The Use of the Passive in the British Daily Press: A Sociolinguistic Approach
Keywords:the passive, frequency, socio-economic status, newspapers, language variation, readership
This paper is inspired by the theory of “audience design” (Bell 1977) according to which language variation is not based on the socio-economic status of language users, but on the socio-economic status of those at whom language is directed, i.e. receivers, or intended audience. In this regard, the author of this article assumes that language use, or more to the point, the use of certain syntactic structures such as the passive, will differ in newspapers whose readers belong to different socio-economic classes. Since the passive is usually seen as being “more frequent in formal than in informal styles” (Trudgill 2002: 162), it is presumed that it will be used more frequently in those newspapers whose readers belong to higher socio-economic classes. The analysed articles are therefore taken from a representative cross section of newspapers, divided on the basis of the socio-economic status of their readers into upmarket (The Guardian), midmarket (the Daily Mail), and downmarket newspapers (The Sun). The method used is quantitative-qualitative.
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