Broadsheet obituaries - barometer and paragon of sociolinguistic changes


  • Lia Todua David Aghmashenebeli University


discourse analysis, ethnography of communication, obituaries, sociolinguistics


The present paper deals with analyzing some sociolinguistic aspects of modern broadsheet obituaries. The following proposition
acts as a hypothesis of the research- broadsheet obituaries reflect with exactitude two prevailing trends of the modern world- cultural uniformity and cultural diversity, plus they serve as a paragon of the genre. Methods essential for sociolinguistic research,in particular, for Ethnography of Communication and Discourse Analysis have been considered most relevant for proving the abovehypothesis. An online version of the youngest, and the widely-acclaimed British broadsheet - The Independent - was selected forobservation and qualitative and quantitative analyses. Obituaries since they were born as a popular feature of newspapers have mirrored cultures worldwide, they have revealedunwittingly what attitudes a certain nation has towards death and life. However, having undergone significant alterations, Britishobituaries emerged with a cult status focusing on life and neglecting death.The Independent obituary research unfolded the following: the online version of the newspaper contains edited obituariesrejecting family ones and thus facilitating their homogeneity. Persons worth writing obituaries about are selected thoroughly, leadingamong themare celebrities -arts, sports people, then come politicians, scientists,etc. Theseobituaries highlightprofessional
accomplishmentsmorethanpersonaltraits. Withalltheresourcesavailable-layout, visualaspect,headline,etc.editorsattemptto
analogous to articles from other sections of the paper. By leaving out religious-, culture-, and nation-specific aspectsthese obituaries nolonger serve as detectors ofculture. Theiruniformity appealsto a cosmopolitan readerandsets a matrix
forthe global villagecitizens-amatrix oflife-style andachievements.However,by devoting 50percent ofobituaries topersons of other nationalities rather than to the British editors respond to another dominant trend – cultural diversity - and offer a glimpse of all cultures as a mosaic.Technically streamlined, linguistically elaborate, socially ever-updated, The Independent obituaries present a template for obituary writers worldwide.

Author Biography

Lia Todua, David Aghmashenebeli University

Assoc. Prof., David Aghmashenebeli University, Tbilisi