Author: Chik, Sin Yee Sonya
Title: The language of privacy in Japanese and English written discourse : a systemic functional perspective
Advisors: Teruya, Kazuhiro (CBS)
Matthiessen, Christian (ENGL)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2019
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Language and culture
English language -- Social aspects
Japanese language -- Social aspects
Department: Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: xix, 341 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: This thesis investigates the linguistic construction of 'privacy' in a variety of social contexts between two typologically distant languages. Specifically, it posits privacy as a reality that is socially created and shaped through written discourse in English and Japanese (cf. Hasan, 1984). Drawing on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) theory, a holistic approach to text in context (see Halliday, 1978; 1994), this study sets out to present a linguistic profile of privacy from the perspectives of context, semantics and lexicogrammar. First, it explores the contextual parameters of filed, tenor and mode that determine the linguistic choices in the respective socio-semiotic processes: 'regulating' in privacy policy, 'arguing' in expert opinion and 'reporting' in news article. Second, it investigates the lexicogrammatical resources that are employed to create and shape privacy as a social reality under the systems of TRANSITIVITY, MOOD and MODALITY (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014; Teruya, 2007). Finally, it examines the rhetorical strategies deployed to organize the meaning of privacy in a logical and coherent whole in the form of discourse through the system of RHETORICAL RELATIONS (Matthiessen, 2015b; Matthiessen & Teruya, 2015b). Cross-linguistic variation between English and Japanese is identified and the findings are synthesized to present the language of privacy from a 'trinocular' view through the lens of Systemic Functional Linguistics. Results from the multi-stratal text analysis show that privacy is a social reality that is constantly constructed and deconstructed by discourse, shaping the way we present our social identity and the way we interact with people and institutions under various social settings. Privacy as a 'thing' in the form of personal data is commonly construed as a commodity in exchange for services, benefits and convenience. In privacy policy, the reality of privacy is shaped into a positive experience where the sharing of personal information is 'justified' by reasons and benefits and the users are 'empowered' and given the 'means' to take full control of their personal data. In expert opinion, the social reality of privacy is often assigned a negative value with the general public construed as the 'victim' of privacy exploitation. In news report, multiple realities of privacy are re-created through locutions and ideas that are cited from different participants in the events.
Cross-linguistically, it is interesting to note that while divergence is mainly language-specific, it is the variation in language use in the different social contexts that motivate the selection of different linguistic resources in the given language communities. The findings also reveal that in general Japanese tends to favor the process of 'being' in the experiential domain, i.e. constructing events as processes of identifying, attributing or existing and is oriented toward Circumstance. In contrast, English tends to prefer the process of 'doing' and is Participant-oriented. Interpersonally, it is observed that the construction of modality in Japanese is more lexical and specific in meaning e.g. suru koto ga dekiru 'that doing X is possible', while modality in English is more grammatical and ambiguous in meaning e.g. the modals can and may could carry the meaning of probability, permission, etc. Logically, English tends to be more 'congruent' in the realization of logico-semantic relations through the use of conjunctions while Japanese shows a preference in employing nominal groups and embedded clauses, resulting in a more 'experiential' construal of the logical organization of discourse. This study is significant in a number of ways. On the understanding of privacy as a social construct, it extends our knowledge of this abstract phenomenon by providing a linguistic dimension to it. In terms of register analysis, it provides a comprehensive description of three types of text (legal regulating, expert evaluation and news reporting) in two languages (English and Japanese). The result is a theory-based modeling of language use in context, which could be applied to the linguistic description and analysis of other social phenomena in different social contexts. Last but not least, findings from this study not only shed light on contrastive analysis, but also offer insights into translation studies and advanced language learning.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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