Mardh (1980) presents a detailed study of the characteristic features of the headlines of varieties of English newspapers. Those linguistic features she identifies as typical of headlines in English newspapers include: omission of articles; omission of verbs and auxiliaries (for example, the verb "to be" ). Others include nominalizations, frequent use of complex noun phrases in subject position, adverbial headlines, with the omission of both verb and subject. She also identifis the widespread use of puns, word play and alliteration as some of the linguistic features of the headlines
Based on New York Times, Van Dijk (1988) obesrves that the journalistic process begins with headline and works through lead to the body of the story. From 400 headlines in the Dutch press, he discovered that the authorities occupied the frst position the headlines with active verbs, whereas, the Tamil were mentioned in passive verbs..
Kniffka (1980) argues that headline structures are regular across languages. He uses German and American English news text to exemplify his claim. He finds their leads asn the headlines to be structurally identical. Because of the consistency in the regualrity of the structure, he posited that there is indeed a shared convetional grammar of headlines in the newspapers of all languages.
Mouillaud and Tetu, (as cited in Develotte & Rechniewski 2000), identifies some typical features of headlines across all languages. They include: supression of temporal marker; use of present tense, suppression of declarative verbs, replacement of verbs by nominalisations and non usage of quotation marks as well as personal pronouns.
Scollon (2000), studies three editions of a newspapers both in its English and Chinese editions. He finds the Chinese edition uses the headlines to establish the setting but does not give fuller information about the content of the news story, whereas, the english edition puts the main point of the news story in the headlines.
According to Sullet-Nylander (2000), the macrosyntactic configuration of a headline can be shown in four dufferent phrasal constructions. These he refers to as: unmarked, parataxis, noun phrase+prepositional and single non-verbal phrase. Fro his comparism of headlines with similar utterances such as captions and book titles, he argues that complete sentence is more characteristic in newspaper headlines. Based on his findings, and taking into consideration the communicative function of headlines, he concludes that linguistic and literary characteristic are the two main features of newspaper headlines in any language.
Headline is the eye of Yoruba newspapers because it transfers information and represents the style and sometimes the attitude of the newspapers. Yoruba newspaper is not just an anthology of news stories rather a structured whole designed to help reader make choices as to which news item to ignore, to sample , to skim or to read thoroughly. This places a heavy responsibility on the writer or the text producer who must ensure that the reader is tempted through the headlines to read on and have the pleasure of exploring the story further. Because there are other media such as radio, television and books who equally scramble for reader/audience attention, getting to the point quickly is very important to Yoruba newspapers; therefore Yoruba newspapers persuade the prospective reader quickly by presenting the crux of
the news stories in as brief and orderly a way as possible through the headlines. The most prominent feature of Yoruba newspaper is the headlines. They express the most important information of the text. They define the situation and subsequently, programme the reader with a preferred reading and interpretation plan. In most of the Yoruba newspapers, the headlines are not written by the reporter who has produced the article; the editor does the casting and might on a few occasions ask the reporter to suggest a headline for his report. Unlike headlines in English newspapers which could sometimes be difficult to understand without the accompanying articles, most of Yoruba newspaper headlines are informative, unambiguous in that without reading the accompanying story or article, reader could correctly guess what the content would be. The following headlines are good examples.
A quick look across the above headlines makes it clear that one important function of
headline is to give a clear overview on the news a newspaper contains. Besides, the
above examples are constructed with everyday’s language that is easily understood
because not a single word prolongs the reading nor calls special attention to itself. Even
in rendering cancer, the newspaper uses a familiar term (Aààrùn jẹjẹrẹ) that connotes
the destructive tendency of the ailment.
Yoruba newspaper headlines, like the articles which follow them, have special linguistic characteristics. A previous work on newspapers headlines has raised a question of if we could find similar features in the newspapers of varying cultures and languages, however because comparative studies have not been done on headlines from a wide range of countries and cultures, conclusions have not been drawn. Meanwhile, Bell (1991) maintains that headline structures appear to be very regular across languages but his study was on only German and America English texts.
From these studies, we are able to identify recurring linguistic characteristics of headlines in our corpus. It must be stated clearly however, that our aim is not to compare headliness if Yorùbá newspapers and English, but to provide an exhaustive account of characteristics of headlines in Yoruba newspapers and specifically identify (1) Literary characteristics and (2) linguistic characteristics peculiar to Yoruba newspapers headlines.
Through the study of headlines of Yoruba newspapers we identify two literary characteristics, these are: headlines derived from cultural knowledge and headlines derived from perspectives.
(a) Headlines derived from cultural knowledge. (bring in halliday's view about socio-historical background and backgrounding)
Many of the headlines we examined are particularly rich source of information about some Yoruba socio-political cultural references. This happens because some acronyms are self explanatory requiring no definition before the reader understands what they signify. When such titles or acronyms are used in the headlines, the reader instantly recognises the allusions as well as the cultural references that significantly help him to understand the content of the reports or articles. Let’s consider the following examples:
In the above headlines, the newspapers rely on a stock of cultural knowledge that is assumed to be widespread in the society. The use of PDP (for a political party known as people’s Democratic Party), NEPA (for National Electric Power Authority), NTA (for National Television Authority) and FUMAN (for Fuji Musician Association of Nigeria) help the newspapers to situate the readers within a national general framework since they must assume that acronyms used have same meaning with those they are familiar with due to their regular usage. Beisides, because of limited space and need to be conscise and precise Yorùbá newpapers resort to the use of shortening such as acronyms, abbreviations and clipping as exemplified above. The writer uses such acronyms because of the over-familiarity to which they are prone in everyday communication. Their perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic. Such habituation explains the principles by which newspaper writers use acronymns and readers find no diffculty in understading them simply because the such acronymns have been automatized, that is, integrated into day to day conversation in the Yoruba society.
Some headlines are references to specific cultural items such as title of well known books, lyrics of pouplar songs. For example a regular entertainment column in Alalaye newspaper has the headline ‘Irinkerindo Mobi omo Alatika’(the expedition of Mobi, Alatika’s son). This headline is phrased after a popular Yoruba novel, Irinkerindo Ninu Igbo Elegbeje written by late D.O Fagunwa. The content of the column shows the struggles, travails and sex escapade of a young lady called Mobi. Though, the book ‘Irinkerindo’ is not about sex escapde, yet it is about travails, struggle and eventual triumph of an individual. The newspaper manipulated a part of the book’s title to get attention from readers who are awed by the oratory capability of D.O Fagunwa in all his popular five books. Next is an example of a headline that makes specific reference to lyric from a popular Yoruba film (Ayé) by late Hubbert Ogunde:
The headline is used for an article that does an appraisal of the modern Yoruba music whose lyrics, according to the writer, leave much to be desired. The article compares the contemporary Yoruba musicians to the older generation and concludes that because of lewd content of most the modern Yoruba music the older albums are ‘sweeter’, richer in content and quality, classical and evergreen.
The recognition of these titles and various others relies on general socio-cultural knowledge shared between the newspapers and readers. Apart from their arousal effect, such headlines wet the reading appetite of the reader and make him to salivate for the rest of the story hoping to enjoy elegance of language as used by the authors whose works are referenced in the headlines. Sometimes these cultural references involve some sort of reworking of the original title or lyrics. Gallinson (1995) argues that such reworkings of cultural and linguistic forms constitute a ‘conspiratorial wink’ in the direction of the reader. They help to create and maintain a sense of shared community and collective identity. Using specific Yoruba cultural knowledge in the headlines is a stylistic strategy mobilised by Yoruba newspapers to aid understanding so that their papers would acquire salience in the act of drawing attention to themselves.
(b) Headlines derived from perspective
Perspective here refers to the role played by headlines in orienting the reader’s interpretation of subsequent facts contained in the reports, news and columns of the Yoruba newspapers. Abastado (1980:149) argues that headlines encapsulate not only the content but the orientation, the perspective that the readers should bring to their understanding of the story, news item or article. Such headlines are deliberately used to push readers into taking sides or agreeing on some issues which could be local, national or international. The choice of such headlines are not merely conceptual or coincidence but intentional. For example:
From the above, the newspapers are emphatic and want the readers to agree and take necessary steps to appeal to ensure peace reigns in the country as in the first example by shunning any religious intolerance. In the second example, the newspaper seeks the reader’s cooperation in appealing to young girls who wear provocative and indecent dresses that make them vulnerable to rape and other sexual attacks.
Headlines derived from perspective give a Yoruba newspaper opportunity to make its stand known and stamp its individuality on certain issues. The effect of such is a continued sustenance of readership who shares the newspaper’s view. It also helps the reader to build confidence in the newspaper and count on it that it will always speak up on issues that border people’s minds. Besides, headlines derived from perspective are used to draw the casual reader to conclude the importance of a particular issue which has been given prominence in this way.
Linguistic characteristics of headlines in Yorùbá newspapers
Headlines reach a considerably wider audience because even those who do not buy the newspapers will glance at the headlines displayed on fliers and held by vendors. The impact of Yoruba newspapers headlines on the readers is likely to be stronger because of certain linguistic features contrived which make them memorable and effective. The impact is achieved through the use of some linguistic features discussed below.
Tenses in headlines of Yorùbá newspapers.
The use of the present tense in headlines is one of the defining characteristics of the register of newpaper headlines (Fowler ,1991;Halliday, 1985). In the headlines of Yoruba newspapers, the present tense is used conventionally to refer either to events which occurred in the past, or to present events. It can also express future and past events. In this sense, the present tense is a temporal. Although future reference of the present tense is usually complemented with an adverbial of time (the futurity thus being expressed lexically), this need not always be so, with the future reference being clear from the context. The historic present describes the past as it is happening now :it conveys something of the dramatic immediacy of an eye-witness account (Quirk et al.1985:181). Although the stereotypical description of past events by means of the present tense is usual in the headlines, it also frequently occurs in narration – especially in the entertainment columns of the Yoruba newspapers. The historical present is used as a stylistic means – as McCarthy and Carter (1994:94) note, it operates ''as one of Labov's 'internal evaluation' devices, heightening the drama of events and focusing on particularly significant points in the story''.
Yoruba newspapers have a distinctive headline grammar which uses telegraphic subject-verb complement sentences as abstracts of the story. These sentences can be obtained by following the standard language rule of subject-verb-object as in the following example:
In all of the above examples, the tense used is in simple present form, giving the headlines elements of freshness and currency though the reports had taken place.
Though the Yoruba newspapers sometimes follow the SVO pattern of English, however, unlike English newspapers where present tense is used in their headlines to give what Dare (1997:15) refers to as timeliness and timelessness, the Yoruba newspapers show a greater range of tenses. Morphologically, Yoruba has neither past not future form of verb yet the newspapers creatively construct headlines in both past and present future tenses. When cast in past tense, the past tense marker ti (had) is used. Quirk, et al.(1985:183) state that past tense is used when the event must have taken place in the past, with a gap between its completion and the present moment. Accordingly, thing of the past is commonly written in the past tense in headlines of Yoruba newspaper. When past tense is used in the headlines it is to signal that the newspaper has just learned of a newsworthy event that occurred secretly, as in:
In the above example the emphasis is on the second ‘ti’. The use of the past tense marker indicates that the event (moving the wife) had already taken place.
We observed however that the Yoruba newspaper contrive the past tense marker (ti) sometimes differently and creatively to show timelessness and continuity. For example;
Thoug the past tense marker (ti) is used, yet the action in the above headline had not taken place but ongoing. The element contrived to achieve this currency is ‘fee’. The newspaper used ‘fee’ to generate continuity in the headline because the effect of love money on Nigeria has been an ongoing issue as a result of corruption and get-rich-quick attitude of most Nigerians which have not abated.
Sometimes, the past tense marker ‘ti’ is used in headlines to show events or action that could had taken place but did not happen as in this example:
In this instance the past tense marker is used to show incomplete action.
Quirk et al(1985:213) state the future is marked by means of constructions which are used for expressing future time, i.e. by means of modal auxiliaries (shall/will +infinitive),or by semi auxiliaries ( be going to + infinitive) forms. These forms show future plans and future expectations. Yoruba newspapers cast futuristic headlines when reporting definite events that will take place later. In such headlines, auxiliary verbs are used. These could either be ‘yóò’ (will; shall) or ‘fẹ́’ (wants to). The two auxiliary verbs are used with some degree of certainty. While ‘yóò’ is definite, ‘fẹ́’ implies possibility. For example:
The two examples above have elements of certainty because the events have been scheduled. The newspapers cast such headlines to stamp their authority and convince the readers that they are privy to the events. However we would notice that the future marker’yoo’ is used in the third example of a football match whose result cannot be pre-determined. We would have expected the variant of ‘yoo’, that is, ‘fee’ (want to) but ‘yoo’ is used to show two possibilities: (1) because Eyimba football club had won the title twice previously, so the club is certain to repeat the feat. (2) because of the club’s rigorous practice and readiness of the players and the coach, they will win the title again. Same explanation holds for the next example:
When used, futuristic are to make the readers trust the newspapers’ sources of information.
Though futuristic, the following headlines however are somehow different.
While each of these examples contains a semi-auxiliary verb (a kind of future tense marker) ‘fe’, they are not definite but speculative. The Yoruba newspaper cast such headlines to reduce the damaging effect such headlines could have on their papers in case the events do not take place or the intention is cancelled. This method is used to play safe especially when the reports were scooped from third party or grape vine.
Omission of words and phrases
Yorùbá newspaper writers use the headlines to inform and arouse interest. Doing this successfuly require some artistic manipulation of words and creative use of language to craft compact and conscice headlines. The method mobilised for achieving this is by employing a linguistic strategy which involves omission of vital elements in the headlines. These elements include conjuctions, phrases and sometimes clauses. This strategy is not restricted to the headline, it manifests in the body of the news and reports. A prominent element frequently omitted in the headlines is the conjuction àti (and). In standard language or ordinary discourse, conjuctions are used (in conformity with the norms) to join two or more items. But in the headlines of Yorùbá newspapers àti and its variants (òun, pẹ̀lú) are deliberately omitted. When ocassionaly used, they are in elliptical forms with comma signifying their presence. We can illustrate with these examples:
In each of the above examples, the cor-ordinating comjuction àti is omitted. In example (i), (ii), (ii) and (iv), the subject consists of two items each which in standard language or orinary discourse, would have been joined toghether by àti .The subject in example 6 consists of three items. While the first (,) is justified the second is not and would require the cordinating conjuction. If the rules of standard languages were followed in the above headlines, we would have these:
We would observe that the revised versions of the headlines comform with the rules of Yorùba standard language whereas in the original ones, àti has yielded place to comma. The omission of àti, a vital syntactic element, enables the newspaper to achieve brevity, compactness and tone of informality. This strategy makes the headlines cispy and orally lighter
Relative clause is one important syntactic element that enusures sentences conform with standard language. Omission of relative clause renders a sentence ungrammatical in ordinary discourse. However, this element is mostly omitted in the headlines of Yorùbá newspapers for some communicative effects. For example:
again, we observed that comma, is contrived to take the place of relative clause in each of the above headlines. In standard language, the relative clause 'tí í ṣe' or 'tó jẹ' meaning (who is) is manadatory because the would render the headlines ungrammatical. However theory of foregrounding allows such a deviation in literary language and it is effectively utilized in the headlines of Yorùbá newspapers for compactness, economy of efforts and space.s
It appears there is no vital elemet that the Yoruba newspaper headlines could not omit in order to cast cripsy and compact headlines. Other frequently omitted syntactic elements in the headlines of Yorùbá newspapers inlude prepositions and phrases as exemplified in the following:
Save me! All of Toibu, my husband's wives, become insane, am no longer interested.
The above example is interesting because two syntactic elements were omitted. We observed that the first comma takes the place of a relative clause 'tí í ṣe' or 'tó jẹ', while the second comma takes the place of 'nítorí náà' (therefore). The headline could be recast and still remains catchy, cripsy and even save more space and efforts ssuch as this:
Ẹ gbà mí!
Gbogbo ìyàwó tí ọkọ mi bá fẹ́ ló ń ya wèrè,
n ò ṣe mọ́ o - Bọla
The revised headline reduces the omitted elemnts to one and makes it more compact but the writer choses the original version to make the headline dramatic, explicit and unambiguous to serve one of the fuctions of headline which is clarity.