Focus on Structural and Lexical Ambiguity in English Newspaper Headlines Written by Native and Non-Native Journalists: A Contrastive Study

G. Khamahani, Ilham M. Tahirov


Although ambiguity in languages is often considered as a problem, it provides value. Ambiguity is found in every aspect of language, but newspaper headlines are outstanding as the most important source of examples of ambiguity. One of the most important reasons that newspaper readers cannot be successful readers while glancing at newspaper headlines is that they are not aware of different types of ambiguities created by special characteristics which are typical of newspaper language. Ambiguity is not only typical of headlines, but in this research I deal with structural (noun-verb) and lexical (polyseme) ambiguity in English headlines written by native and non-native journalists. The hypothesis is that the texts, in the case of this study, the headlines written by native and non-native journalists contain different amounts of structural (noun/verb) and lexical (polyseme) ambiguity. In order to arrive at the exact amounts of the two above mentioned ambiguities, we made fifty tests of ''Noun or Verb?'' tests and fifty tests of ''what does it mean?'' tests based on the headlines in the two English newspapers written by non-native and foreign journalists. The participants were selected from the university undergraduate English students and described and compared the two sets of data in terms of structural and lexical ambiguities to find out which set of English newspaper headlines (written by native or non- native journalists) are more ambiguous. Finally we found out that headlines written by native journalists are more ambiguous both structurally and lexically. The outcomes of the study could be useful for all EFL learners and trainers. Furthermore EFL trainers can employ these findings when teaching Press Courses.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2013.v4n6p379

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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