ARTS1090: Who spilt the milk? (Semiotics and Meaning) May 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 1:34 pm

Lukin, Annabelle. “Reporting War: Grammar as Covert Operation” Dissent, 2003, 14-20.


Now I can finally explain myself of tending to choose the shorter readings for blog postings rather than the long ones. Not because I’m lazy (even if so that is very, very minimal… shh), but I find it much harder to analyse on long chapters with a limited number of words. I never seem to convey the meaning of the readings completely. Ah, meaning. I think I should first confess that I am quite obsessed about language and linguistics, so that everything I write after this seems to make more sense.  As a Media in Communications and Journalism student, this reading provides quite a bit of dilemma for me. Annabelle Lukin tells me that, or rather ‘criticises’ that, journalism pretends to be “simple reporting of the ‘facts’, without opinion or analysis”, yet the makeup of language that is used to present the journalistic items is subjective.  


With the straightfoward example of ‘The milk split’ (middle voice) / “I split the milk” (active voice) / “The milk was split by me” (passive voice with external agent) / “The milk was split” (passive voice with no external agent), Lukin goes further on in explaining how the construction of words can change the nature of a country’s role in a war. She mainly focused on the wordings of the Australian media, the US press, and the official government wordings that seem to downplay the active role of of the US’s engagement in the war of Iraq. Again, remembering what was mentioned in the passage, I reinforce the point that my choice of words here are subjective because I have a prefound opinion on the issue of war, and probably that of the US government as well.


In trying to relate this passage more to an event that is much socially close to me, I will refer to the much stirred-up controvesy over the past decade in the wordings of some Japanese history textbooks (that were approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education) which attempt to ‘whiten’ Japanese war crimes in Asia during World War II. Not only that the relations between Japan and the countries involved (such as China) are tensioned, it proves that the clearly biased choice of words can be offensive and insulting to certain parties. However, in public relations, PR practioners are expected to use language in favour of the institution or organisation. So, it does seem difficult to know whether to use a more active, passive or middle voice. Lukin reminded us that ‘any report of any event is selective, simply because of the nature of language’, so we should try to understand the implications of different language styles in order to make CAREFUL use of the umlimited potential in language.


Winnie Ho (z3292568)



P.S. I don’t know how many of you might be interested to read a bit more information on Japanese history textbook controversies, but I’ll still give you the Wikipedia link to it: CLICK HERE


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