Posted by: arianeleigh | September 30, 2012

Do We Speak Language Or Does Language Speak Us

While studying abroad in Ghana, I discovered a rather bold, sensationalized trend. Headlines in newspapers were loud, large, bright and often a flamboyant version of the truth. This normality made me question how words, when accompanied by color and size, can set a tone and various understandings. In addition to text and language, O’Shaughnessy and Stadler analyze the use of camera movement, music and editing as effecting our interpretation and understanding of media. I believe the headlines and photos that we see as an audience are merely “representations” of factual events.

The meaning of representation according to O’Shaughnessy and Stadler is “to look like or resemble, to stand in for something or someone, or to present for a second time (re-present).” I view the media as a filter. The world and reality goes through a media filter before reaching an audience. Language is an element of this filter and is used to construct reality, emotion and opinion.

The use of language tactics in Ghana targets audience’s emotions and ride on the “shock factor.” One question that arose in Media and Society is, “do producers consciously intend to create the meanings we see in texts?” I believe that in Ghana, producers do intentionally construct the meanings we see. At the same time however, I believe that individual interpretations also play a huge role in the way meanings are viewed within media. How do we as an audience separate the producer’s intended meaning, from the factual meaning of the story, from our own personal filters and interpretations?

Example of the headlines on the front page of a popular paper in Accra, Ghana


  1. I agree about the media filter and constructed meanings. Although, I think perhaps we may not shock people enough with reality of world events. When I was stationed in Kuwait I often saw the local newspapers, but could not read them due to the language barrier. At the time there was political dissent in China and the death toll was rising. On the front page of one of the Arabic langauage newspapers was the intensely graphic photo of a dead man who was face down with his blood splattered on the street, similiar to the effect of what a watermelon would look like if it were dropped. In the U.S. headlines people saw photos of people crying. The effect of the dead man’s photo made me realize that it wasn’t simply Chinese protestors and police clashing, people were losing their lives for their cause. I have never seen anything like that photo and was so shocked by it I brought it home after my tour of duty.

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