Spanish-language print media in the United States: A critical social semiotic exploration of ideological representations

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Spanish-language print media in the United States: A critical social semiotic exploration of ideological representations

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As of 2010, there were 50.5 million people of Hispanic or Latino origin in the United States (Ennis, Ríos-Vargas and Albert, 2011, p. 2). Although substantial work has been carried out on the linguistic aspects of Spanish spoken in the United States in some cities, there is still much left to be discovered, especially with regards to the linguistic and semiotic characteristics of print Spanish. Furthermore, the analysis of discourse about Latinos as a minoritized group is typically carried out on texts produced by majority groups (cf. de Beaugrande, 2008; Martín Rojo and Gómez Esteban, 2005; Martín Rojo and van Dijk, 1997). In other words, while critical discourse analysts know a great deal about the discursive construction of minoritized groups in discourse created by majority groups (e.g., how the United States mass media represent Latinos), it is not known how such groups create their own discourse (cf. Delbene, 2008; Strom, 2013). Finally, although a handful of multimodal analyses have addressed Spanish as a semiotic system (cf. Crespo Fernández and Martínez Lirola, 2012; Strom, 2013), almost nothing is known about the semiotic characteristics of Spanish-language media in this country. The current study consists of a critical multimodal social semiotic analysis of ideological representations in Spanish-language print media in the Midwest of the United States. The goal of this study is to shed light on how ideology is expressed visually, verbally, and across the visual and verbal modes in Spanish as a minoritized language, as well as the potential for these ideologies to challenge mainstream ideologies. The methodological framework consists of three stages of analysis. A critical discourse analysis based on Teun van Dijk's socio-cognitive approach (1998, 2008) and Norman Fairclough's dialectal-relational approach (2001) focused on the verbal expression of ideology. The data represent 24 local news articles from two local Spanish-language newspapers, La Prensa/Gente de Minnesota and La Conexión Latina, in the Midwest of the United States. A critical multimodal analysis based on Kress and van Leeuwen's (1996, 2001) social semiotic approach focused on the visual expression of ideology. The data comprised 15 images that accompanied the news articles used in the verbal analysis. Lastly, an analysis of intersemiotic complementarity (Royce, 2007), or the comparison of ideologies across text and image, considered the representation of ideology across the verbal and visual modes in 15 text-image combinations. Verbally, the newspapers provide Latino immigrants an opportunity to learn necessary sociocultural information about the United States while maintaining their own epistemic community. The visual mode represents Latinos both as victims of maltreatment by the majority group and as agentive social actors who stand up to injustices committed against them. Although most text-image combinations analyzed challenge ideologies found in the mainstream English-language press, those text-image combinations with the greatest potential to lead to change are those that verbally underscore negative actions committed against Latino immigrants, but visually represent Latinos as standing up to and fighting against these injustices. These results underscore the potential for Spanish-language media to lead to positive changes for Latino immigrants in the United States.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Linguistics. Advisors: Carol Klee, Cynthia Lewis. 1 computer file (PDF); 454 pages.

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Strom, Megan. (2013). Spanish-language print media in the United States: A critical social semiotic exploration of ideological representations. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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