The Function of Religious Language in the Media: A Comparative Analysis of the Japanese, German and American Newspaper Coverage about the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Yukiko Sato, Ikumi Waragai


When an incident or event in a certain region will be reported by the mass media in a different language, the choice of expressions, the perspective and aim of their message will differ. This study analyzes the news coverage of events related to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in German, American and Japanese newspapers. It will aim to uncover expressional differences in the coverage on a similar topic reported in different languages. This research especially focuses on the use of religious language in the coverage, which in this paper refers to religious metaphors and symbols originating from a Christian context. Previous research shows that the use of religious language in the media, affects consumers mentally and emotionally. Based on that theory, this study compares how religious language is used in the coverage and tries to clarify the functions of religious expressions through a critical discourse analysis. The results show that religious language appears continuously in German and American news reports related to the disaster. Religious language is mostly used symbolically as well as metaphorically in order to illustrate the destruction caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, while at the same time conveying emotions such as the fear of the victims. It is also used to describe the difficulties, suffering and hope of the people in the disaster-hit area. Moreover religious language provokes emotions in the readers and makes it easier for them to understand the situation in Japan as well as the feelings of the disaster refugees.  A difference between the German and American news coverage was seen in the description of the situation at the nuclear power plant and the state of the victims in Fukushima and the Tohoku region. In Germany, religious language can change the viewpoint of and provoke emotions in the readers. It is also employed to emphasize domestic social and political problems related to German energy policy.


language and media; german and american news coverage; religious language; 3.11 news reports

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Published by INSIGHT - Indonesian Society for Knowledge and Human Development