Why Is the Lead Sentence Repeated ?

Exploring the Discourse Structure of Broadcast News by “Repetition”

Published: January 2019

Broadcast news reports have long been familiar to radio listeners and TV viewers, and today they are also read on the internet, but few linguistic studies on the discourse structure of news reports have been conducted. This paper examines how the lead sentence is repeated in the body of the news to study the lead-body relations and the linkage of the sentences. The author extracted 125 news scripts aired on NHK in 2012, from which the rhemes of the lead sentences and their repetitions in the bodies were gleaned.

The repetitions include not only exact copies but also synonymous expressions, which were selected by focusing on reality, and the distributions (location and order) and the types of expressions were investigated and analyzed. Consequently, the following aspects were highlighted.

  • Out of 125 news reports, 110 (88%) had 285 repetitions in total.
  • Regarding the location, repetitions appeared in the second sentence of the body most frequently, followed by the first and the third.
  • Typical news storytelling orders in the lead sentence and the body was “analogous” : the rheme of the lead sentence and the body use the same orders.
  • The orders were changed when (1) the story is repeated in the main subject part in the first sentence of the body to create the flow—“repeating in the beginning of the body” type represented by “arrest report” and (2) the story is repeated in the end of the body to sum up the report—“repeating in the end of the body” type. Both styles were not typical.
  • Repetitions were in concert with the videos used in news and assumingly are deeply related to the structures of news, which would start with news anchor’s commentary in the studio, followed by a video.
  • Typical news as discourse tells a story in multiple parts: “lead sentence at the beginning”, “captions for the lead sentence”, “repetition of the lead sentence in the body”, and “video image responding to the repetition”. The process of understanding such news is: (1) viewers understand the main message in the lead sentence, (2) the first sentence of the body provides something different from the lead sentence, but (3) the main message appears in the second sentence of the body as a repetition, which enables viewers reinforce their understanding, and (4) video image responding to the message are shown, which makes viewers deepen their confidence that the message they received is reflecting what actually happened.

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research

Hiroyuki INOUE

The Annual Bulletin

in Japanese