Grammatical Choice and Meaning in Media Discourse: The Spanish Periphrastic Passive

Miguel A. Aijón-Oliva


This paper investigates the use of Spanish periphrastic passive constructions in a corpus of written-press and radio discourse from a Peninsular town. Their statistical patterning and their contextual effects are analyzed across a variety of textual genres and speaker socioprofessional groups within the domain of the media. The construction turns out to be more frequent as discourse approaches the prototype of written, informational communication, such as in press news items and radio news reports, as well as in the speech of journalists and broadcasters. A relationship is then hypothesized between such distribution and the inherent discursive meaning of the passive. Its basic motivation appears to be the enhancement of the salience of a semantic patient by placing it in the position of the clause subject, which is parallel to a notional blurring of the agent. This largely explains the usual occurrence of passive constructions across informational discourse dealing with external third-person referents, as well as their association with the speech of the socioprofessional groups that most often produce such kind of discourse. It is concluded that the patterns of variation found among social groups and situations are undetachable from the discursive meanings generated by linguistic choices.

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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