Cracking the Code of Press Headlines: From Difficulty to Opportunity for the Foreign Language Learner


  • Michael White Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Keywords: headlines, headline spin, idiom variation, interface, double grounding, ESP


While press materials, are widely used both as an ESP materials resource and as a research source by ESP practitioners, press headlines in English confront the Non Native Speaker (NNS) and to some extent the Native Speaker (NS) with a notorious paradox: headlines are crafted to raise communication potential and yet, rather than communicate, they often perplex the reader. This may be devastating for motivation on the part of the English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) student where even those at advanced level suffer frustration on failing to cope with headlines. The main arguments of this article are that headline perplexity is generated by the very communicatively driven strategies used in their configurations, that these strategies form patterns and that these patterns can be singled out and analysed in such a way as to enable the student to crack the code and thereby turn a liability into an asset, a stumbling block into a stepping stone.


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Author Biography

Michael White, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

is Professor of English at The School of Business, Universidad Complutense, Madrid. His main research area is the use of figurative language, particularly metaphor, a field in which he has published several articles and book chapters. He has a specific interest in headline discourse where he has also published widely, including extensive collaboration with Honesto Herrera in both areas. Additionally, he works on Irish-Spanish historical ties and recently published a book chapter on the subject, entitled “The role of Irish doctors in eighteenth century Spanish medicine”.
How to Cite
White, M. (2011). Cracking the Code of Press Headlines: From Difficulty to Opportunity for the Foreign Language Learner. International Journal of English Studies, 11(1), 95–116.