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Go Back       IAR Journal of Business Management | IAR J Bus Mng; 2020; 2(2): | Volume:2 Issue:2 ( March 10, 2021 ) : 1-5
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DOI : 10.47310/iarjbm.2021.v02i02.001       Download PDF       HTML       XML

Analysis of Interpersonal Function and Evaluation System in Foreign and Domestic News Report on Hong Kong Riots

Article History

Received: 08.02.2021; Revision: 28. 02.2021; Accepted: 05. 03.2021; Published: 10. 03.2021

Author Details

Chu Yan & Shi Longfeng

Authors Affiliations

English Department, Foreign Language School, North China Electric Power University, Baoding, Hebei, China

Abstract: Systemic-functional grammar holds that people choose languages from the language system according to the purpose of speech and organize them in a certain form or structure to make them function. According to the language meta-functions, interpersonal function expresses social and interpersonal relationship, which is mainly realized by mode and modality. In addition, the evaluation theory embodies systematicness, scientificity and practicability, transcends clauses and runs through the whole discourse. It provides a new model for discourse analysis. The paper analyzes the riots in Hong Kong from the perspective of interpersonal function, and reflects different interpersonal functions and evaluation systems by studying the different report ways in which domestic and foreign media report this event. Interpersonal function and evaluation system are embodied in both domestic and foreign media reviews. This negative and positive evaluation attitude also reflects the nature of news, and conveys the attitude and position of news commentators. Therefore, interpersonal function and evaluation system can reveal and correct this phenomenon.

Keywords: Systemic-Functional Grammar; Interpersonal Function; Evaluation System.


Systemic-functional grammar holds that people choose languages from the language system according to the purpose of speech and organize them in a certain form or structure to make them function. One of the purposes for people to use language in their daily life is to establish and maintain various social relations, which is regarded as the interpersonal function of language in systemic functional linguistics. This function is realized by many means, either directly or indirectly. James R. Martin, an Australian linguist, believes that the study of interpersonal function in systemic functional grammar is not comprehensive, so he proposes appraisal theory to enrich interpersonal function. Martin points out that not only grammatical means realize interpersonal function, but also lexical resources express interpersonal meaning (James R.Martin, 1995). Systemic functional grammar holds that every clause has interpersonal function, while appraisal theory focuses on the language resources that judge the value of people, their behaviors and objective things. The paper will analyze the riots in Hong Kong from the perspective of interpersonal function and discuss the theoretical basis of appraisal theory and its breakthrough and development for interpersonal function in systemic functional grammar.

Interpersonal Function and Evaluation System

This part is the introduction of the whole paper’s theoretical basis, including Interpersonal Function and Evaluation System.


Interpersonal Function

The purpose of Halliday’s construction of functional grammar is to provide a theoretical framework for discourse analysis, which can be used to analyze any form of English discourse, including oral discourse and written discourse. The meta-function in systemic functional linguistics is an important means of discourse analysis, and interpersonal function is one of the three meta-functions. Interpersonal function refers to the function of language not only to the speaker’s personal experience and human activities, but also to express the speaker’s identity, status, attitude, motivation and the speaker’s inference, judgment and evaluation of things. That is, people use words to communicate with others and establish interpersonal relations, and express their views on the reality and inner world at the same time, and even influence others’ views and behaviors. Interpersonal function is the participation function of language. In the framework of functional grammar, interpersonal function is concerned with the interaction between the speaker and the receiver in the context and the speaker’s attitude towards what he says and writes. In system grammar, interpersonal function includes three aspects: mood, modality and evaluation system. (Halliday, 1994)

Evaluation System

Halliday stratified language resources from large units to small units: context-semantics-lexicogramar-phonology-phonetics. While Martin divided it into: discourse semantics-grammar and lexis-phonology and graphology. They are basically the same at the lower two levels. The difference is that the semantic meaning of Martin’s discourse covers the research scope of Halliday’s context and semantic meaning. Systemic-functional grammar focuses on the lexical and grammatical levels and focuses on the meaning within clauses.Evaluation theory regards discourse semantics as a research unit, and discourse semantics is its main research level. This theory points out that attitude runs through the whole discourse, is not limited by the grammatical framework, and its focus is beyond the meaning of the clause. Its object of study spans clauses and the meaning of evaluation pervades the whole discourse. It should be pointed out that Halliday also proposed in 1979 that interpersonal functioning is like rhythm throughout the discourse. The center of the evaluation system is “system” and the focus is “evaluation”. Language is the “means” in this system, through the analysis of language, to evaluate the language user’s position, point of view and attitude towards the situation. In other words, evaluation is not limited to the superficial meaning of language, but to the deep meaning orientation through the superficial meaning, which is often referred to as “the essence through the phenomenon”. Therefore, it is interpretive. The evaluation system includes three secondary systems: ENGAGEMENT, ATTITUDE and GRADUATION (Halliday, 1994 & Martin, 1995). They are again systematized.

Research Data

Firstly, with “Interpersonal Function and Evaluation System” and “Hong Kong Riots” as the key word of the paper, the journal source was set as CSSCI, and 469 relevant papers were retrieved on November 11, 2020. After the data source is determined, query and download the title, abstract, keyword, publication date, journal name, author and other information of 504 related papers, and save this information to Note Express. Then, according to the search results, quantitative visualization analysis was carried out to obtain the trend graph of published articles, keyword distribution, subject distribution and other information. Finally, carry out the theory to analyze domestic and foreign news report on Hong Kong riots. The aim is to find how commentators use this dichotomy expression to make positive comments on themselves and negative comments on others and how this emotional expression can influence or even change readers’ cognitive evaluation to a certain extent, so as to achieve the communicative purpose of persuading readers.

Analysis of Interpersonal Function and Evaluation System in Domestic and Foreign News Report on Hong Kong Riots

News headlines can highlight the thematic meaning of comment discourse, and help readers quickly capture the content of news discourse and the tendency of commentators. The following table is based on the comparison of the headlines of the comments on the riots in Hong Kong by Western media and Domestic media

Western media coverage of riots

Domestic media coverage of riots

1.More Hong Kong protests planned despite arrestsChinese warnings ( August 22019)


2.China plans to make Shenzhen a ‘better place’ than Hong Kong ( August 19, 2019)

2.让香港社会尽快重回正常轨道(2019-08- 30)

3.Thousands in Hong Kong defy Xi with pro-democracy rallies ( September 3, 2019)


4.Huge Hong Kong rally after student dies and lawmakers arrested( November 9, 2019)


5.‘Still angry’: Hong Kong protesters return to the streets ( December 1, 2019)


6.Hong Kong protesters vow weekend rally and‘last chance’ for leader(December 6, 2019)


7.Chaos in Hong Kong as pro-democracy protests ‘blossom everywhere’ (December 13, 2019)

7.面对霸权干涉,中方重拳连击! (2019-11-21)

By comparing the headlines of the Western and Domestic media report on the riots in Hong Kong, it is found that the Western media highlights the identity of the participants in the riots and equates them with the protestors and pro-democracy people for the sake of justice.

  1. still angryEmotion: dissatisfied]—constructed the rioters’ dissatisfaction with the current state of life and the Hong Kong government;

  2. planned, defy, vowJudgment: positive behavior]—indicated that the rioters are still determined to disrupt the normal order;

  3. protest” and “protesterAppreciation: positive reaction]—reflected commentator with a certain bias, stand on the side of the rioters, the ideology represented by the judgment and appreciation of the riot, and give the evaluation object a positive emotional response.

  4. Stopping violence” and “maintaining the stability” of Hong Kong have become the theme of the title.

  5. In the report of Domestic media:

  6. 伤不起”[Emotion: sympathy]—reflected the commentators’ concern about the current situation in Hong Kong and hopes that Hong Kong will return to normal life as soon as possible;

  7. 追究/止暴制乱/重拳连击”[Judgment: criticism, condemnation, positive behavior]—expressed his determination to stop the violence;

  8. 重回/发展/吹响”[Appreciation: positive value]—expressed the stable situation in Hong Kong and the people’s expectations for a better life.

Although the attitude resources of news headlines of the two media are related to emotion, judgment, appreciation and other elements, the content of expression is completely opposite, which reveals the tendency of news comments.

Analysis of Interpersonal Function and Evaluation System in the coverage of the Hong Kong Riots

Reports on the coverage of the Hong Kong Riots by Western Media

Example 1: The original report is as follows:

Online video showed a police officer collaring one protester and then shooting another who approaches. The officer fired again as a third protester approached. Police said only one protester was hit and is undergoing surgery.”

A protester wearing a white hoodie and mask walks towards a policeman, as if to challenge him. The officer draws his gun and points it at him at close range and grabs him round the neck.”

As the officer holds the man with his left hand, he shoots another approaching masked protester at close range with his right hand. Three shots ring out and the man falls to the ground.”

collaring, shooting, fired again, was hit undergoing surgery, protester, challenge, draws, points at, grabs, holds, shoots, three shots ring out”.

First, the story focused on details, including “grabbing the collar”, but still didn’t mention the mob shooting. The full video, however, shows more than one mob trying to “grab a gun”, a move the Associated Press has omitted. Second, the word in the western media is “protester”. This word is unavoidably too far-fetched for those who rob police guns. Any complaints or different opinions and suggestions can be reported through legal channels, but those who beat people with guns are called “thugs”, and “protesters” are very uncomfortable. Third, in reporting, he tried to distort the facts by means of video clips in an attempt to “convict” the Hong Kong police. This time will be the United States and the west with “politics” manipulate “public opinion” tool means to explain incisively and vividly.

In news comment discourse, it mainly involves two kinds of judgment on people and things. Commentators screen the comment object and content according to their own position, judge and appreciate the selected people and things, and give the evaluation object positive or negative, positive or negative emotional response. Commentators use this dichotomy expression to make positive comments on themselves and negative comments on others. This emotional expression can influence or even change readers’ cognitive evaluation to a certain extent, so as to achieve the communicative purpose of persuading readers. News discourse, through attitude resources, conveys the voice of rights, acts on the reporting objects and readers, and implements the discourse strategies of legalization, concealment and fragmentation in the way of emotion, judgment and appreciation, so as to force the readers to identify with the position of the evaluators, hoping that the readers will accept the suggestion of their own attitude evaluation, and their understanding will also develop in the direction expected by the evaluators.

Example 2: The original report is as follows:

A patch of what looked like dried blood could be seen in a cordoned-off area after the shooting, as angry onlookers shouted insults at the police.”

dried bloodcordoned-off area”. First, the report distorted the facts, the spread of the so-called “blood” in the video, and alongside the two witnesses. Second, a policeman was holding up the gunned down thug, apparently trying to save him. But all these details were not reported by western media according to the facts, only “police shooting”. Third, if it is read by ordinary people in western countries, for those who do not know the truth, the heart is bound to be angry. Of course, it can not be said that the western media is always against the police, nor is it fair to these peers. When the west is in trouble and the streets are full of protesting thugs, the western media tend to stick up for the police.

Western news commentators have a certain bias and stand on the side of the rioters. The ideology they represent can judge and appreciate the riot events, and give the evaluation object positive emotional response. Jiao Junfeng and Liu Meilan (2019) believe that in the old international communication dominated by western countries, some western media maliciously defame and even distort the people of developing countries and related reports with a certain sense of superiority. The image created by them is not negative, but also stereotyped. On the surface, the western media are reporting the riot in Hong Kong. In fact, they are criticizing the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government, arbitrarily imposing labels such as lack of democracy and freedom on the government, and building a negative image of the national government.

Western media coverage of Riots in other countries

Example 1: French “yellow vest” movement, Reuters report:

Dozens of black-hooded demonstrators threw rocks at police and some set fire to scooters and trash cans in the center of the French capital” and “Police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades.”

Example 2: During the mass demonstration in Barcelona, Reuters reported:

As night fell, masked youths blocked a broad boulevard close to the city’s police headquarters, setting fire to large garbage bins and throwing a hail of stones, cans and bottles toward massed lines of security forces in full riot gear.”

Example 3: CNN report:

Video from the scenes on Friday showed riot police facing off against protestors, some of whom threw objects at the police. Garbage containers were set on fire, a common sight in the past week.”

demonstrators threw rocks, fire to scooters and trash cans, masked youths, protestors”. When things happen in Paris or Barcelona, Western media outlets side with those who defend order. When similar things happen in Hong Kong, Western media outlets side with those who demolish it.

The focus of Western media is on the rioters. They make positive comments on their behavior, ignore the living conditions of the people in Hong Kong, and make negative judgments on stopping the rioting.

Report on the coverage of the Hong Kong Riots by Domestic Media

The original report is as follows:

July 1 is a joyous day for people from all walks of life in Hong Kong to commemorate the return of Hong Kong to the motherland and the establishment of the Hong Kong special administrative region. However, on this day, some extreme radicals stormed the legislative council building in a very violent way and arbitrarily damaged the facilities of the legislative council. Their actions have already breached the boundaries of freedom of speech and peaceful demonstrations, trampled on the rule of law in Hong Kong, undermined the social order in Hong Kong and damaged the fundamental interests of Hong Kong. They are a blatant challenge to the bottom line of ‘one country, two systems’. We strongly condemn them. The government will investigate the criminal responsibility of the perpetrators of the violence in accordance with the law. We support the government in restoring social order as soon as possible, ensuring the safety of people and property, and maintaining Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”

In a very violent way, the extremists have broken through, trampled on, damaged, damaged, flagrantly challenged the bottom line, the perpetrators of the violence, recovered, secured, maintained.

We conducted a calm analysis and expounded the facts in an objective manner, and demonstrated Chinese firm determination to safeguard Chinese sovereignty, security and development interests, Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and its firm opposition to interference by external forces. We urge the British side to deeply reflect on the consequences of its wrong words and deeds and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any way. We hope that the western media will reflect on the social impact of their actions, assume their due social responsibilities, and report the situation in Hong Kong impartially and objectively.

Conclusion and Implication

Through the study of the media coverage of Hong Kong events in the two countries, it is found that interpersonal function and evaluation system are reflected in both Domestic and British media reviews. This negative and positive evaluation attitude also reflects the nature of news, and conveys the attitude and position of news commentators. Evaluators transform their values into the attributes of evaluation objects through attitude resources. By highlighting or hiding some news subjects and using attitude resources to construct commentator’s ideology, the commentator’s distorted comments on the facts will lead to readers’ prejudice and negative emotions towards the evaluation objects. Therefore, the interpersonal function and evaluation system can reveal and correct this phenomenon, so that readers can objectively evaluate news events, and promote the positive development of discourse practice.

What’s more, under the study of the media coverage of Hong Kong events in the two countries, it is also found that the western media played a very dishonorable role, not only did not report fairly and objectively, but confused right and wrong, reversed black and white, and misled the public. This paper briefly introduces the theoretical framework and operation process of the evaluation system. The evaluation system mainly evaluates the ideology of language users through “evaluative lexis”. Different countries have different reporting emphases, which reflect different interpersonal functions and evaluation systems, as well as different starting points and goals. (Hu Zhuanglin, Zhu Yongsheng and Zhang Delu, 1989)


  1. Halliday, M.A.K. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar[M]. London: Edward Arnold.

  2. Junfeng, J., & Meilan, L. (2019). Research on the cultural image construction of Confucius Institute by British and American media [J]. Journal of Tianjin Foreign Studies University, (4), 1323

  3. Martin & White. (2005). The Language of Evaluation-Appraisal in English[M]Palgrave Macmillan.

  4. Martin, J.R. (1995). Reading positions/positioning readers: JUDGMENT in English[J]. Prospect: A journal of Australian TESOL,10(2), 27-37.

  5. Martin, J.R. (2000). Beyond exchange: APPRAISAL Systems in English[A]. S. Hunston and G. Thompson. Evaluation in Text: authorial stance and the construction of discourse[C]. Oxford: OUP, 2000.

  6. Martin, J.R., & Rose, D. (2003). Working with Discourse: Meaning Beyond the Clause[M]. London:Continuum, p17

  7. Zhuanglin, H., Yongsheng, Z., & Delu, Z. (1989). System-Functional Linguistics[M]. Changsha: Hunan Education Press.

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