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Functions and Issues of Block Language in English Newspapers. Barli Bram English Language Education Study Programme Sanata Dharma University Yogyakarta. Block Language (BL): Where …. Quirk, Greenbaum , Leech and Svartvik (1985: 845)

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functions and issues of block language in english newspapers

Functions and Issues of Block Language in English Newspapers

Barli Bram

English Language Education Study Programme

Sanata Dharma University Yogyakarta

block language bl where
Block Language (BL): Where …

Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik (1985: 845)

“Block language appears in such functions as labels, titles, newspaper headlines, headings, notices, and advertisements. …”

bl in newspapers headlines
BL in Newspapers … Headlines

Q: What is a newspaper ? A: …

“Headlines are the short titles above newspaper reports (e.g. RUSSIAN WOMAN LANDS ON MOON). The headlines in English-language newspapers can be very difficult to understand. One reason for this is that newspaper headlines are often written in a special style, which is very different from ordinary English. In this style there are ae often used in unusual ways” (Swan, 2002: 259).

functions issues
Functions … Issues …

“Newspaper headlines commonly contain block language because of pressure on space” (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik ,1985: 845).

Some forms of block language have recognizable clause structures. Those forms deviate from regular clause structures in omitting closed-class items of low information value, such as the finite forms of the verb BE and the articles …” Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik ,1985: 845).

“... Headlines can often, in their attempt to attract a reader to a story, be ambiguous or confusing” (Reah, 2002: 13).

block language topic aim
Block Language: Topic … Aim

What: To examine functions and issues of block language (special vocabulary items and grammar) in three online newspapers published in English, namely, the Indonesian The Jakarta Post (JP), the American The Washington Post (WP)and the British The Telegraph (TT)..

data sources
Data Sources?

Sample uses of block language, such headlines as:

[] Obama to visit RI (The Jakarta Post)

[] Blaze hits Jersey Shore boardwalk (The Washington Post)

[] The UK jobs market: seven key charts (The Telegraph)

All collected from the three newspapers and then analyzed to explore the functions and issues of this special language

what to do and expect
What to Do and Expect

To discuss the collected data: referring to ideas on block language and headline writing proposed by various authors.

It is expected that the discussion results would be beneficial to readers, including learners of the English language, to understand better the functions and issues (complexities) of block language, for instance, back meaning support, bid meaning attempt, and blast meaning explosion and criticize severely.


data discussion 1
Data … Discussion (1)

The Jakarta Post (

Jakarta launches city marathon

KPK gets spiritual help against dark forces

SBY’s final budget lacks punch

RI lags behind Laos, Vietnam on gender gap index

New measure unveiled to help start-up companies

2014 state budget realistic, good for stability: Economists

Govt asked to restrict foreign investments

data discussion 2
Data … Discussion (2)

The Washington Post (

Six S. Koreans detained in N. Korea can return home

Brazilian police say protesters beat up officer, stole his service pistol

U.S. to lose access to projects in Afghanistan

Shooting leaves one man dead in D.C.

Saturday morning shooting leaves 1 man dead, 1 injured

Howard University President Ribeau retires

data discussion 3
Data … Discussion (3)

The Telegraph (

Minister's TV licence fee threat

British women jailed in Brazil for drug smuggling

Barack Obama to discuss Pakistan drone strikes with Nawaz Sharif

Pakistani PM urges US to end drone strikes

Former Nazi officer sentenced to life over 1943 Kefalonia massacres

Miss World: bikinis banned from 2013 contest in Indonesia

sample activity textual structure course at pbi usd yogyakarta
Sample Activity (Textual Structure course at PBI USD Yogyakarta

Analyze the following (the headlines and the news) as DETAILED as possible, focusing on the grammar and vocabulary items.

Canadian PM to boycott Commonwealth summit over Sri Lanka's human rights record

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has threatened to withdraw funding for the Commonwealth in an escalating row over rights abuses by Sri Lanka ahead of a summit next month.

(, Weds 9 Oct 2013 Edited by Bonnie Malkin)

concluding remarks
Concluding remarks

Functions and issues of BL

Functions: 1. concise (space saving), 2. dramatic and 3. attractive

Issues: 1. ambiguity and 2. unfamiliarity (grammar and vocabulary ... what has been omitted, for example)


Learners of English …

familiarize ourselves with block language (BL) via newspaper in English

Practice analyzing grammar and vocabulary items of BL (via Textual Structure course at university, for instance)


Bram, Barli. 2010 Translating the main points of newspaper opinions and editorials in Indonesian into English, paper for National Conference on Literature and Language Teaching, Ma Chung University, Malang, East Java 16 June 2010.

Hicks, Wynford. 2003. English for Journalists. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Keeble, Richard. 2001. The Newspaper Handbook. London: Routledge.

Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech & Jan Svartvik. 1985. A

Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman.

Reah, Danuta. 2002. The Language of Newspapers. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Richardson, John. 2007. Analyzing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse Analysis. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Swan, Michael. 2002. Practical English Usage. 2nd ed., International Student's Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Barli Bram, USD PBI, 11 May 2013