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Convergencia vol.23 no.71 Toluca may./ago. 2016


Scientific Article

Language and ideology. Apropos of the new Spanish abortion draft bill

Raúl Ruiz-Cecilia1 

Juan Ramón Guijarro-Ojeda2 

1Universidad de Granada, España.

2Universidad de Granada, España.


This linguistic study examines headlines across Spain's national press featuring the new abortion draft bill from an ideological point of view. In order to achieve this goal, we have compiled a corpus with fifty headlines taken from Spanish written press where the new bill is discussed. Data have been interpreted in the light of the discursive paradigm using, hence, a qualitative methodology. The pragmatic analysis carried out and the discussion of the results evince that right-wing press is antiabortionist while left-wing newspapers defend the organic bill 2/2010 about sexual and reproductive health, and the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. Thus, we may conclude that in Spain, conservative press adheres to current government's abortion policies, while liberal press is against these measures.

Key words: language; ideology; abortion; discourse


We all are acquainted with the common extrapolation of the philosophical concepts of "objectivity" and "subjectivity" and how they take part in the value judgments we make about people, things or ideas. Sometimes persists the obstinacy to make our judgment prevail as the most objective, therefore as the truthful one; we would like to exorcise the other accusing them of partisan, manipulative, distortive or misleading.

However, in the face of a noticeable reality, is there some universal truth that allow us to grasp and interpret the object from the same standpoint with exactly the same parameters? Fortunately, there is not. Human being cognitively filters the message and the reception or reconstruction made of this frequently becomes a subjective vision of reality; this way, in any materialization of human language will always appear a veiled and subjective vision.

Therefore, language in the press cannot escape the subjective vision. As much as the deontological code of journalism underscores the need of informational veracity as something desirable, seldom do we find two journalists that produce a concrete item of news with similar argumentation or similar details. The professional of information takes cover in the news item to communicate their stance to their readers before the accounted facts.

In this endeavor linguistic and ideological aspects intermingle and some ideals are defined to influence on the recipient. This was the ruling principle at the moment of stating this research on language in the press. The concrete topic to be approached in this research will be the treatment of the new abortion bill in four nationwide newspapers: El Mundo, El País, ABC and La Razón.

The analysis will focus on the headlines that proliferated by the end of 2013 in the Spanish press motivated by the presentation of the draft entitled "Organic Law for the protection of the life of the conceived and the human rights of the pregnant woman" [Ley orgánica para la protección de la vida del concebido y de los derechos de la mujer embarazada] and which thus far has been blocked by the current government. To do so, we resort to the relation between ideology and language as the articulating line of the work.

Hypothesis and objectives

This work starts from the following hypothesis: "the written press with conservative ideology is overtly anti-abortion; contrary to the stance of progressive or left-wing press".1 Closely related to this hypothesis, we propose the following objectives: 1) examine the ideological trend that prevails in each of the headlines; and, 2) recognize the metaphorical language utilized to transmit information in relation to ideology.

Ideology and language

A part of the theoretical framework is devoted to comment some previous studies that have disclosed the existing relations between language and ideology and which became evident in the last decades of the XX century. As brilliantly argued by Gutiérrez Vidrio (1998: 346):

The research developed by a number of traditions, from the philosophy of everyday language to hermeneutics, semeiotics, ethnomethodology and pragmatics have stressed the fact that language is not only a system of signs that describe the world, but also a means through which individuals act and interact in the social world. This recognition of language as a central aspect of the social and political life has propitiated the reorientation of the theories on ideology.

This is to say, ideology and language are intimately imbricated and the linguistic election is not usually arbitrary but frequently hides an ideological principle. The origins must be sought, in the first place, in the Marxist theory by means of which the existing relations between the material aspects and the ideations of reality were identified.

Another antecedent is found in Durkheim's (2006) sociological tradition, which conceived language as social semeiotics. Later on, Bakhtin and Voloshinov (1989) stated that language embodies and articulates the experience of social struggle, transition and combat. This made them conclude that the linguistic sign is deeply ideological. From this perspective, the use of language shows a broad variety of orientations for the social interests of particular stances in society. In like manner, Silverstein (2003) was another pioneer to point out the schism of ideology-language as a new field of knowledge.

But, what is understood by ideology? Van Dijk (1999: 31)concludes that "ideologies are a sort of shared social cognition", and concretely "specific fundamental beliefs". In other words, "the formation of ideological groups is generally based on more fundamental ideas, which indeed can influence others, more specific, of the group members" (Ibid.: 31).

These fundamental beliefs will become extendable by means of language. Van Dijk (1999: 33) points out that one of the sorts of relations that is established between ideology and language consolidates because of "the fact that ideological stances can constitute the meaning of the clauses, sentences or discourses of natural language". This will enable the members of the group to freely and directly access such concrete ideology.

The author also distinguishes how "the expression of general beliefs (knowledge, opinions) controlled by such ideologies is slightly less direct" (Ibid.: 33). This prevents, for instance, the journalist from openly exposing an ideology, and presents it pragmatically biased to lead the reader toward a concrete and partisan interpretation; on account of that, it is by means of language that groups control ideas and individuals. This exercise of ideological transmissions will be carried out through semantics and the linguistic form. At this point, we would like retake Thompson's (1986: 517) metaphorical language, when he observed that ideas:

do not flow in the social world as clouds in a summer sky, occasionally pouring their contents with the roll of thunder or the shine of a lightning. Ideas flow in the social world rather as sentences, expressions, as words that are spoken or written.

It is worth underlining the five modalities that he established to explain the functioning of an ideology. This way, Thompson (1993: 66-73) mentions:

  1. Legitimation: a domination system can be maintained if it is presented as something legitimate and irrefutable.

  2. Concealment or dissimulation: the power relations that serve the interests of some at the expense of those of the rest can be hidden, denied or blocked.

  3. Unification: it would comprise all the individuals of a collective identity (disregarding possible internal fissures).

  4. Fragmentation: the maxim for this modality will be "divide and rule [govern]". This is attained casting doubt in order to produce a schism in the groups and make them oppose one another at internal level.

  5. Reification: in this case, a transient situation would be presented as permanent, natural or timeless.

The study of ideology can also be linked to argument analysis (Guijarro Ojeda, 2013; Fisher and Gottweis, 2012). In 2003, Gutiérrez Vidrio (2003: 47) published a work in which the existing links are clearly exposed. This author defines argumentation as the "symbolical pressure that an individual exerts on the audience". Symbolical pressure that instinctively lead us to the world of ideas and by extension to the world of ideology. The clearest reference to delve into the analysis of argumentation is the one by Grize (1982; 1990; 1996), who distinguished five logical-discursive operations:

  1. Constitutive operations of the object: they determine the topic.

  2. Operations of appropriation: strengthen the credibility of schematization.

  3. Operations of composition: secure the text's coherence and cohesion.

  4. Operations of temporal and spatial localization: they spatio-temporarily locate the agents.

  5. Operations of value projection: they allow glimpsing the discursive subjectivity of the writer/author.

Gutiérrez Vidrio (2003) takes one step beyond and combines Thompson's statements (1993) with Grize's (1996) to create her own argument analysis model. This would be one of the references which we will resort to when we decode the latent ideology in the headlines related to the new Spanish abortion bill. Her proposal is depicted in the illustration at the end of the article.

Regarding this topic, we would like to refer to the strategies used in journalistic language to promote a persuasive approach. According to Sánchez García (2010: 79), in the strategies that the journalistic discourse uses to persuade are channeled either underscoring the factual nature of occurrences or building a solid relational structure for the facts, or else promoting information that also possesses attitudinal and emotional dimensions.

Blommaert (2006) underlines the lack of neutrality in speech and that we might extrapolate to journalistic language:

There is no such thing as a "neutral" real language; such a neutral is one metapragmatic categorization among many, though often the one that indexes power, authority, prestige, and status. Furthermore, one of the essential functions of language is ideological (m etapragmatic and indexical) framing: providing contextual cues about who speaks, in what mode, on which topic, and under what circumstances.

Other reference block at theoretical level focuses on the metaphorical language of the press, as this also has an influence in the ideological construction. The classification of the metaphor will start from the classic study by Lakoff and Johnson (2007). The first ones mentioned are the so called structural metaphors, which are defined as the structuring of a concept in terms of another.

The second type is know as orientational metaphor; this "does not structure a concept in terms of another but organizes a global system of concepts in relation to another [...]. Most have to do with spatial orientation: up-down, inside-out, front-back, deep-shallow, central-peripheral" (Ibid.: 50). These two are joined by ontological metaphors. In this case we consider: "occurrences, activities, emotions, ideas, etc., such as entities and substances" (Ibid.: 64)

Such metaphors enable the sender to speak from their experience "and treat them as discrete entities or substances of uniform nature. Once we identify our experiences as objects or substances, we can refer to them, categorize them, group them and quantify them, thereby reason on them" (Ibid.: 63).


The present work is supported on a corpus of headlines gathered from the written press in the period from December 18th to 23rd, 2013. These dates coincide with the previous and later debates in the public opinion provoked by the abortion bill from PP (People's Party), which ended up paralyzed in September, 2014. In total we had 50 headlines from four Spanish newspapers (El Mundo, 13 headlines; El País, 16 headlines; ABC, 12 headlines and La Razón, 9 headlines). At the end of the present work, in Annex, we present the table with the corpus we analyzed.

All headlines were examined taking as references the relation between language and ideology and how the former uses the latter to transmit the message. To do so, and following the percepts of qualitative methodology, the lexical categories recurring in the corpus were extracted (for instance, the concept of "right", "reactions of PP and PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party), "life", etc.).

Then these were analyzed in the light of the integrative schema proposed by Gutiérrez Vidrio (2003), in which concur the model of logical-discursive operations devised by Grize (1982) and the five operation modes of ideology proposed by Thompson (1993) (included in the Annex of this work).

To examine the headlines and articulate them with the ideological approach, we deepened into lexical election, linguistic and typographic features the author utilized to reinforce her viewpoint. This facilitated comparisons and contrasts between the news items in the newspapers, in addition to favor the simplification of data.

Closely linked is the study of language from a metaphorical perspective and that was another phase of the analysis. The classification we used was that by Lakoff and Johnson (2007), who distinguished between structural, orientational and ontological metaphors. In this phase we noticed the channeling of ideology through such rhetorical figure.

Corpus analysis and results

Researcher Gutiérrez Vidrio (1998) points out that for a study on the ideological stance in the press, it is convenient to focus on the operation of appropriation and of value projections (Grize, 1982, 1990, 1996), since it is where ideology most clearly manifests. However, in our case, the constitutive operations of the object do not make sense any more for we only approach a topic: the new abortion bill that PP has pushed and that will undergo parliamentary discussion. The other two ("operations of composition" and "operations of localization") are not pertinent either as this study is centered only on headlines.

Focusing on the first category, "operations of appropriation", we notice how a number of headlines resort to this strategy to give credibility to the news item; and consequently, the determination of the objects are presented as irrefutable. The aforementioned operations are very frequent in our corpus. This way, all the newspapers try to portray the actuality and veracity of the item of news, however making use of linguistic resources that hide utterly different effects.

For instance, El Mundo states that the "abortion bill places Spain at the back of the queue of Europa" legitimizing the information contrasting it similar laws in Europe. The rest of the papers obviates this inquiry and refers to the most polemical constitutive principles of the bill. Likewise, the comparative assessment the newspaper makes would be framed in Grize's (1996) "operations of value projection" and would directly relate to Thompson's (1993) "simulation" mode.

Three of the headlines that contain "right" and in most of the cases it appears in quotation marks, as they intend to transmit the readers that such information has been expressed by others, not them. In news item ELM 3, the journalist quotes PP words marking with simple quotations "right", directing the readers' attention to a concrete stance. It is noticeable that in the quotation the word "exception", which was also pronounced by the PP government, was omitted; albeit, El Mundo does not seem to share. La Razón nevertheless defines the report under the following heading: "PP: abortion "can never be a right" but an "exception"" (LAR 1).

Here we try to give veracity to the topic reproducing the literalness of the discourse, but extending quotations to adverbs such as "never" and to a noun that shares the Spanish right, "exception". Moreover, it is distinguishable the use of a colon after PP and which, from the authors' standpoint, presents the stance of this party in a resounding and direct way, with neither circumlocutions nor euphemisms.

ABC also gathers this informative item, but using the indirect style of verb dicendi "to say". El País, for its side, does not delve into this aspect because, as we will see, it opts for a more pro-choice vision, in which the right to decide is the argumentative ground.

Another thematic unit is presented by the answer PSOE gave when the draft bill was presented in the Council of Ministers. El Mundo gives credibility to its schematization using quotation marks in key words: "PSOE promises 'to stop' the 'abortion bill dictated by the far-right'" (ELM 5). The first part of the quotation was uttered by PSOE vice president, Elena Valenciano; while the second part corresponds to the secretary of Equality of the same party, feminist Purificación Causapié.

El País presents the item: "PSOE promises to stop the bill that deems women "incapable"" (ELP 11). The adjective "incapable" is stressed so that the correlation promoted by the right is clearly stated and which this newspaper does not support. La Razón expresses in similar terms, however changing the verb "promise" with "commit" and quoting "stop": "PSOE commits to "stop" a bill that deems women "incapable"" (LAR 9).

In spite of the similarity of headlines and finding two illocutionary acts, according to Searle's (1990: 32) Theory of speech acts, the verb "commit" implies a greater responsibility for the party than the verb "promise". DRAE (2016), Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, defines the former as "appoint someone to an obligation, be responsible for something" or "make a commitment"; whereas the latter is conceived as "force oneself to do, say, or give something". This is to say, La Razón imposes an obligation implying that they will not be able to fulfill it (La Razón deems unlikely that they win the election).

It is also clear that they do not deem women "incapable". This conceptualization has been made by socialist representatives. ABC accounts for this information with the following headline: PSOE will block a bill that has been made by "the enemies of women". Once more, we face a distancing, since the newspaper clearly states that quoted words have been spoken by others and it simply informs the readers.

Another informative group relates to the secret vote of the bill in the Parliament. It is only reported in two papers. El País puts it: "PSOE appeals to PP female representatives and will ask for a secret vote in the abortion bill" (ELP 8)". While ABC states it as: "PSOE urges the 76 PP female representatives to reject the abortion draft" (ABC 5).

The appropriation operations which journalists resort to are dissimilar. ELP 8 uses the verb "appeal" which according to DRAE (2016) defines as: "resort to someone or something whose authority, criterion or disposition is trusted to discern, resolve or favor an issue". This is to say, the intention of the party is to convince the opposition feminine sector to vote against the new abortion bill.

To do so, a perspective of dialogue between the proponent and opponent using secret vote as a mechanism is built. ABC 5, nevertheless, uses the verb "urge" that implicitly conveys a repetitive and insisting bias that may seem disproportionate to the eyes of the reader. Moreover, it adds the number of PP female representatives to show that it is well aware of the allotment of seats in the Congress. It is worth saying that the news item is fragmented to omit an important informative load: the secret vote that will grant, according to PSOE, greater liberty to vote this bill without adhering to vote discipline.

The ideological analysis will focus on the concept of "life" utilized by the newspapers. The headlines we will pay attention to are: "Derecho a Vivir [Right to live] criticizes that the bill allows a raped woman to abort as 'it punishes and innocent'" (ELM 4); "Pro-life associations are satisfied with the reform" (ABC 10); "The triumph of life against adversity. Commitment to life" (LAR 2); "Between 1985 and 2011 there have been 1.7 million abortions in Spain" (LAR 3); and, "PSOE's "defense of life": an abortion every five minutes" (LAR 5).

The paper that devotes more pages to this topic is La Razón. For this, it uses appropriation operations that will give credibility to the news item and legitimizes the information with textual quotations or concise data that reinforce the communicative intention. LAR 3 presents the figure of legal abortions in Spain since the first bill was approved in 1985. Data account up to the end of Zapatero's administration and omits the two most recent years of People's government, understating that abortion is a socialist measure.

Separately, the use of quotation marks is noteworthy in LAR 5; clearly, the paper wants to expose PSOE underscoring "defense of life" (the message can be read as "PSOE's defense of life", not ours). Additionally, it presents the number of abortions practiced in Spain as irrefutable (one every five minutes) and solely blames it on the previous left-wing governments.

Clearly, this paper fragments reality and mobilizes the meaning to awaken a reactionary attitude in the readers. The latent irony contributes to create a partial, selective and strategic micro-universe. Another headline in La Razón includes operations of value projection: "The triumph of life against adversity. Commitment to life" (LAR 2). It chooses the words "triumph" and "commitment" with a positive semantic load and reinforce the stance of the journalist in relation to abortion.

Pro-choice supporters are implicitly defined as the enemies. Finally, El Mundo and ABC focus on pro-life associations and show two complementary stances. The first paper makes use of textual quotations to validate the information and quotes "punishes an innocent" in view of ideologically detach from such conception of life. In a second headline, "Alarm among women and satisfaction for pro-life supporters" (ELM 11), this newspaper opposes two stances using antithesis ("alarm" vs. "satisfaction").

In this case, the ideology is simulated by a trope. It is worth noticing that in the noun chosen by the journalist to refer to the stance of women there is a commitment implicit greater than the selected to address pro-life supporters. ABC, for its part, uses a simple syntactic structure with the main verb omitted to produce a stylistic effect that powers information; the comma that separates them reinforces the latent ideological signification: pro-life associations, a minority in Spain, are contented with PP's proposal.

Another important thematic core is the reference to the content of the bill. The paper that devotes the most headlines to this analysis is El País. The item: "Not a trace of the measures against "structural violence"" (ELP 2) retakes the words Minister Gallardón utilized in March 2012 to argue about the possible reasons that make a woman abort.

This "structural violence" is one of the reproaches the paper makes to the government and to do so it writes the concept in quotation marks. Implicitly, the paper accuses the government of not being coherent with its discourse. In the headline: "The publicity of clinics that practice abortions is banned" (ELP 3), a feature that goes unnoticed for the other newspapers is underscored. The information is presented as irrefutable and the writer uses the same verb as the draft bill ("ban") with a heavy restrictive semantic load, which is shared with the readers.

The rest of the news items of this paper focuses on the suppositions that would legitimize abortion in Spain. In: "Direst and incurable anomalies but not mortal, with no protection" (ELP 5), we find an evident value projection given by the superlative form of the adjective "dire" and the adversative conjunction "but" and the expression "with no protection". Moreover, the adjectival sequence "direst", "incurable" and "mortal" exalts the unsupportive interpretation of the bill.

As for the format structure of the sentence, it is convenient to point out the effect created by the comma that separates the sentence. The pause is placed there intentionally so that the reader catches their breath before reading the final verdict. All these interpretative standpoints become a frontal opposition to the draft bill.

Other two items that refer to malformation are: "Half truths to limit the malformation supposition" (ELP 9) and "Violation is indeed a supposition, malformation not" (ELP 12). In ELP 9, it is observed how the journalist supports on an operation of value projection by means of assessing the information. Half truths annihilate themselves and turn into lies. The paper intends to become the reference source for the readers to learn that the government is not telling the whole truth.

The following headline (ELP 12) operates along the same line, this time however it adheres to factual information with no evident value referent. The adverb "indeed" strategically placed to have an intensifying function (it could have been omitted without a problem) allows glimpsing an important value appreciation. Furthermore, the opposition established between the two juxtaposed sentences veils a concrete stance: it is nonsense to omit malformation as a supposition for abortion.

El País concludes its content analysis with two more items: "The supposition of health comprehends almost everything" (ELP 15) and "A process fraught with obstacles" (ELP 14). Both items imply the idea of "obstruction". The first headline assesses the information with "comprehends almost everything", which indicates that very few will be the arguments that escape from the supposition of health. All of this would make us draw the conclusion that is accounted for in the second headline: the process will not be easy.

As noticed, the underlying criticism is identified with left-wing ideology. One last item published in El País is: "Decalogue of the "Law of Protection to the Life of the Conceived"" (ELP 16). Obviously, the journalist stirs the readers' interest in learning more about the precepts that operate in the new law, but does not make it in an aseptic manner, but calling the attention on the polemical name of the law. Quotation marks are used so that the key concepts of "life" and "the conceived" will not go unnoticed. Curiously, the biases that are most frequently related to "the conceived" are religious in nature.2

El Mundo seems to opt for a more distant interpretation and does not take a stance in relation to the suppositions in the new bill. Conversely, it does refer to the time for reflection before abortion: "Women will have to wait for 7 days before aborting" (ELM 7). In this case, the argumentation is provided with veracity by means of the data from the draft itself, however the journalist does take the liberty to introduce it with the verb "have to".

Semantically, it has another important value load since it denotes compulsoriness and external imposition. From a different viewpoint, it would be worth wondering how reflection can be assessed if it is a purely cognitive task, therefore immensurable. A more personal vision makes us pinpoint the religious intertextuality underlying number seven; for Christian faith, seven symbolizes, among other, perfections, virtues,3 sacraments,4 the [seven] deadly sins5 and the creation of world.

In the draft bill, as it is expressed in the headline, the option is the number instead of the synonym "week" which in this context would have the same value and break any intertextual connection. The two other news items focus on the medical side of the bill and emphasize the new legal demand. On the one side, in the headline: "The new abortion bill 'demands' psychical risk insurance for the mother" (ELM 8), the journalist uses single quotation marks to stress the word "demands".

This marker makes the verb connotations move forward and the writer's value appreciation is disclosed. The same effect is produced by "only" in the following headline: "Women can only abort with two psychiatric reports" (ELM 10). El Mundo looks at the medical-administrative procedure, but omits the steps prior to suppositions, without which women would not be able to ask for the psychiatric reports. This is to say, a pro-choice stance is outlined. But not as open as in El País.

ABC is another paper that deepens into the internal analysis of the bill. Three are the headlines that summarize the news times: "Twelve questions and answers to understand the abortion draft bill" (ABC 1); "Differences between the abortion reforms of PSOE and PP" (ABC 8); and, "Abortion limits to serious risk for the mother and rape" (ABC 9). Differences between this and the previous newspaper are blatant.

In this case, the item heads toward the comprehension and justification of the new bill and the criticism to the previous (both pushed by PSOE). The reader does not face alarmist headlines any more such as those in El País, or in a moderate way, in El Mundo. Here, the paper starts from the idea that the reform was necessary, therefore, it makes it comprehensible for the citizen. The ideology would operate by means of legitimization and universalization, and would fit into Grize's (1996) appropriation operations.

Credibility is guaranteed by the argumentative schema that is selected: questions and answers to avoid any missing links. Headline ABC 8 contains an operation of value projection as it compares previous abortion bills (9/1985 and 2/2010). Obviously, differences favorable to the newspaper's editorial line will be the ones distinguished in order to prevent ideological conflicts with the readers.

In ABC 9, abortion is approached from exception and it is underlined that occasionally women would be able to abort under very concrete conditions. The value projection of the headline is outlined with the verb "limits", which leads to think that the issue is controlled and unsurpassably delimited.

A new informative parcel affects the decriminalization of abortion for women, ABC utilizes an expositive-explanatory schema to highlight a great democratic advance: pregnant women do not have any responsibility in abortion. According to Grize (1996), in this case the operations of value projection prevail, as the newspaper announces that it will go beyond factual information to emphasize the novelty: "Keys and new requirements to validate decriminalized abortion for women" (ABC 7).

El País puts it this way: "Unlawful abortion would be a crime with no punishment for pregnant women" (ELP 6). The items is stripped of any novelty and a lexical field related to the (il)legality is built: "unlawful", "crime" and "no punishment".

The defended stance is clearly contrary to the measure, because if the action remains out of the bill, it also has to share responsibility. Therefore, even though a priori it may seem that the journalist only shares information, the way of articulating and combining language conveys an added intentionality.

Let us open a new thematic line that we might call "promises and political reproaches". ABC devotes a large part of its headlines to praise PP's political endeavors. This way, we find: "Rajoy delivers the abortion draft bill" (ABC 6), "It was in our electoral program and it is in the same line as the one approved by PSOE in 1985" (ABC 12); or, "The bill improves, the task continues" (ABC 4).

The first and second are intimately linked, even though in one prevails the operation of value projection (delivers); whereas, in the other the information is legitimized with a direct-modified quotation of President Rajoy.6 While the paper congratulates PP because of its adherence to its electoral program, the political party excuses bringing back an 80's law with the added reading: "we are not the only ones, they also did it".

The words of the Justice Minister are in like manner reflected in the headline: "Gallardón: "PSOE broke the consensus with the bill of terms"" (ABC 11). The source is perfectly identified and the words awake the discourse "inherited" from the previous legislation. ABC thus justifies the reform, as the opposition broke unity and, therefore the communicative intention pinpoints them as the authentically guilty.

El Mundo and El País make an assessment of the law from two opposing angles. One praises the legality of the reform: "A bill more suited for the TC doctrine" (ELM 9), and the other catalogues it as the most restrictive norm since 1978: "The government approves the most restrictive abortion bill in democracy" (ELP 1). Those same words are used by El Mundo in the following headline: "The left and the nationalists agree: "it is the most restrictive norm in Occident"" (ELM 12). In this case, the credibility of schematization has been accomplished by means of an operation of appropriation (textual quotation).

The religious bias is also analyzed. El País uses a direct quotation that supports pro-choice stances: "Catholic or not, any woman must be free to decide if she aborts" (ELP 10). The first part of the headline exposes the thesis and then denies it to make it extensible to any religious belief. The protagonist of the item is a woman, central agent of the process.

La Razón, however, resorts to the stance of the ecclesiastical Curia to approach the news item: "For the Episcopal Conference, "of the evils, it is the lesser"" (LAR 4). Once again, information is legitimized by means of direct language and clearly states that the Catholic Church approves of the measure, despite it would like it to be stricter.

Headline ELP 13 accounts for the opinion of the feminine collective with a direct quotation: "We are mature to decide on pregnancy on our own". Although a priori the use of quotation marks may indicate the ideological distancing of the journalist, we notice that the headline is presented with no source. This draws near the stance of the paper and that of the collective that expressed it. Ideology also appears in this headline by means of unification, as it resorts to an opinion to symbolize the stance of women in relation to a new abortion bill.

Metaphorical language in headlines

The efficacy of theoretical resources is openly recognized by the analysts of journalistic and political language. As rightly Zorrilla Barroso (2002: 112-113) indicates:

The use of figurative language in the headlines obeys several journalistic reasons, in addition to attract the reader's attention by means of the appellative function, as it is the possibility of adapting the text to the available space and the desire to show a proper and identifiable style. (...). Tropes are employed in headlines to create suggestive and enriching images of the expression if they are commanded with narrative mastery. On the contrary, tropes can also be an easy way for the penetration of rhetoric in journalist language with manipulative and biased ends. This temptation is even larger in the headlines that are forced to condense a large amount of information with limited linguistic resources and which can find in the tropes the opportunity to intentionally apply rhetoric-laden language to headline texts.

We have decided on the examination of metaphor in the corpus of this study. One of the headlines in which we find this trope is: "The abortion bill puts Spain at the back of the queue" (ELM 1). In this case, metaphoric language is utilized to refer the consequences for Spain of a law on abortion that PP intends to approve in this legislature. El Mundo augurs an important setback in relation to Europe and so it dares to state that Spain will be the last in the European Union.

The metaphor "at the back of the queue", following Lakoff and Johnson (2007), would be orientational, as "they do not structure a concept in terms of another, but organize a global system of concepts in relation to another" (Ibid.: 50). According to Sánchez García (2009: 168), the analogy would be: "it is positive what lies ahead because it is what we have in sight, while we tend to mistrust what is in the background, because it is hidden".

Be at the back is to be delayed, therefore, it supposes an important setback. This would link to the second item in El Mundo ("Go to prehistory", ELM 2) in which, once again, we have an orientational metaphoric use to indicate that the bill means going back, to a remote past when abortion was present in a different way. This idea of regression is also metaphorically treated in El País with a similar headline: "Back to the past" (ELP 7). Once more, going back over one's footsteps is negative and detrimental to the Spanish people.

We find another metaphor in El País in the item: "Opposition and feminist organizations charge against the draft", where the battling element "charge against" is introduced for the future abortion bill. Here, we would face a structural metaphor, as a concept is ordained (social rejection for the bill) in terms or another (the beginning of a struggle to stop the reform).

In the headline: "PP applauds the "juridical certainty " and medical "experience"" (ELM 13), and ontological metaphor is glimpsed. There is a direct attribution of human actions to an abstract concept such as a political party and to the direct object, recipient of the action of the verb.

La Razón uses a container ontological metaphor in the headline: "An end to bypassing abortion filters" (LAR 6). According to Sánchez García (2009: 172), "container metaphors difference from the rest of metaphors in that they are supported on an inside-outside orientation. In this particular case, apart from reifying certain concepts, there is influence on the possibilities of holding something inside or emptying". This way, the new law will have a much tighter structure to prevent unborn organisms from bypassing; thereby, all that remains inside is good, what is filtered is bad.

Another example of metaphoric language is: "A process fraught with obstacles" (ELP 14). The journalist conceives the protocol the new law will establish on abortion as a winding road full of impediments and barriers. According to Lakoff and Johnson's (2007) classification, we have an orientational metaphor in which it is implicit that women would be forced to repeatedly correct their ways before obtaining a permission to abort.

This same paper offers another example of this sort of ontological metaphor by attributing human traits to abstract or unanimated realities. This way, the personification in the headline: "The supposition of health comprehends almost everything" (ELP 15) is expressed by "comprehends", which attributes the "supposition of health" a quality of possession alien to its meaning. By using this comparison, the power of one of the suppositions considered in the abortion bill is magnified.

El Mundo utilizes another ontological metaphor in the headline: "Supporters of public health point out the new abortion bill as 'sadistic'" (ELM 6). The rhetorical figure is located in "point out [the new abortion bill] as sadistic". The law is attributed inherently human characteristics with a high pejorative load, since sadism is a sexual perversion that is being equated to a law.


The pragmatic analysis carried out in this study enables the partial verification of the starting hypothesis, according to which there would be a defined anti-abortionist (pro-life) stance in the conservative press (El Mundo, ABC and La Razón) and a pro-abortionist (pro-choice) in the left-wing press (El País). As it was noticed at different moments over the research, ABC and La Razón do not allow faltering in their ideological stance: the reform to the abortion bill is a peremptory need to amend the disorder produced by PSOE in 2010 (Organic Law 2/2010, March 3rd, Sexual and reproductive health and voluntary termination of pregnancy).

El País, for its part, directly opposes the structuring principles expressed in the draft bill and criticizes them from various standpoints. As a consequence, we witness a defense of left-wing ideas and an attack to every measure that comes from the opposite pole. The only exception we have found is the newspaper El Mundo.

Although we ideologically classify it as conservative (center-right) and so we expected it did not oppose the PP proposal, the headline analysis demonstrates the contrary. By and large, there is advocacy for women's rights and criticism to the restrictive character of the new law. As we have previously pointed out, this paper's attitude is more moderate than that of El País, however both go along the same direction.

As for the objectives of the work, the first pursued an ideological assessment of our linguistic corpus, but focusing on Grize's (1996) and Thompson's (1993) studies on the transmission of ideology. To accomplish them, we have described the headlines grouping them by topic and comparing them to notice the differences very clearly. The analysis has glaringly exposed the latent ideology in each of the newspapers as well as the linguistic, semantic or typographic resources that reinforce each informative thesis.

Finally, the second objective tried to recognize the metaphoric language used in the headlines as a vehicle to transmit ideology. From the assessment it is noticed that one of the uses of metaphors is closely linked to reinforce a concrete ideological viewpoint. No use of rhetoric language is arbitrary but words, now more than ever, are loaded with semantic biases that make the ideology-language binary dissociation very difficult.


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1The underlying ideology of the selected newspapers is: El Mundo, center-right; El País, left; ABC, right; La Razón, right.

2According to the Diachronic Corpus of the Spanish Language [Corpus Diacrónico del Español] (CORDE, 2016), 19.41% is linked to religious prose; 18.92% to narrative prose; 16.74% to historical prose; 14.64% to scientific prose; 11.10% to didactic prose; 5.83% to society prose; 3.34% to juridical prose; 3.34% to lyrical verse; 1.61% to dramatic verse, and in the category "others" there would be 3.16%.

3Humility, generosity, chastity, patience, temperance, charity and diligence.

4Baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing, order, marriage.

5Greed, gluttony, lust, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

6The textual words would be: "it was something that was in our electoral program and we have produced a regulation that I assume will be presented today after its approval by the Council of Ministers, in the same line the 1985 bill that ruled Spain for 20 years and that was approved under Felipe González" [].


Table 1: Press headlines 

Received: December 14, 2014; Accepted: February 18, 2016

Raúl Ruiz Cecilia. Doctor in Didactics of Language and Literature. Ascription institution: University of Granada, Spain. Research lines: foreign language teaching, multicultural literature, critical discourse analysis, language and ideology and gender studies. Recent publications: Guijarro Ojeda, J.R. and R. Ruiz Cecilia, "Perceptions of Spanish EFL trainee teachers on the introduction of queer issues in the classroom", in Onomázein 27, June, (2013); Ruiz Cecilia, R., "Estudio empírico sobre la incidencia del léxico en la comprensión de la lengua extranjera", in RLA. Revista de lingüística teórica y aplicada, vol. 51, no. 2 (2013); Pérez-Valverde, C. and R. Ruiz Cecilia, "The development of FL teachers' professional identity through the production of narratives", in Portalinguarum, no. 22, (2014).

Juan Ramón Guijarro Ojeda. Doctor in Didactics of Language and Literature. Ascription institution: University of Granada, Spain. Research lines: critical discourse analysis, gender studies, language teacher training. Recent publications: Guijarro Ojeda, Juan Ramón and Raúl Ruiz Cecilia, "Los discursos del género en Español Lengua Extranjera: A propósito de Pedro Almodóvar", in Hispania. A Journal Devoted to the Teaching of Spanish and Portuguese, vol. 94, no. 1 (2011); Guijarro Ojeda, Juan Ramón and Raúl Ruiz Cecilia, "Perceptions of Spanish EFL trainee teachers on the introduction of queer issues in the classroom", in Onomázein: Revista de Lingüística, Filología y Traducción, vol. 27, no. 1 (2013); Barozzi, Stefano and Juan Ramón Guijarro Ojeda, "Sexual identities in EFL at primary school level: A pre-service teachers' perspective from Spain", in Porta Linguarum, vol. 25, no. 1 (2016).

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