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John McCourt
English for Communication Science
John McCourt, English for Communication Science
© 2003 Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina
ISBN 88-7543-008-X
Cover illustration: William Hogarth, A Midnight Modern Conversation,
Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina P.s.c. a r.l.
Calle Foscari, 3259, 30123 Venezia e-mail:[email protected]
Prima edizione ottobre 2003
Stampato in Italia presso LCM SELECTA Group – Milano
Irregular verbs
Prefixes and suffixes
False friends
Grammar revision
APPENDIX VII Resources for further study
I am indebted to the following for permission to reproduce copyright material: Maureen Baron, Multimedia Administrator, The English Montreal
School Board Media; The Independent for “Italy’s festival of syrupy songs
loses high ratings to low politics”, The Independent, 7 March 2003; the Daily
Telegraph for “Citizen Kane voted the greatest film ever”; Owen Fitzgerald,
President of for the Alexander Graham Bell article; Chip
Scanlan of the Poytner Insitute in Florida for “Struggling with the Basics,
Writing in English as if it’s your native tongue”; Karina Wilson of for “What makes the news”; Ange Tank for “Sex
sells… but does it really pay?”; for “The Cellular Phone Buying Test”; J. Suler for “Cyberspace Humour”; for “Could Traditional Media’s Loss be Online’s Gain?”; Pippa
Norris of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
for “All Spin, No Substance? The 2001 British General election”.
I would like to thank Professor Dario Calimani for his kind invitation to contribute to this series; Geraldine Ludbrook for reading several drafts of the
book and for offering many useful suggestions. I would also like to thank
Professor Christopher Taylor, with whom I have been lucky to work in the
Faculty of Scienze della Formazione at the University of Trieste, for his keen
interest and his reading of a draft of the book. I would also like to thank Professor Renzo S. Crivelli of the Dipartimento di Letterature e Civiltà AngloGermaniche at the University of Trieste, for supporting me in this project.
Finally, I am deeply grateful to Dr Laura Pelaschiar for picking through the
book with a fine tooth comb and providing many useful and innovative additions and corrections to it.
Every effort has been made to trace the owners of copyright material used in
this book. We should be pleased to hear from any copyright holder whom we
have been unable to contact.
For didactic purposes, the texts used have been slightly modified with the
permission of the copyright holders.
English for Communication Science is intended for students of communication studies in Italian universities. Its point of departure is the belief that language is an integral part of how we live and what we do, of society. Language is not simply a vehicle for the social action we engage in, rather it is a
vital component of it and plays a fundamental role in giving it shape. This is
the essential statement of the sociolinguistic background which is the basis
for many of the approaches used in this book.
Through a series of readings, English for Communication Science attempts to
provide students with the opportunity to engage in a continuous reflection on
the nature of communication itself in various of its modern forms, from advertising to politics, from television to internet.
English for Communication Science was written within the broad parameters
of the European Language Framework which forms a second context for its
overall structure. Readers are assumed to have reached B1 level, but, with the
aid of the glossaries (and a good dictionary), students from lower levels
should also be able to tackle most of the material and can make use of the
Grammar Revision Appendix in order to refresh their knowledge of more basic language points.
English for Communication Science is loosely divided into 5 sections. The
first (Units 1-3) is arranged around the issues of language and literacy; the
second (Units 4-7) is concerned with exploring various media types (film,
TV, the telephone, internet); the third (Units 8 and 9) is devoted to journalism
and newspapers; the fourth section (Units 10-12) deals with the languages of
promotion, focussing especially on advertising and politics. These four core
sections are followed by a series of glossaries containing back-up material
designed to consolidate the students’ knowledge.
Each unit is structured around two reading texts of varying length and difficulty and drawn from several different genres–journalistic, academic, political, advertising, internet. The readings have been chosen for their relevance
to students of Communication Science. The activities built around them aim
to provide students with a considerable, but carefully selected, corpus of vocabulary, and with a working knowledge in English of some of the more important subjects they are addressing in the other courses on their syllabus
(and will eventually come to use in their working lives). Each unit includes
an English-Italian glossary dealing with the lexical items most likely to pre-
sent problems for Italian speakers, as well as language and cultural notes, exercises in vocabulary and word study, and special language notes, dealing
with topical issues with regard to language and which tie in with the overall
structure of the unit. There are also occasional translation sections, aimed at
revising important grammar points and at practising vocabulary.
Unit by unit, it is hoped that students will not only learn specific English language skills which are relevant to their overall formation in Communication
Science but that they will also develop their knowledge of the nature of the
English language itself, and acquire a basic linguistic and metalinguistic
The twelve core units are followed by a series of appendices. The first contains four short glossaries which consolidate and expand the vocabulary
which has been encountered throughout the course of the book. The second is
a list of the most common Irregular Verbs; the third is a carefully explained
list of the common prefixes and suffixes in English with examples of how
they are used. Appendix IV illustrates the workings of the English numbering
system while Appendix V provides a list of many of the so-called False
Friends, those words which cause much confusion. Unit VI offers students an
opportunity to revise some basic points of English grammar and to do some
exercises designed to reinforce what they have already learned at school. Unit
VII contains a list of useful websites where students can find out more information about the various issues raised in the reading texts, various on-line
resources for language learning and a selected booklist.
It is hoped that students will find English for Communication Science to be a
lively and accessible tool for learning language which is relevant to their
needs. It introduces many interesting topics about the nature of language and
communication and the hope is that students will feel encouraged and enabled to develop their interests in these subjects well beyond the limited
scope of this volume.
John McCourt
News is something new, something that people have not heard before and,
crucially, must be of interest to its audience. It is not simply the reporting of
important public events, but of what the public considers to be of interest.
Journalists create news stories and decide what is newsworthy but journalism
is never simply an objective or neutral reflection of the world. It helps shape
our opinions of things and is often shaped by the ideologies lying behind and
within those same events which it reports.
More newspapers are sold in Britain than in any other European country.
66% of the British public read one of the eleven daily newspapers that can be
divided into two chief categories: broadsheets, such as The Guardian and The
Daily Telegraph, and tabloids, such as The Daily Mail and The Sun. The tabloids are the biggest sellers by far. They are part of what is commonly known
as the popular press which is aimed at lower social groupings.
Among the features of tabloid papers are their lively layout, their use of big
headlines in bold, of colour, of large, dramatic pictures accompanying short
articles. They usually focus on human interest stories, on gossip, on sport and
often offer gimmicks and special offers such as games and free tickets.
Broadsheet newspapers are usually referred to as quality press. They aim at a
higher social grouping. They use colour very sparingly, their pages are usually densely packed with long news reports, their focus is often on political
issues and on international news. The broadsheet is usually serious and careful to be seen to present as full a picture as possible of the news in a series of
reports about recent occurrences judged to be “newsworthy” and of interest to
the paper’s readership. The tabloid does not worry about presenting (or seeming to present) the news in an objective way; rather it appeals directly to the
readers’ emotions and instincts.
For tabloids, emotion about an event takes precedence over the event itself.
For broadsheets, the event takes precedence over emotion. In this respect,
tabloids may be seen as displaying a preference for spoken melodrama (sensationalism and excessive emotion), whereas broadsheets are more rooted in
written epic (the narrative of events that are important to a nation).
Sometimes this leads tabloids to taking rather extreme positions which are
often criticised.
A study of two front pages can illustrate some of the differences between the
two types of newspaper. Newspaper front pages are vitally important. They
serve to attract readers, to reinforce the newspaper’s image and identity, to
reassure the regular reader who looks for familiar features.
Here is a list of some typical front page features:
Masthead - the newspaper’s name.
Slogan - e.g. The New York Times: “All the News that’s fit to Print”.
Puffs - colour bands which advertise important stories inside the paper or in a
Headlines - in BIG TYPE for the main news stories.
Sub-heads - in smaller typeface, sometimes italicised, explaining more about
the story.
Leading Story - the principal news story of the day.
By-line - journalist’s name and details.
Photographs - usually referring to the lead story. Accompanied by captions.
Additional Leading Stories - other important news stories.
Menu - the newspaper’s table of contents.
The following two front-page headlines, each printed on the same day during
the NATO war in Kosovo, exemplify the different approaches of the two
types of newspapers.
The Times (Broadsheet)
The Sun (Tabloid)
The first headline encapsulates a political issue in a neutral way pointing to
the fact that NATO is divided over whether or not to launch an air attack; the
second is an emotive comment, and exhortation to attack, to “clobber” (hit)
Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, and hence Serbia. As can be seen in
this example, tabloids make little distinction between news and comment
(views, remarks, observations, critical stances representing the ideas of the
writer or editor) whereas broadsheets keep the two more carefully separated.
The tabloid pages are considerably smaller than the broadsheets but tabloid
headlines, despite the smaller page, use larger fonts. They are usually very
short and direct, such as “ROUTED” (The Sun, April 3, 2003), “HELL ON
EARTH” (The Sun, March 31, 2003). They often read as a spontaneous
comment or reaction representing a moral or emotional stance and they often
appear to have more in common with spoken rather than formal written English. They make no secret of their desire to manipulate public opinion. An
example of this is to be seen in the headline written in The Sun of August 29,
1996 against Prince Charles on the day in which he and Princess Diana got
divorced: “Bye Bye Big Ears”. Such headlines are usually juxtaposed with a
large, dominant picture.
Broadsheet headlines have a smaller typeface and stretch right across the
front page. They tend to offer a summary of the story carried beneath. The
main image is not necessarily directly connected with the principal headline.
The longer headline allows for the use of a fully formed sentence often with
two clauses, as follows: “Saddam’s Palace destroyed by Cruise Missile as US
mounts new attack”. There is a tendency to elide the full range of participants
to a process. Often the function words such as definite articles, pronouns, and
auxiliary verbs are left out. With all these elements added in, this headline
would read: “Saddam’s Palace has been destroyed by a Cruise Missile as the
US mounts a new attack”.
newsworthy = degno d’essere riportato
to shape = modellare
feature = tratto, caratteristica
layout = layout, impaginazione
bold = grassetto
gimmick = trovata, espediente
sparingly = con parsimonia
densely-packed with = pieno di
to be rooted in = trarre origine da
masthead = testata
puff = soffietto
headline = titolo
sub-heads = sottotitoli
leading story = notizia principale
by-line = firma
caption = didascalia
stance = posizione
font = caratteri
typeface = caratteri
to elide = elidere, omettere
The press (par. 2) is a term used to refer to newspapers or journalists collectively. As a collective noun, it is used with a singular verb to refer to the
category, and with a plural verb to refer to the people or items forming the
category: The press has been very critical of the Prime-Minister’s actions;
The members of the press have decided to call a one-day strike.
Exercise 1
Tick the term or statement that is incorrect according to the text.
1. For news to be news it must be…
a. fresh
b. of international interest
c. of interest to the reader
2. Tabloid newspapers frequently…
a. are colourful
b. offer full international news analysis
c. present the news in a dramatic way
3. Broadsheet newspapers…
a. have a higher readership than tabloids
b. use more complicated headlines
c. often have a list of contents on the front page
4. In general, broadsheets…
a. seem to be less biased than tabloids
b. are never biased
c. have bigger pages than tabloids
5. In general, tabloids…
a. give more importance to an emotional response to an event than to the
event itself
b. don’t like Prince Charles
c. combine views with news in the reporting
Exercise 2
Reduce the article above to a list of key points in your own words in English.
News is information about recent events that is reported in newspapers or on
television or radio. It is an uncountable noun which is always followed by a
singular verb form: The news was very exciting last night. They announced
that the war in Iraq was over. Many compound nouns can be formed with the
word news.
Exercise 3
Fill each gap with one suitable word from the list below.
news flash
news agency
news conference
1. Our local sports club publishes a quarterly _________________ to keep
all its members up to date on what’s happening.
2. I will never forget the _____________ announcing the death of the President.
3. The Prime Minister will hold a ________________ at three o’clock this
afternoon to brief journalists about the problem.
4. I’m going down to the __________________ to buy the papers. I’ll be
back in ten minutes.
5. I sent in my article to the local paper but they didn’t find it interesting
enough to publish. They said it wasn’t _____________________.
6. I’m part of an internet _________________ that discusses literature. A lot
of the messages are a waste of time but you do get to read some really interesting ones.
7. I’d really love to be a ______________________ on television.
8. In my opinion, Reuters is the world’s most reliable __________________.
Exercise 4
1. Look at the two front pages printed here. What do they have in common?
In what ways are they different? How does the physical layout of the pages
effect they way in which readers approach the newspaper?
2. Label the two newspaper front pages printed in this unit with terms from
the article.
masthead slogan puffs headlines sub-heads leading story
by-line photographs additional leading stories menu
other features
Exercise 5
Decide if the following headlines, each from 4 April 2003, a moment in
which the Anglo-American attack on Baghdad was reaching a crucial phase,
are taken from broadsheet or tabloid newspapers.
Match one of the headlines with each of the opening paragraphs printed below
a. As US troops reach Baghdad, the world waits for Saddam to play his final,
despotic card.
b. CAMP SAYLIYAH, Qatar - US forces pushed to within 12 miles of
Baghdad, attacking the main airport and preparing for an assault on the
city, which last night was suddenly plunged mostly into darkness when the
power grid went out.
c. The battle for Baghdad appeared to be starting last night with an attack
under darkness on Saddam Hussein International airport, 25 km west of
the city.
d. SAS HUNT FIEND IN BADHDAD BLACKOUT by George PascoeWatson at US Central Command, Qatar. SAS troops were sent on seek and
destroy missions in Baghdad last night after the city was dramatically
plunged into darkness.
e. ALLIED special forces thrust deep into Baghdad early today as they went
for Saddam Hussein’s throat.
Seek and destroy
By George Pascoe-Watson at US Central Command, Qatar
SAS troops were sent on seek and destroy missions in Baghdad last night after the city was dramatically plunged into darkness. The crack British soldiers
were joined by American Delta Force and CIA teams as they tried to root out
Iraqi leaders and gather intelligence.
It was suspected that US chiefs shut down Baghdad’s electricity supplies by
unleashing a “blackout” bomb. These detonate silently above a city, spewing
out a web of carbon filament which short-circuits power lines. Baghdad’s
lights went off suddenly at 9pm local time as the under-siege Iraqi capital
suffered its first power cut of the war.
Special forces wearing night-vision goggles scurried into action to take advantage of pitch-black streets, alleys and buildings. They were ordered to establish the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants — and test
the strength of any enemy forces they encountered.
Coalition commanders told them to capture or kill any Special Republican
Guard units defending the city. A US source said: “We are going to have a
good look around under cover of darkness. If opportunities present themselves to take out the enemy we’ll take them.” Coalition chiefs particularly
want to discover if a leadership vacuum has developed in the capital. The
special forces included MI6 and CIA infiltration agents whose role is to feed
intelligence back to controllers.
A series of huge explosions shook southern Baghdad until just before the
blackout. After the power went off more heavy blasts rocked the city centre
and aircraft droned overhead. Between 4 am and 5 am local time at least 16
loud blasts reverberated round the centre of the capital. Several were thought
to be bombs hitting Saddam’s presidential palaces.
An Allied assault seized control of Saddam Hussein International Airport to
the west — and 60,000 US troops reached the outskirts of Baghdad after a
48-hour push through Republican Guard resistance.
Military commanders were known to have been planning to use a blackout
bomb in the assault on the city. But the Pentagon insisted US forces were not
behind the power cut. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General
Richard Myers, said: “Central Command has not targeted the power grid of
However, there were suspicions he could issue such a denial because the CIA
gave the go-ahead for the controversial bomb. Military commanders could
face international court action if use of the device is seen as an attack on a
civilian population. Such a bomb was used in the Kosovo conflict, triggering
a bid for legal action by Serb authorities. All general power is switched off
temporarily by blackout bombs. But hospitals have back-up systems for patients on life-support machines and babies in incubators.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last night declared Baghdad city
centre was “within sight” of Coalition troops. He said: “We are closer to the
centre of the Iraqi capital than many American commuters are from their
downtown offices. The regime is under increasing pressure.” Mr Rumsfeld
also insisted there was “not a chance” the US would agree to any deal that
would halt the war and let Saddam survive. Asked about efforts by some
countries, such as France and Russia, to put together such a deal, he replied:
“It doesn’t matter who proposes it, there’s not going to be one.” Mr Rumsfeld
warned that it was now too late for the Iraqi dictator to seek exile, saying: “If
you’re asking if we’re still encouraging him to leave, the answer is no.”
However he said there was still time for senior regime aides to save themselves by staging an uprising.
As the advance pressed on, a statement said to have been prepared by Saddam urged Iraqis to “fight them with your hands”. But again, it was delivered
on TV not by the tyrant, but by his Information Minister Mohammed Saeed
to hunt = cacciare
fiend = diavolo
to be plunged into darkness = far
piombare nell’oscurità
crack = eccellente, molto esperto
to root out = scovare
to gather = raccogliere
to unleash = sganciare
to spew out = scaturire
power cut = mancanza di elettricità
goggles = occhialini
to scurry = affrettarsi
pitch-black = nero pece
alley = vicolo
whereabouts = posizione
to take advantage of = approfittare
blast = esplosione
to feed intelligence = passare informazioni
to drone = ronzare
outskirts = periferia
power grid = rete elettrica
denial = smentita
the go-ahead = l’ok, approvazione,
to trigger = dare l’avvio, causare, scatenare
bid = tentativo
to switch off = spegnere
back-up system = sistema di supporto
deal = accordo
exile = esilio
uprising = rivolta
Blackout (par. 2) in English is used only to describe a lack of electricity. In
Italian it is used to indicate a more general lack of services, e.g. ‘blackout dei
giornali, dei treni’.
To issue (par. 8) means ‘to make a formal statement’ or ‘to publish a declaration’, in this case, a denial.
Exercise 6
The following summary of the text contains at least seven errors of content.
Find and correct them.
The article is written from a neutral point of view. American and British
forces worked together last week to try and find Saddam Hussein but their
efforts were frustrated by a blackout. Coalition forces encountered stiff opposition from local forces. Baghdad was heavily bombed just before the lights
went off. Saddam’s forces retained control of the airport. The power cut
caused huge problems in the hospitals because they did not have back-up systems. General Richard Myers, the US Defence secretary, thinks the Allied
troops will take Baghdad city soon. He also thinks there is a good chance the
US will make a deal to stop the war. Saddam Hussein read a statement on TV
calling on his people to continue to fight the Americans.
When journalists have to report on what is said by politicians or other people
in public positions they must use a variety of reporting verbs, such as the following:
accept, acknowledge, add, admit, advise, agree, announce, argue, comment,
complain, concede, conclude, declare, deny, explain, imply, insist, mention,
observe, point out, predict, promise, remark, reveal, say, warn
Exercise 7
Consult the section on reported speech in the appendix and write the following quotations taken from the article in reported speech. Use a different verb
from the above list for each one.
1. A US source said: “We are going to have a good look around under cover
of darkness. If opportunities present themselves to take out the enemy
we’ll take them.”
2. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, said:
“Central Command has not targeted the power grid of Baghdad.”
3. A military expert said: “The blackout bomb is like a cotton wool bomb.
You don’t hear much - there’s no explosion.”
4. He said: “We are closer to the centre of the Iraqi capital than many
American commuters are from their downtown offices. The regime is under increasing pressure.”
5. Mr Rumsfeld warned that it was now too late for the Iraqi dictator to seek
exile, saying: “If you’re asking if we’re still encouraging him to leave, the
answer is no.”
Exercise 8
1. Bias can often be created by the headline of a story because headlines,
with their large, bold fonts, are the must-read part of a newspaper. Which
of the five headlines quoted in Exercise 5 are biased and in what way?
2. Bias can be seen in the use of names and titles. Find some examples from
the Night Night Saddam article.
3. Bias can be caused by the choice of words (other than naming words) and
their connotation (see the language note on the next page for an explanation of this term). Find some examples from the same article.
4. Bias by selectivity. Biased can be created by allowing one side more space
to explain its position. Does this happen in this article?
5. Bias can also be seen in the visual images presented. Consider the following picture of the 2000 Democrat candidate for President, Al Gore.
Denotation is what a word means (if you look up in the dictionary). Connotation is the term we use to describe all the other possible meanings associated
with a word. The connotations of certain words will differ depending on the
contexts and cultures in which they are used and sometimes from generation
to generation, from individual to individual. Words can have positive or
negative connotations. Some have almost no connotations at all; these tend to
be grammatical words, highly specialised words belonging to a particular
field or genre, highly generalised words, e.g. car, building (while their hyponyms do carry strong connotations, e.g. Cadillac, castle).
PRAGMATICS is the study of meaning in particular situations, of what
people actually mean by what they say. If it is lashing rain outside and someone says “What a beautiful day”, chances are that they are being ironic and
not literal. Pragmatics is that branch of semantics which goes beyond the
connotative meaning of utterances and sentences to the meaning that lies behind them (which can vary depending on the speaker, the interpersonal situation and the context).
Decide if the following words have positive, negative or no connotations.
Do you think a mother tongue English speaker would attach the same connotations to these words as an Italian would?