Language and health: an appraisal of newspaper reporting on obsteric fistula among Ugandan mothers
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The current study makes an appraisal-based discourse analysis of newspaper stories on obstetric fistula, using the Appraisal Theory (Martin & White, 2005), which offers a detailed account of different types of attitude and linguistic strategies for realizing objectivity and subjectivity in journalistic discourse and to explore how the different voices of journalistic discourse can be seen to vary according to their different use of Appraisal values. Although all the three domains of the Appraisal Theory are relevant resources in the analysis of written discourse, for purposes of this study, I particularly invoked the domain of Attitude, with its three sub-systems of affect, judgement and appreciation. The corpus on which this study is based is obtained from three Ugandan Dailies: The Daily Monitor, The New Vision, and Bukedde, all published between 2013 and 2017. A total of nine (09) news stories written on the theme of obstetric fistula are mapped and analysed using appraisal resources, then the news stories are subjected to three levels of analysis: (i) Examining the appraisal resources evident in obstetric fistula news stories/recounts in Uganda’s newspapers (ii) How obstetric fistula news stories/recounts in Uganda’s newspapers show the ideological positions of the author(s)/authorial voice. (iii) The linguistic features used in obstetric fistula news stories/recounts in Uganda’s newspapers. The study establishes that news reports in the three Ugandan newspapers i.e. The New Vision, The Daily monitor and Bukedde principally invoke similar evaluative attitudinal terms revealed by a lot of explicit negative inscriptions of affect in terms of emotional response. This is due to the fact that, regardless of how women develop fistulas, the misfortunes of obstetric fistula victims are unvaryingly the same across which clearly point out common portrayals of fistula-related stigma. However, there are a few cases of inscribed positive appreciation and judgement in terms of positive emotional response within these newspapers that display hope and compassion to women with obstetric fistula. On the issue of determining the authorial voice, most information in the texts is either attributed to various external voices, directly quoted from external sources or employed pronouns which were obvious instances of outward authorial endorsements while distancing the writers from the stories. Finally, the study shows the practical usage of linguistic features, especially figures of speech in newspapers, characterized by both negative and positive attitudinal key words. Most remarkably, are nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, noun phrases, verb phrases, adverbs and adverbial phrases, pronouns as well as metaphors as seen in all the nine texts analysed in this study.