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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

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Being a journalist in a multilingual country: Representations of Dutch among Belgian French-speaking journalists

Catherine Bouko / Olivier Standaert / Astrid Vandendaele
Published Online: 2018-10-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2018-0036


In this paper, we examine how the francophone TV audience is introduced to the Flemish community and its language through daily news broadcasts. More specifically, our research looks at how the Dutch language is used when francophone journalists prepare and produce their reports – during all stages of the process –, up until the actual broadcast. We therefore conducted 15 qualitative interviews with TV news journalists employed by the Belgian French-speaking public broadcaster. The interviews were organized around eight topics, e.g. the place of Dutch in the newsroom and the languages chosen during interactions with Dutch-speaking interviewees. From a discursive point of view, we focused on the selected lexical terms and rhetorical tropes (the various uses of the litotes, in particular) to unpack the journalists’ practices, in relation to their representations of Dutch. Our study provides notable insights into their representation of the differences between French- and Dutch-speaking Belgians as a generational issue, their tendency to assess their proficiency in Dutch measured against bilingualism, as well as their wish to beat the cliché of “the unilingual French-speaker”. These observations are coupled with criteria which explain why French might be preferred in the end: the TV audience’s comfort, general intelligibility and subtitling constraints.

Keywords: multilingualism; journalism; representations; language; discourse analysis


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-10-10

Citation Information: Multilingua, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2018-0036.

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