Emotive, evaluative, epistemic: a linguistic analysis of affectivity in news journalism

Anu Koivunen, Antti Kanner, Macej Janicki, Auli Harju, Julius Hokkanen, Eetu Mäkelä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, we introduce a linguistic approach to studying affectivity as a fundamental feature of news journalism. By reconceptualising affectivity beyond emotive storytelling, intentional stance-taking or evaluative expression, we propose a methodology that highlights how conventions related to mediating, modulating and managing affectivity permeate journalistic genres. Drawing from conversation analysis (Goffman, 1961), Bakhtinian theory of language as dialogical (Volosinov, 1995) and Wetherell’s (2012) notion of affective meaning-making, we investigate how selected linguistic forms and structures – namely evidential and epistemic modals and lexical items signalling affective intensity (such as emotive and evaluative words and metaphorical expressions) – participate in affective meaning-making in news journalism. A scalable computational methodology is introduced to study multiple linguistic structures in conjunction. In investigating a case study – the news reporting and commentary on a highly charged, year-long political conflict between the right-wing conservative government and the trade unions in Finland (2015–2016) – the approach allows a focus on the ways in which affectivity operates in journalistic texts in response to both generic expectations of the audience and journalistic conventions. Our findings include identification of the intertwining of strategic rituals of objectivity and emotionality (Tuchman 1972, Wahl-Jorgensen 1993a, 1993b), recognition of metaphoricity as a key source of affectivity and detection of different news article types having their own conventions for managing affectivity. We also observe a connection between emotive and evaluative words and the grammatical constructions used to express degrees of certainty, which suggests these modal constructions play an important part in how affectivity informs journalistic texts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1190-1206
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • affect
  • emotion
  • news
  • journalism
  • linguistics
  • research methods
  • quantitative
  • computational analysis

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotive, evaluative, epistemic: a linguistic analysis of affectivity in news journalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this