Grammatical Alignment of Cameroon Newspaper Headlines: the Case of Eden, Cameroon Tribune and The Post Newspapers
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The paper analyses some forms of grammatical features of newspaper headlines in Cameroon with specific to Eden, Cameroon Tribune and The Post Newspapers. The research was set to establish the most frequently used grammatical features and structures that occur in headlines which were analysed with particular focus on tenses, punctuation, the use of regular and irregular sentences, etc, and the implication on understanding the headlines (ambiguity).
The study is predicted under the theoretical assumption that newspaper headlines are abbreviated sentences (incomplete sentences) which make them difficult to be understood. In all, 60 randomly selected samples of headlines from the three different Cameroon newspapers were analysed.
The main results of the findings of this study where that, firstly, most of the headlines were found to be abbreviated. The headlines were found to make use of a kind of language which is not regular. Articles were omitted and the word ’and’ was replaced with a comma to make them shorter than a regular sentence.
Secondly, periods were totally omitted in headlines except in the case of abbreviations and the present and present simple tenses were more frequently used. As a matter of fact, journalists have adopted their own style to meet up with the challenges of time and space.
Background to the study
The headline is that portion of news, that is on the radio, television or multiplicity of newspaper houses as well as the communication channels like the radio and television, and presently online news publications on websites, casters of newspaper headline try as much as possible to be the people to tell most of the societal needs to the majority of the audience all the In the process of casting headlines, the headline casters apply several captivating techniques in the headlines to capture the attention of readers.
They make use of colours, large fonts and powerful words to create captivating headlines to attract these readers. According to Ferguson (1958), the newspaper headline is usually the first thing that the reader notices.
In the same vein, Eva Praskovas (2009) holds that newspaper headlines are often the only thing that readers read in a newspaper, or at least the first thing that everyone notices in a newspaper. lie also adds that newspaper headlines serve as a guide for the reader that helps decide whether to continue reading the whole report or to skip onto another one.
Generally, headlines are expected to be a sentence with a regular sentence structure containing a subject, a verb and an object. However, Eva Praskovas (20091 maintains that this is not the case with newspaper headlines. According to him, British newspaper headlines normally do not contain auxiliaries, pronouns, articles, or conjunctions. It, therefore, means that only lexical, not grammatical words are used. He goes further to explain that the major reason for this is space. As a result, the rule of a sentence is broken because there is only limited space provided for each headline and the problem of fitting the best words may occur.
Moreover, from most of the literature reviewed for this study 1 observed that sentences about the same event written in different newspapers are always syntactically and semantically different, in other words, people who read different newspapers about the same event may get different perceptions about the event, based on the journalists’ use of linguistic choices and linguistic structures.
Statement of the Problem
Most often, newspaper headlines arc rather difficult to understand because they make readers puzzled and confused due to the way they are structured. The grammar used in newspaper headlines breaks the basic grammatical rules of constructing a sentence in English. Also, professionally speaking, newspaper headlines are supposed to be written in the active voice, but it may not be the case.
This researcher will therefore apply grammatical rules which include a range of linguistic features to a collection of newspaper headlines in order to find out in what details do the grammar in headline sentences differs from common linguistic features and if the sentences are in the active form.
Objectives of the study
Considering the role newspaper headlines play in selling newspapers and the potential power of newspapers like other mass communication medium in shaping and influencing people’s thinking, this study seeks to take a review oi the headlines from a linguistic point of view. Thus, the four main objectives of this study are;
- To examine selected headlines from Cameroon newspapers and
analyse them into two major groups according to their structure- sentential (those with regular sentences structure- major sentences) and non-sentential headlines (the headlines with an irregular sentence structure- minor sentences). The first group includes all headlines that contain a subject and a predicate. The second one consists of headlines without a predicate, often just with a non-finite verb phrase or in the form of a phrase.
- To reveal if Cameroon newspaper headlines are written mostly in the
active or passive form.
- To identify how often ellipsis is used in Cameroon newspaper headlines and,
- To look at the possibility of the headlines being misunderstood (being ambiguous) due to irregularity in their structure.