Concepts of giftedness in scientific and common language, and the diachronic construction of the discourse of giftedness in media texts Cover Image

Andekusmõistestik teadus- ja üldkeeles ning andekuse diskursuse diakrooniline konstrueerimine meediatekstides
Concepts of giftedness in scientific and common language, and the diachronic construction of the discourse of giftedness in media texts

Author(s): Halliki Põlda
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies, Communication studies, Baltic Languages
Published by: TLU Institute of Estonian Language and Culture
Keywords: critical discourse analysis; giftedness; media; ideology; Estonian

Summary/Abstract: The aim of the study is to describe the diachronic construction of the discourse of giftedness in print media and to show how the historical media discourse relates to the understanding of the essence of giftedness developing in parallel in science. The media analysis is based on a critical discourse analysis of the media texts from the 1890s–1990s stored in the corpus of written Estonian and the analysis model of Norman Fairclough (2001), one of the most central theoreticians of this approach.The results of the analysis indicate that the historical media discourse of giftedness was constructed in parallel with the understandings emerging in the studies of giftedness: there were similarities between the media and scientific discourse but some differences could also be outlined. The viewpoints which had first become natural through the notion of “genius”in scientific literature, according to which giftedness is hereditary, were also reflected in the historical media discourse. Atypically of the scientific discourse back then, the media also discussed the individual's physical assumptions in relation to giftedness, which was reflected in modern approaches to giftedness.The first linguistic form denoting giftedness in media was not genius,which occurred in scientific texts (see Galton, 1869), but talent (Wirmaline,1892), which was used in scientific language only a century later. The discourse analysis revealed that the talent discourse back then was similar to the modern scientific approach, relating to skills and abilities already a century ago (see Gagné, 2004). Almost at the same time as the term talent, the term gift richness (Walgus, 1895) occurred in media, creating the giftedness discourse, the dynamics of which were similar to the talent discourse. The discourse included texts which directly summarised the viewpoints of science – both the role of heredity in giftedness as well as eugenics – creating clear connections between the dominant ideological beliefs of that era. Similarly to the scientific discourse, the discourse of environment emerged in the texts,although giftedness was constructed either through the monetary or competition discourse. In examining the emotional tone of the texts, it was clear that, compared to the talent discourse, the emotional tone of the texts of the giftedness discourse was more positive, even under conditions of Soviet ideology.Based on the discourse analysis, it may be concluded that the discourse of genius was the most politicised among the emerged sub-discourses and was clearly different from the discourse once described by Galton (1869). The genius that had emerged in the 1930s was then used in a context related to the origin of the term (compare genius in Latin – a spirit, and good intellectual abilities (e.g., PM, 1934)). However, during the Soviet times it became a tool of the ideology and was used to emphasize the political decisions of the heads of the state.The dynamics of the discourse of giftedness indicates that the discourse has played an important role in human relationships throughout history.Musicians and artists, and later politicians and working people, were considered to have important positions in the society. This indicates that certain fields of life have been clearly more prestigious at different stages of history.The difference between the scientific and media discourses of giftedness indifferent age-related contexts that emerged during the analysis must also be considered important. While scientific texts almost always described gifted children and scientific literature used example sentences related to children as definitions of terms (e.g., Saareste, 1997, etc.), in historical media texts the discourse of giftedness was only constructed through adults.In summary, the study indicated that there were clearly different understandings of giftedness in science in historical media texts, as well as a connection in creating and maintaining societal agreements.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 16
  • Page Range: 228-253
  • Page Count: 26
  • Language: Estonian