Critical Review: Analysis on Syntactic and Semantic

Tiono, N.I. (2003). An Analysis on Syntactic and Semantic Factors Found in Newspaper Headlines. The Institute of Research & Community Outreach – Petra Christian University, 5(1), 49 – 61

In this paper, it will be argued that Tiono’s (2003) study on syntactic and semantic analysis in newspaper headlines is an interesting piece of research but there are still some points which can be considered for the improvement of this study. The argument will be developed through a critical review of Tiono’s paper, discussing in turn its abstract, background, the review of literature used in this paper, and the structure of the article.

Referring to the theory of Lee, Simpson, and Montgomery that stated about the interest of linguists toward the correlation between the ways a story told and the point of view of the audience, Tiono was trying to analyze the linguistic choices and linguistic structures made in the headlines of two different newspapers: The Jakarta Post and Indonesian Daily News. In order to accomplish her objectives, Tiono took same examples by selecting the same topic of some news of the world event but written in different sentences which presented as the newspaper headlines.

In the abstract of this paper, the writer has put some background information and the research purpose. But the important part such as research method, result, conclusion and recommendation were not stated in abstract. University Wisconsin Madison Writing Center Writer’s Handbook (Research Abstract, 2007) suggested that an abstract of a research paper should include four main types of information: objective and rationale of the research, research methods, results or products of the research, and the conclusion about the implication of the project. It means that Tiono didn’t complete the abstract of her paper.

Regarding with the topic research of this paper, the writer, unfortunately didn’t provide any previous research related to linguistics analysis on newspaper headlines or some more other research which are similar. In fact, before this research was conducted, there have been already several researches which concerned on the newspaper headlines and the like (Althaus & Tewksbury, 2002; Dor, 2003; Leon, 1997; Miller & Krosnick, 2000). Somehow, the writer used some coherent books related to the title of this research as the references to lead the readers to the purpose of her research.

To answer her research question, the writer used analysis method. Tiono collected the data from two different newspapers and sorted the news of which the topic was similar, but the headlines’ sentences chosen by the journalist are different. The writer has clearly presented 3 news topics as the examples of how the reporters of The Jakarta Post and Indonesian Daily News use language, including the linguistic choices and linguistic structures. The writer chose to analyze the headlines since the readers tend to very often only pay their attention to the newspaper headlines and have their assumption merely from the headlines (2003: 53).

There are 10 headlines’ sentences which were selected as the examples of this research. In analyzing the headlines’ sentences, the writer used the Generative Transformational Grammar. The writer provided the tree diagram to state the parts of speech of every sentence, thus the sentences were analyzed syntactically. The comparison between the same news topics which are written in two different headlines’ sentences by the journalist was noticeably structured. Besides, the writer also stated some similar points of the news on the semantic analysis. Since the topics of the news were the same, some similar meaning could be possibly appeared. Nevertheless, through her analysis, the writer also noticed about the subjectivity of Indonesian Daily News reporter in writing the headlines. Hence, this part answered her research purpose.

From the examples of the headlines that Tiono selected as the data (Three bombs explode in Pancoran boarding house; Gus Dur, Megawati to attend anniversary; President to attend ritual celebration of Soekarno’s death in Blitar), the relevance of this research seems to be only within Tionos’ geographic local. The readers who do not have any prior knowledge about Pancoran, Gus Dur, Megawati, and Blitar, will not be able to directly understand what Tiono was going to analyze. Somehow, because this research focused on syntax and semantic analysis, the findings will be applicable for a broader implementation. For example, in a research paper entitled Lexical choices of political news headline in The Jakarta Post cyber-news conducted by Dewi (2013) which cited this research paper. Another research which cited Tiono’s research paper is Guinto (2013) which wrote Ideological constructions in column titles by two age groups in the Philippines: Implications in language teaching and learning. Besides to be cited as the reference of research paper, Tiono also encouraged the readers to have correct interpretation about the written news.

To some extent, the writer took 1 news topic of the global event as the examples of the headlines to be analyzed. They are about the news of the former Philippines president, Joseph Estrada. In headline (7) Estrada to stay in hospital for trial and (8) Court allows Estrada to be detained in hospital, the writer explained that the topic of discussion of the headline (7) and (8) was different. In headline (7), it is stated that the topic of the discussion was Estrada, while in headline (8), the reporter of the newspaper focused more on the Court as the subject of discussion.

The syntactical differences between headline (7) and (8) were also elaborated clearly by the writer through the tree diagram. Prior to analyze the headline, the writer would need to understand the topic of news that she was going to analyze. Therefore, through her interpretation of the news, the writer confirmed that there was a verb deletion in headline (7), which indicated that the word “to stay” as future action. Hence, the writer inserted “is going to” in the syntactic analysis. The same analysis was also taken place in headline (8), of which the word “Estrada to be” was interpreted as a future tense. That’s why, the writer also added auxiliary “is going to be” in order to do the detail analysis of syntactic factors.

As have been stated very clearly in the title of this research, the writer concerned on analyzing the data of two aspects in theoretical linguistics: syntax and semantic factors. However, in the review of literature, the writer seems to be lacked of references about the focuses she was trying to concern. In her paper, the writer only put a single definition about syntax and semantic from one point of view, which in this case she took the definition proposed by Jakobson from Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. Considering that the main topics of this paper are syntax and semantic, more description about the topic will enrich the repertoire of the readers before coming to the result of the analysis.

An example of other syntax definition can be added as follow, “Syntactic constructions, then, are constructions in which none of the immediate constituents is a bound form”.(Bloomfield, 1933, p. 184). Other explanation about syntax is also stated by Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams: “The part of grammar that represents a speakers’ knowledge of sentences and their structures” (Fromkin, Rodman, & Hyams, 2010, p. 78). Meanwhile, they defined semantics as “the study of linguistic meaning of morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences” (Fromkin, et al., 2010, p. 140)

In contrast with the single-source definition of the main topic discussed in the paper, the writer conveyed two authors’ points of view about the language function. The first one is how Leech suggested that language has five functions; and the second one is the similar statement about language function from Jakobson. The writer also took more than one authors’ standpoint in elaborating about the standard theory of transformational grammar: The first one is Lyons, the second is Jacobs, et al, and the third is Corder. Thus, it will be questionable decision which the writer made in providing only one reference for her main topic of research paper while on the other hand she provided more than one references for another topic related to the research.

The structure of this research paper, partly, was not organized under the appropriate subsections. The main factor of it is because the writer didn’t identify clear subheadings into each paragraph. Apprehensively, it could cause a bias and confusion to the readers about which part is the theoretical framework or review of literature and which would be the other parts. The missing part of the subheadings will make the readers predict by themselves every section of the paper.

Despite of the missing part of the subheadings in this paper, in the last second paragraph of the paper the writer concluded the result of the analysis by pointing out the use of simple present tense which appeared more often in both The Jakarta Post and Indonesian Daily News. Simple future tense followed by the verb deletion also happened to the headlines of both newspapers. The writer then came into a conclusion that the verb deletion in the headlines has given an impact to the readers’ interpretation toward the news.

Overall, Tiono has attempted to present the difference of diction used in the headlines by two different journalists from two local newspapers. As the writer stated in the last paragraph of this paper, the implication of this research, besides can be useful for other researchers who intend to conduct research about linguistic choices and linguistic structures in mass media (newspaper, magazine, digital news portal, political blog), it can also be a valuable input and recommendation for the journalists of newspapers when writing the headlines. More than that, this research paper is also helpful especially for the readers to understand about the written news so they can avoid the wrong interpretation.


Althaus, S. L., & Tewksbury, D. (2002). Agenda Setting and the “New” News Patterns of Issue Importance Among Readers of the Paper and Online Versions of the New York Times. Communication Research, 29(2), 180-207.

Bloomfield, L. (1933). Language. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Dewi, N. P. K. S. (2013). Lexical choices of political news headline in The Jakarta Post cyber-news. Humanis, VIII(1).

Dor, D. (2003). On newspaper headlines as relevance optimizers. Journal of Pragmatics, 35(695-721).

Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2010). An Introduction to Language (9th edition ed.). Canada: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Guinto, N. L. (2013). Ideological constructions in column titles by two age groups in the Philippines: Implications in language teaching and learning. International Journal of Research Studies in Language Learning, 2(5), 105-116.

Leon, J. A. (1997). The effects of headlines and summaries on news comprehension and recall. Reading and Writing 9(2), 85-106.

Miller, J. M., & Krosnick, J. A. (2000). News media impact on the ingredients of presidential evaluations: Politically knowledgeable citizens are guided by a trusted source. American Journal of Political Science, 44, 295-309.

Research Abstract. (2007). Retrieved from The Writing Center website:

Tiono, N. I. (2003). An Analysis on Syntactic and Semantic Factors Found in Newspaper Headlines. The Institute of Research & Community Outreach – Petra Christian University, 5(1), 49-61.