Diachronic changes in subjectivity and stance: A corpus linguistic study of Dutch news texts

K. Vis, J.M. Sanders, W.P.M.S. Spooren

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In several studies of English data, researchers have observed a trend of 'informalization': a shift of stylistic preferences in public written discourse, such as journalistic texts, towards a more conversational, or oral, style. In this paper, we aim to contribute to this issue by empirically testing this informalization thesis for Dutch. For this purpose we operationalize informalization in terms of linguistic expressions of subjectivity. Subjectivity is considered here as the expression of speakers of themselves and their own 'private states', such as attitudes, beliefs, opinions, emotions and evaluations. Our model of subjectivity includes elements such as personal pronouns (first and second person), modal verbs and modal adverbials.Comparing newspapers from 1950/1 and 2002, we are able to show that, based on those parameters, subjectivity in Dutch newspapers has increased. However, it is not primarily journalists who express themselves and their private states more: rather, the increasing subjectivity lies in the citations of words of other speakers embedded in the newspaper articles. The use of direct quotations has almost doubled, and the subjectivity expressed in the quotations has increased dramatically as well.It seems, then, that in this case the subjectivity assumed in the informalization thesis lies primarily in the proportion of quoted speech of characters in the news texts and in the subjective content of that speech. Informalization does not occur primarily through a more oral style in the journalist's text, but through literal citations of conversations of other speakers. © 2012.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-102
Number of pages8
JournalDiscourse, Context & Media
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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