by side comparisons of some linguistic features as the lead and the structure in their Macrostructures.
I. Introduction

Writing for broadcast news, especially for radio news (RN), is such a unique discipline that Andy Rooney [2, p.14] says: “No one speaks as he writes or writes as he speaks, writing for broadcast is a compromise between the two.” Or Đoàn Quang Long [6, p.7] claims: “Văn nói và văn viết song song tồn tại và cùng phát triển trên Đài phát thanh, nó hỗ trợ cho nhau và trở thành một nghệ thuật, đặc điểm riêng của Đài phát thanh.”

It is unique because it writes for the ear. Radio listeners lack opportunity to go back reconsider a bit of information. Their ear can go only forward with the voice of the newscaster. They get one and only one chance to hear. Hence, radio writers have to format information for his listeners’ear so that they can understand it the first time they hear and maintains their interest. To deal with this, there are principles which give English Radio News writers and Vietnamese Radio News ones a rock bed of certainty to employ the language with care in order to deliver their message effectively and efficiently. The first and overriding principle is the way of producing the global meaning of RN denoted by the term of Macrostructures which identifies what is the most important information announced in the lead, the specifics of the story developed logically in the body and the facts flow smoothly to the story’s conclusion in the snapper.

Depending on the policy of each station and each culture, RN has different distributions in news items which cause different structures as Stanley J. Baran (2003) focuses: “Culture provides useful guidelines for choosing the language and constructing stories in news.” and “In broadcast, the lead must draw the audience to the story topic while beginning the flow of information.”

Therefore, in this paper, we shall deeply go into the most essential element of English Radio News (ERN) and Vietnamese Radio News (VRN) – the lead and what principle is employed in RN structures in both stations.
II. Macrostructures of ERN and VRN

1. The Lead

"Understanding how the lead works is to understand the nature of news stories.” [1, p.176]. In fact, in the lead, the essence of the story is summarised into a one-sentence micro-story leaving it to the listener whether he will continue to follow more or less attentively (Bell, 1991). For instance:

(1) A transit bus crashed on a slippery highway outside New York City, and the transit authority says seven people were killed and 35 were hurt. [7, p.318]

Nguyễn Đình Lương has the same view when he claims that the lead is designed to gain the listener’s attention, inform him of what happened and prepare her for what’s to come.

(2) 6 giờ 29 phút ngày 14-11-1992, chiếc máy bay IAK-40 từ Tân Sơn Nhất đi Nha Trang chở 24 hành khách và 6 người trong tổ lái đã mất liên lạc sau 48 phút bay. [8, p.81]

The leads [1] and [2] capture listeners’ attention with the impact (an accident or may be an accident) with attractive information which strongly appeals them to know what’s to come, so John Hewitt [4, p.70] concludes: “Lead is an attention-getting device.”

With the function as the heart of radio news reporting, the lead owns some linguistic peculiarities in both ERN and VRN as follows:

 “The key information is not put at the beginning of a lead.” [7, p.23].

(3) Ten deaths in Chicago were blamed on the heat, and at least 10 each in the eastern states of Virginia and Maryland. [22]

This lead puts the key statistic ten” in a place where it might be missed by the listeners – who may not be actively listening for the first word of the story. For this reason, rarely do English radio newsmakers put the main information at the first word of the lead. So we can see:

(4) At least 42 people have died in a heatwave that has brought soaring temperatures to a dozen US states from the Midwest to the East Coast. [22]

The key statistic “42in the lead [4] follows the adverb “at least”.

Likewise in VRN:

(5) Một cơn bão mạnh với sức gió 185km/giờ và lúc cơn giật lên tới 235km/giờ đã đổ bộ vào Guyam, 135.000 dân ở đảo này phải sơ tán. [8, p.83]

 Normally, the lead should be localized because starting the local tie brings a greater impact to the listeners.

(6) The UK's armed forces are on standby to provide an additional 3,500 troops to help with security at the 2012 London Olympics… [9]

One of the factors deciding on a story’s newsworthiness is proximity. Anything close to listeners is more important than something remote so “UK” can appeal American listeners to know what happened to it. In ERN, the lead with local tie occurs very frequently.

In VRN, we witness the same phenomenon such as:

(7) Huyện đảo Lý Sơn, tỉnh Quảng Ngãi nổi tiếng với sản phẩm hành, tỏi và có phong cảnh thiên nhiên đẹp, với gần 70 đình chùa, miếu mạo, trong đó có 3 di tích lịch sử văn hóa cấp quốc gia. [14]

 Mervin Mencher [7, p.319], John Hewitt [4, p.61] and Nguyễn Đình Lương [8, p.85] remind not to put a participle or a long phrase or subordinate clause at the beginning of the lead:

(8) The transit cars were back on the tracks last Thursday. No one is saying yet how the downtown redevelopment will do.

Instead:

Although the transit cars were back on the tracks last Thursday…no one is saying yet how the downtown redevelopment will do.

In VRN:


(9) Nhờ triển khai cuộc vận động dân số kế hoạch hoá gia đình, nhờ phát động phong trào xây dựng mô hình: “Gia đình ít con, vui vẻ, hạnh phúc”, nhờ kiện toàn mạng lưới cán bộ làm công tác dân số kế hoạch hóa gia đình, đến nay thủ đô Hà Nội đã hạ thấp tỷ suất sinh được 0, 6%, tỷ lệ sinh con thứ ba giảm 1%. [8, p.85]

[9] has the long might make the listeners confuse when persuiting the main information “thủ đô Hà Nội đã hạ thấp tỷ suất sinh được 0,6%, tỷ lệ sinh con thứ ba giảm 1%”.. Therefore, it should be:



Đến nay, thủ đô Hà Nội đã hạ thấp tỷ suất sinh được 0, 6%, tỷ lệ sinh con thứ ba giảm 1%. Kết quả đó là nhờ…

Mervin Block (1987) advises subordinate clause should be followed main clause.

(10) The Sony Music site also hosts tracks by other artists including the Foo Fighters, Olly Murs and Avril Lavigne although it is still unclear whether they are affected. [16]

In these qualities, we experience that radio language is closely related to spoken language because it is written for the ear – its listeners must be able to figure out at any moment what is said.

 Except in the form of audiotape “actualities”, “direct quotations are uncommon. Radio newsmakers prefer indirect quotes or summaries of statements.” [5, p.27] because “listeners can not see the quotation marks, so the best way is to paraphrase.” [7, p.22]. Therefore, Irving Fang and Nguyễn Đình Lương suggest to put the person being quoted is identified before the indirect quotation.

(11) Sony says a number of Michael Jackson tracks have been stolen after its website was hacked. [16]

In VRN:

(12) Bộ trưởng Bộ Lao động Thái Lan Phadermchai Sasomsub ngày 11/7 cho biết, một trong những thị trường lao động mà Thái Lan cần trong lĩnh vực xây dựng là Việt Nam. [19]



 Melvin Mencher [7, p.318] and Nguyễn Đình Lương [8, p.84] advise that the name must be preceeded with the person’s title or some identifying label, not begin a lead with an unknown name. For example:

(13) Naomi Johnson, 34, of Pine City was killed last night when her car ran off Highway 64 near Five Points.



Naomi Johnson may be an unknown name to listeners, so it is necessary to begin a report of accident without the victim’s name. What is familiar is identified first and then the identification follows:

A 34 year-old Pine City woman was killed when her car ran off Highway 64 near Five Points. Dead is Naomi Johnson. [7, p.12]

In VRN:


(14) Ngày 24-10, các nữ tư lệnh của FMLN Ni-đi-a Đi-át và Rê-bê-ca Pa-la-xi-ốt khẳng định rằng FMLN sẽ tiếp tục duy trì cuộc ngừng bắn như hiệp định hòa bình về En-Xan-va-do đã qui định.

FMLN may be a strange name for listeners. Hence, it had better explain its name as follows:

Ngày 24-10, các nữ tư lệnh của Mặt trận giải phóng dân tộc Pha-ra-bun-đô Mác-ti viết tắt là FMLN, Ni-đi-a Đi-át và Rê-bê-ca Pa-la-xi-ốt khẳng định rằng Mặt trận sẽ tiếp tục duy trì cuộc ngừng bắn như hiệp định hòa bình về En-Xan-va-do đã qui định. [8, p.84]

 Van Dijk, Mervin Block and Nguyễn Đình Lương suggest the ideal introductory lead should by no means go beyond 25 words. For example:

(15) An air force helicopter and a navy fighter jet collided at approximately 3:40 this afternoon at 35-hundred feet 40 miles north of air force base near Panama City, Florida, killing both pilots, who were 30 years old and 27 years old respectively.

With more than forty words in a sentence, the lead [15] is hard for anyone to follow. So it should be shortened with carefully chosen words:



An air force helicopter and a fighter jet collided this afternoon near air force base, killing both pilots.

In VRN:


(16) Tháng 11-1992, tỉnh Tiền Giang đã chủ trương quản lý chặt chẽ diện tích được để lúa chét ở mức hơn 3.700 ha, chủ yếu ở vùng sâu thuộc các huyện Cái Bè, Cai Lậy làm vụ thu dễ bị ngập lụt…[8, p.82]

This lead can be shortened:



Tháng 11-1992, tỉnh Tiền Giang vừa chủ trương quản lý chặt chẽ diện tích được để lúa chét ở mức hơn 3.700 ha. Diện tích này chủ yếu ở vùng sâu thuộc các huyện Cái Bè, Cai Lậy.

Boyd (1994) rightly proclaims that the first sentence in a radio story is all-important. It must have, partly, the character of a headline. It needs to provide the listener with a high information value. He remarks: “As a general rule in news language, the first sentence, the lead, should contain the five W's: Who (actor), What (action), When (temporal reference), Where (local reference), and Why (cause) with additional details coming later if time allows.”, but which elements appearing more frequently in the lead depend on the policy of each station. As we have investigated, we realised that that English and Vietnamese radio news have some similiarities and differences as follows:



Similiarities:

Radio is considered as the “alerting” or “headline” medium [7, p.18], obviously, the most important information “what happened” always appears in the lead of both ERN and VRN.



Differences:

Van Dijk (1988) believes the two basic things a radio news story should contain are actor(s) and action(s) and without exception both actor(s) and action(s) are presented in the leads. For example:

(17) A Dover Air Force Base plane crash has killed seven airmen and injured ten others. [7, p.23]

This lead is localized “where” (Dover Air Force Base), “what” is included (plane crash) and the result is revealed with “who” (has killed seven airmen and injured ten others). We should not forget that the element “where” (Dover Air Force Base) denoting location plays an important part in ERN leads. In our investigation, “where” takes much more space in ERN than “when” .

Most VRN leads inform us “what happens” with temporal references when” more frequently than “where” . This is so as the agricultural civilization, circumstantial of time has a great influence on Vietnamese harvest and time is embedded in Vietnamese radio newsmakers. For example:

(18) Sáng 11/7 tại Viện Nghiên cứu Cao cấp về Toán (VIASM) diễn ra buổi khai giảng chương trình hè chuyên đề lý thuyết số, do GS Ngô Bảo Châu trực tiếp hướng dẫn. [15]

One more interesting thing is that most ERN leads begin with “who”. This is to say that eliteness of news actors is a primary news value of ERN - personalisation is common in most leads and clearly determines their subsequent syntactic order as Bell says: “The ideal news source is a news actor whose own words makes news”. Hence, it is not surprising that actor(s) occupies in ERN more frequently than those in VRN.



2. The structures of ERN and VRN

  1. The structure principles

Đinh Văn Hường [3, p.78] and Nguyễn Đình Lương [8, p.74] concentrate

exclusively on the structures of VRN as follows:

 Upright pyramid style attracts listeners with a start appealing curiosity but the most important detail is put at the end.

 In rectangle style, all the details of an event are equal. Each detail contains new information.

 Inverted pyramid style is the sequential telling of an event starting the most important details.

Interestingly, however, ERN’s structure seems more flexible when Irving Fang [5, p.18] remarks: “when most newscast items are so short that there is time only for a few of the most important details of a report, newsmarkers will employ the upright pyramid style and where more time is available, a choice can be make among the inverted pyramid style, the sequential telling of an event or a combination of the two.” From our observation, we can point out the following similiarities and differences of ERN and VRN structures :



Similiarities:

As we mentioned, the lead functions as the heart of ERNTs and VRNTs. It gives the most important information of a news story. “General-to-particular” principle seems to be appropriate for RN as well (Werlic, 1976). In the present corpus, the inverted-pyramid principle dominates in both ERN and VRN. Let us consider the following news:

(21) President Bush's wife, Laura, will travel to Haiti and Mexico March 13 and 14 for a two-day visit to highlight U.S. efforts to promote health care and education in the region.White House spokeswoman Dana Perino announced the trip Wednesday. In Haiti, Mrs. Bush will visit an AIDS clinic and a U.S. Agency for International Development education program. Haiti receives assistance under President Bush's global AIDS initiative, called PEPFAR, President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In Mexico, the U.S. first lady will attend the launch of a U.S.-Mexico Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research. [13]

(22) Tổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng đề nghị phía Mỹ tăng cường trao đổi đoàn các cấp, các ngành, đẩy mạnh hợp tác với Việt Nam trong các khuôn khổ hiện có và trong các lĩnh vực. Chiều nay (10/7), tại Trụ sở Trung ương Đảng, Tổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng đã tiếp Bộ trưởng Ngoại giao Mỹ Hillary Clinton đang ở thăm Việt Nam theo lời mời của Bộ trưởng Ngoại giao nước ta Phạm Bình Minh. Bộ trưởng Hillary Clinton chân thành cảm ơn Tổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng đã dành thời gian tiếp Đoàn, thông báo với Tổng Bí thư về kết quả tốt đẹp của các cuộc hội kiến, hội đàm với các nhà lãnh đạo Việt Nam. Bộ trưởng bày tỏ vui mừng được trở lại thăm Việt Nam, chứng kiến những thành tựu của Việt Nam trong thời gian qua trong công cuộc Đổi mới, xây dựng và phát triển đất nước, đánh giá cao vị thế và vai trò ngày càng cao của Việt Nam tại khu vực và trên thế giới, khẳng định Chính quyền Mỹ mong muốn tăng cường hơn nữa quan hệ hợp tác hiệu quả nhiều mặt với các nước và các cơ chế trong khu vực, trong đó Việt Nam có một vị trí rất quan trọng… [20]

The lead [21] gives us the most important information of a news story with the fullest elements of the events such as who (President Bush's wife, Laura), What (will travel), Where (Haiti and Mexico), when (March 13 and 14), why (for a two-day visit to highlight U.S. efforts to promote health care and education in the region). The lead [22] also introduces who (Tổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng), What (đề nghị phía Mỹ tăng cường trao đổi đoàn các cấp, các ngành, đẩy mạnh hợp tác với Việt Nam trong các khuôn khổ hiện có và trong các lĩnh vực.)

The leads above contain the details that clearly relate the most significant element of the events being reported and the others are left for the next parts (the body and snapper) in order to keep the lead short and simple.



Differences:

English radio newsmakers only employ the upright pyramid principle when they focus on the central fact or news peg “what happened” for the lead whereas Vietnamese radio newsmakers use the upright pyramid principle when they want to attract listeners with a “curiosity” but the most important detail is put at the end. For example:

(23) Trong cuộc thi ngày 3-10-1992 tại Mỹ, một nông dân đã đoạt giải thưởng 75.000 đô la vì đã trông được quả bí ngô lớn nhất thế giới. Đó là anh Giôn Hâu-len ở bang ca-li-pho-ni-a. Anh cho biết quả bí ngô này là kết quả của công trình trồng trọt trong 5 tháng của anh mà từng ngày người trồng nó phải hiểu nó cần gì. Anh cũng cho biết nhờ lòng say mê anh đã trồng được quả bí ngô nặng 370 kilôgam này. Qủa bí của anh cùng với qủa bí của hai anh em Ét và Bốp Gan-ca ở bang Niu-giơ-si đã được ghi vào sổ Ghi-net về những điều kỳ lạ của thế giới. [8, p.75-76]

This VRN is designed with the upright pyramid style and its lead does not focus on the news peg “what happened”, but appeals “curiosity” with the information “một nông dân đã đoạt giải thưởng 75.000 đô la…” and the most important fact “Qủa bí của anh cùng với qủa bí của hai anh em Ét và Bốp Gan-ca ở bang Niu-giơ-si đã được ghi vào sổ Ghi-net về những điều kỳ lạ của thế giới. is put at the end.

In contrast, English speakers bluntly speak out what they mean, so being direct.

(24) A question from Vietnam about retinal degeneration. The retina is the sensory tissue in the back part of the eye. It gathers light and captures images from the lens, much like film in a camera. The retina processes these images into signals that travel through the optic nerve to the brain. Diseases of the retina can cause vision loss over time. A thirty-year-old listener in Vietnam says he cannot see well and doctors have told him he has retinal degeneration. This is the loss or destruction of the sensory tissue of the retina. Trinh Phuong Bac says he first developed problems in his right eye when he was a child. He would like to know more about this disease… [22]

[24] is employed with the upright pyramid style which the central fact “what happened” is directly focused on the lead “A question from Vietnam about retinal degeneration.”

The Vietnamese tend to use circumlocution before referring to the main point or spread the details all over the news item and each detail contains new information, so being indirect. For example:

(25) Ngày 8-11-1992 tới, Ấn Độ sẽ tố chức hội nghị quốc tế lần thứ hai về SIDA ở Châu Á-Thái Bình Dương. Đại biểu từ hơn 40 nước tham dự hội nghị sẽ thảo luận các biện pháp ngăn chặn sự lan tràn của vírut HIV và xóa bỏ sự phân biệt đối xử với bệnh nhân nhiễm SIDA. Các chuyên gia y tế cho rằng cuộc thảo luận kéo dài trong 5 ngày… [8, p.77]

English and Vietnamese radio newsmakers, obviously, have the same view when choosing which items and which news structures are prioritised. However, different cultures provoke different stylistic features in their ways of giving news.


III. Conclusion:

RN starts with the lead as the element of a macrostructure which satisfies news practice and its rule is that the most important information “what happens” must come first in a news story in both ERN and VRN. However, most ERN leads beginning with “who reveals personalisation is more frequent than those in VRN, the local reference “where” in ERN appeares more frequently than those in VRN. Vice versa, the number of temporal reference “when” in VRN is higher than those in ERN.

The inverted-pyramid principle dominates in both ERN and VRN. However, there are some differences realised: English radio news makers only employ the upright pyramid principle when they focus on the central fact or news peg “what happened” for the lead whereas Vietnamese radio news makers use the upright pyramid principle when they want to attract listeners with a “curiosity” and the most important detail is put at the end. The upright pyramid and rectangle principle of VRN reinforce that English and Vietnamese radio news makers differ in their ways of giving news. The Vietnamese tend to be indirect. In contrast, English speakers bluntly speak out what they mean, so being direct.

REFERENCES



  1. Bell, Allan (1991), The Language of the News Media, Blackwell, Oxford.

  2. Block, Mervin (1987), Writing for Broadcast News, Bonus Books, Chicago.

  3. Đinh Văn Hường (2006), Các Thể loại Báo chí thông tấn, Nxb Đại học Quốc gia, Hà nội.

  4. Hewitt, John (1988), Air Words, Mayfield Publishing Company.

  5. Fang, Irving E. (1985), Television News and Radio News, Rada Press.

  6. Fear C.F. (1989), The Art of Writing, Random House.

  7. Mencher, Melvin (1999), Basic Media Writing, The McGraw-Hill Companies.

  8. Nguyễn Đình Lương (1993), Nghề Báo Nói, Nxb Văn hóa – Thông tin.

SOURCE OF DATA

[9] Armed forces on Olympics standby 11 July 2012

www.bbc.com

[10] Eurozone crisis: Spain announces budget cuts amid protests 11 July 2012

www.bbc.com

[11] ILO warns eurozone risks losing 4.5 million more jobs 11 July 2012

www.bbc.com


[12] Keith Richards: Rolling Stones are 'rehearsing' 11 July 2012


www.bbc.com

[13] Laura Bush to Visit Haiti, Mexico 05 March 2008

www.bbc.com

[14] Lý Sơn ngày càng hấp dẫn du khách 01 July 2012

www.vov.com

[15] GS Ngô Bảo Châu bắt đầu giảng bài tại Viện Toán 12 July 2012

www.vov.com

[16] Sony Music confirms hack of Michael Jackson tracks 5 March 2012

www.bbc.com

[17] Spike Lee working on Michael Jackson film 11 July 2012


www.bbc.com

[18] Storm-hit US states declare emergencies 1 July 2012

www.bbc.com

[19] Thái Lan coi Việt Nam là thị trường lao động tiềm năng 11 July 2012

www.vov.com

[20] Tổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng tiếp Ngoại trưởng Mỹ 10 July 2012

www.vov.com

[21] US record heatwave leaves dozens dead 8 July 2012

www.bbc.com

[22] When Eye Problems Involve Diseases of the Retina 24 July 2007



www.bbc.com


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