The uses of the present tense in headlines



Year of publication 2003
Type Article in Proceedings
Conference Theory and Practice in English Studies, Volume 1
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Web Full text online
Field Linguistics
Keywords present tense; headlines; media discourse; ideational function; interpersonal function; functional grammar; involvement; marked vs. unmarked
Description The article explores ways the present tense is used in newspaper headlines and explain what function this tense plays. It reports the results of a small study undertaken in order to reveal the general tendencies and patterns of some of the more frequent sentence types used as headlines. The canonical use of the present tense to report past actions is noted and explained with reference to standard grammar. The material under investigation has also indicated a tendency to use the present simple tense in headlines made up of complex sentences, where it occurs in subordinate clauses introducing the circumstances for a more important event expressed non-verbally. The reference of the present tense to past time is explained in view of its universal reference within the system of English tenses, its role as an "internal evaluation device" in narrative and the support it lends to the interpersonal function of headlines.

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