Argument for an "Indexical Phase”

Early in my analysis it seemed clear to me that the language of the first phase of data intended to represent a reproduction of reality, while the language of the final phase of data was evaluative, highly intertextualised and connected to artistic representation, as I shall go on to discuss in the next section. It seemed appropriate to characterise these beginning and end states as displaying features of Iconic and Symbolic signs, while the middle phase could quite well have been simply transitional: a point in the process of movement from one state to the other, rather than a phase in its own right. The year 2011 is, in regard to most of the features studied, a linguistic midpoint for increasing or decreasing movements from the first to the last data sets. This might indeed be the sole source of interest in the 2011 data, were it not for the importance of the particular researched phenomenon, categorisation, which I propose as evidence for an Indexical phase of representation.

Peirce’s Indexical signs are those based in relationship of contiguity rather than a relationship of resemblance. This association can take the form of cause-and-effect relations, part-for-whole and whole-for part relations and a pointing or indicating function. Fowler (1991: 170) discusses media representations as entire Indexical signs, in the sense that I am arguing here, where references to events become “a shorthand, a metonymy, for an underlying ‘it’ of a more abstract kind”. Fowler’s point here coincides with my own observations from the analysis of shorthanding processes as well as the gradual move to use the BP events as an illustration of wider phenomena.

Two questions of interest for the BP data arise from these definitions of Indexicality. Firstly, since metonym is a linguistic realisation of Indexicality, is there evidence from the BP data of a particular pattern in the use of metonym in the 2011 texts? Secondly, are metonymic (Indexical) relations expressed in any other way? In other words is there evidence that the BP events are somehow connected to, represent or stand for other events or phenomena? In the first case, an investigation of metonymy as a purely linguistic phenomenon did not reveal 2011 to be a special case. Instances of metonymy in 2010 were predominantly of the kind mentioned above: ORGANISATION FOR MEMBERS, by which BP and other organisation names were used to stand for particular spokespersons. This type of usage decreased steadily over the years with the reduction in the prevalence of company statements, and the trend in 2011 was part of that pattern. (The role of metonymy in selecting features of interest of the crisis remained crucial.) However, there did prove to be an important connection with Indexicality in respect of the second question above.

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