Contextual frames and their argumentative implications: A case study in media argumentation

Discourse Studies 14 (2):197-216 (2012)
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Abstract

By presenting a case study based on the argumentative analysis of news in the press, this article introduces and discusses strategic manoeuvring with contextual frames. Drawing on the linguistic notion of frame, I introduce the concept of contextual frame to refer to the news context, that is, the background against which a certain event is presented as a piece of news. I argue that newspapers and journalists make use of contextual frames in the apparently neutral genre of news reporting to propose specific interpretations of the facts at issue, which become the basis for explicit comments and editorials. To show how this works, I investigate in detail a case of newspaper coverage of a complex episode using the pragma-dialectical notion of strategic manoeuvring and the Argumentum Model of Topics to analyse argument schemes. I show that, in the use of contextual frames, there is a prominent relation between presentational devices and topical potential; contextual frames provide the implicit material premises which are at the basis of argumentations through which newspapers interpret and comment on the news.

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