Media and Education: A Functional View on Simplification Criteria of News Articles in the Second Language Classroom

Analyzing the Media - A Systemic Functional Approach - Martin Kaltenbacher

Ana Maria Coria [+-]
Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina
Ana María Coria teaches English Language and Reading Comprehension at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata- Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación. Her research interests are reading comprehension in second language, functional grammar, discourse analysis, genre studies and translation. She has taken part in several projects carried out in the frame of Systemic Functional Linguistics. As a Sworn Translator and Interpreter, she has worked in areas such as Law, Marketing and International Security.
Maria Cristina Spinola† [+-]
Universidad Nacional de la Plata, Argentina
María Cristina Spínola taught English at advanced levels during many years at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata- Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación. She was an exceptional teacher and researcher, well loved by her students and her fellow colleagues. She unfortunately passed away at the end of May, 2016. She will always be remembered not only for her warmth, kindness and generosity, but also for the excellence of her work in Systemic Functional Linguistics and literary stylistics.
Ann Montemayor-Borsinger [+-]
National University of Rio Negro, Argentina
Ann Montemayor-Borsinger has held professorial posts in several Argentinean universities in graduate and postgraduate programs in linguistics and discourse analysis. Her research interests focus on functional grammar, discourse analysis, genre studies, literary stylistics and translation issues. She has widely published drawing on Systemic Functional Linguistics to investigate different types of discourse in English, Spanish and French. She has recently been appointed director of a research centre on Language and Literature Studies (LELLAE) at the National University of Rio Negro in Argentina.


This paper presents the results of a study conducted within the framework of Systemic Functional Linguistics that analyses the lexico-grammatical criteria used for simplifying news articles to adapt them to levels of linguistic proficiency found in second language classrooms. The analysis focuses on different versions of news articles corresponding to Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced levels. The original versions come from The Guardian, and the simplified versions were adapted by a major publisher for an English as a Second Language (ESL) website ( The results of our analyses show that the changes focus mainly on the ideational metafunction with a decrease in the logical complexity of subordination in the simplified texts for the ESL classroom. They also involve a decrease in experiential grammatical metaphors. In this latter case abstract nominal post-modification structures, including present and past participle as well as prepositional phrases, are expressed as finite clauses in the simplified ESL texts (Martin 1989, Christie & Derewianka 2008, Rose & Martin 2012). Changes in the textual metafunction involve going from more “contentful” to “more contentlight” Themes (Berry 2013), and changes in the interpersonal metafunction involve going from more abstract to more concrete grammatical subjects (Halliday & Mathiessen 2013). Nevertheless, all these metafunctional changes at the discourse-semantic level of the simplified versions consistently respect the typical news article generic structure. Some of the more salient news article linguistic features are also maintained, such as for instance news writer invisibility by means of processes of saying attributed to external participants who are construed as the “voices of authority”. From a teaching perspective, results illustrate a fundamental concept in Systemic Functional Linguistics, that of language as choice, which can be productively exploited in the classroom. In particular, text rewriting activities based on the different versions of the news articles enable advanced level students to select alternative linguistic expressions of different levels of complexity to express a range of related meanings, while respecting genre realization.

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Coria, Ana; Spinola†, Maria; Montemayor-Borsinger, Ann. Media and Education: A Functional View on Simplification Criteria of News Articles in the Second Language Classroom. Analyzing the Media - A Systemic Functional Approach. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2019. ISBN 9781781796269. Date accessed: 18 Jul 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.32946. Oct 2019

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