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Personalisation and impersonalisation

Table 2.8 shows that the Chinese actors are the only participants that are personalised (10%), as the non-Chinese actors are personalised at a frequency of 0%. The personalisation of the Chinese actors is realised through the nouns ‘workers’ (A8C) and ‘people’ (A14C), whose semantic meanings include features that are ‘human’:

  • 1. As China’s economy grows, so does labor unrest A8C
  • 2. The real challenge from China: its people, not its currency A14C

The use of conjunctions ‘as’ and ‘so’ in A8C, for instance, reflects a causal relationship between the situation facing the workers (the personalised element of the Chinese actors) and the expanding Chinese economy (the impersonalised element of the Chinese actors). This personalisation/impersonalisation strategy puts the emphasis on the Chinese workers’ dissatisfaction and struggle, which are depicted to be the effects of China’s growing economy. This has the effect of eliciting empathy from the readers for the workers’

Representational categories: personalisation vs impersonalisation

Social actors

Chinese

Non-Chinese

China

US

UK

India

West

Africa

S. Korea

N. Korea

Asia

1 Personalisation

No.

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

10

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2 Impersonalisation

Abstraction

No.

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

15

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Objectivation

No.

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

%

15

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

plight and in turn dissociate themselves from the impersonalised reference to China’s economy. As Van Dijk (1995, p. 154) states, eliciting compassion is a discursive strategy that can be employed to enhance the brutality of the Other by showing empathy or sympathy for the victims of the Other’s actions. The Chinese social actors can also be impersonalised through abstraction, which transpires when a quality is assigned to the social actors, which is depicted at a frequency of 15% according to Table 2.8. For instance:

  • 1. Economy and policy: Will China’s economy collapse? A2C
  • 2. Economy and policy: Pressing China on the yuan won’t work A6C

The analysis of abstraction shows that it can be realised through the use of the abstract nouns ‘China’s economy’ and ‘yuan’, which do not have the trait ‘human’ in their meanings. In addition to the abstracted Chinese actors, impersonalised references to the Chinese social actors can also be realised through objectivation, which refers the social actors to a place or thing closely related with them. Table 2.8 show's that the Chinese actors are objectivated at a frequency of 15% in the following examples:

  • 1. Economy and policy: Is the Chinese yuan too cheap? A5C
  • 2. Wall street and markets: Is China a debt junkie? A9C
  • 3. Fear of China’s missiles (money) is overblown A20C

Objectivation analysis shows that the Chinese social actors are metonymically referred to as ‘the Chinese yuan’ (A5C) and ‘debt junkie’ (A9C) when it comes to economic issues, and ‘China’s missiles (money)’ (A20C) as regards China’s military might. This has the effect of distancing readers from the negative connotation associated with the Chinese social actors. As Van Leeuwen (2008, pp. 46^17) puts forth, personalisation/impersonalisation can be utilised w'ithin texts for the purpose of foregrounding/backgrounding the identity or roles of social actors, lending impersonal authority or force to an action, adding positive or negative connotations to actions or utterances of a social actor.

 
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