olitical life has been increasingly characterized by the presence of international and transnational influence in our globalized world. Most political
events are presented for national and non-national readership in the mass media. For non-national players to be able to learn about political events in
another country it is inevitable that translation be involved in the majority of cases: the scenario necessitates that texts in the media be translated
from the native language into a lingua franca, mainly into English.
Concerning the translation of political texts, Baker (2006) very precisely and concisely
points out that translation is a two-edged sword that can render the source text in a way that the resulting target text contains, or alternatively, does
not contain political manipulation. She also claims that this is especially true for political texts used in the mass media. In fact, it often turns out
that some countries receive international criticism because some news, act, political action, etc. has, purposefully or inadvertently, been translated to
reflect negatively on the given country or political entity (e.g. Baker (2006), Valdeón (2007), Chan (2007), Schäffner (1998), Schäffner
(2004). It is this political manipulation that the present study seeks to describe by offering a theoretical model capable of pinpointing such
How can we trace political manipulation in source and target texts with the help of
linguistic means? How can we figure out what is happening when these texts are construed or received? It is hoped that the theoretical model described in
the present study will help uncover the answers to these highly intriguing and currently pressing questions.
It is also hoped that the use of the TPMC Model and the research findings produced through it will generate awareness of the presence of possible political manipulation in translations.
The present study investigates political communication with special regard to how the
media, and within it the press, can manipulate its audience. It will be examined in what ways the receivers of political texts are influenced by mediatized
communication, including translation. The theoretical model described in the paper was designed to interpret the findings of the Translation-centered
Discourse-Society Interface Model (TDSI Model), which has been described in detail in the following publications: Bánhegyi (2010, 2011a, 2011b).
Nevertheless, the theoretical model introduced here can also be used on its own for the purpose of uncovering manipulation and bias in mediatized political
texts. The theoretical model introduced here does not claim itself to be the exclusive approach to the examination of mediatized political texts in
Translation Studies: it is merely presented as a possible approach as is customary in the domain of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), in which the present
study is conceptualized. Nor is the theoretical model tested for validity or reliability, since it must be noted that CDA cannot be fully objective as it
deals with the interpretation of “socially-based mental construct[s]” (van Dijk 1997: 16), which includes space for subjective interpretations
on the part of researcher due to the fact that researchers perceive context through their own minds.
In its structure, this study will portray the relationship between political science and
mass communication in general, and will elaborate on the following communication-related issues: reality, the presentation of reality, and bias. Reality
and the presentation of reality will be described within the framework of Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatized Political Reality Theory and
Mazzoleni’s (2002) Classification of Active Audience. Bias will be approached using Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias. The
study will conclude by introducing the Translation-centered Political Mass Communication Analytical Model, which has partly been specifically designed for
the interpretation of the findings of the Translation-centered DiscourseSociety Interface Model (TDSI Model) in the context of source and target texts
used in political mass communication. Centering on the issues of reality and bias, the current approach will reflect a constructivist approach to
discursive political science and will investigate how political meanings are constructed by political texts (Szabó 2003).
With reference to the terminology used in the paper, the terms text producer, media, and occasionally journalist (the latter depending on the context) also include the translator, who renders texts presented in the
2. Political communication and the media
The research of mediatized political communication began almost right after the emergence of mass media. It was established as early as the end of the
1940s that the political message (shortest possible meaningful summary of a political text) and the gist of political texts (shortest meaningful summary of
a political text containing all the topics and themes described in the text) play a very important role in political communication (concerning its
implications in Translation Studies cf. Bánhegyi 2011b, Tirkkonen-Condit 1985, Chilton and Schäffner 1997). According to Lasswell (1948), in
terms of the content of journalists’ or politicians’ messages, the emphasis is placed on what the sender says and not on the linguistic
characteristics of the message or the context in which the political communication takes place (qtd. in Mazzoleni 2002: 101). With a view to this, it was
realized at a rather early stage of mediatized communication that politically it is crucial what the media communicates and that it is also decisivehow the media communicates. Apart from the realization that the communicated message must be interesting and argumentative for the receiver (Hovland et al. ), it was also established that the media has a crucial role in presenting the communicated messages and events. If a political message
is broadcast giving preference to a certain ideology, we talk about bias in the media in favor of one or more political parties (Marletti , Gamson
and Modigliani , Semetko et al. ).
It is not an uncommon phenomenon that the media and political parties are closely or
loosely affiliated. In terms of this connection between the media and political parties, Mazzoleni (2002) argues that the press has always shown more party
bias than radio or television. Interestingly, articles published in the press make party bias more visible than other mediatized genres do. As for the
possible reasons for the phenomenon of increased party bias in the press, Mazzoleni (2002) enumerates the following two causes. First, the press has always
had the opportunity to reflect more extensively on different political opinions along the course of history due to its comprehensive and more exhaustive
coverage of events. Second, traditionally certain papers were established to be the instruments of groups of people (e.g. parties) with a view to serving
the economic and political interests of these groups. A third cause, in our view, may also be that, due to political and ideological reasons, certain
moneyed groups will financially support newspapers airing certain ideologies even if such a venture does not produce (immediate) financial returns.
Obviously, if that is the case, such a paper will have no other choice but to exhibit the political and ideological bias of its owner.
Discussing the relationship between the press and the political elite, Mazzoleni (2002)
also adds that quality papers have always aimed at reflecting the opinions and the points of view of the cultural and political elite. It is also
noteworthy, Mazzoleni (2002) claims, that the mainstream press is seeking a privileged position and connections with the political elite and profits from
them. In terms of bias, this clearly means that a quality paper linked with the cultural and political elite that feeds it will lean, i.e. exhibit bias,
Concerning the relationships between the media and political parties, Semetko et al. (1991) point out that a close connection exists between the political parties and the media in Europe: the media is traditionally an
ideological agent in society; therefore it is subordinated to parties and their leaders. In terms of bias, this suggests that, depending on the political
party with which the given newspapers are linked overtly or covertly, the papers will communicate that party’s stance, will represent its interests
in issues that are publicized, and will reproduce its ideology. As a corollary to this, it can be stated that the newspapers which are linked to parties in
government will tend towards advocacy journalism, while opposition-related papers are likely to work along watchdog journalistic lines (Semetko et al. ). Advocacy journalism presents and defends the government’s standpoint, whereas watchdog journalism criticizes and attacks the
government. Hungarian dailies are obviously no exception and seem to follow the same trend (cf. Szabó ).
If we accept that parties do influence the media, it seems practical to establish to
what extent this happens or can happen. With reference to the party bias of the media, Blumler and Gurevitch (1990) distinguish the following four levels
of party bias:
High level of party bias
: when parties exercise no direct control over information channels, but there is an indirect control through political-ideological cooperation with
Medium level of party bias
: when the media support a given party or a certain political position, yet this support depends on the critical evaluation of politicians’
actions or on the content of certain political stances;
Low level of party bias
: when media support by political parties is sporadic and unpredictable, since the media is not dependent on the political events. This means that the
events that take place in the given country and have a political significance do not necessarily surface in the media, that no party or group has the
power to arrange for the coverage of events in the media;
No party bias
: full political and editorial autonomy.
Even though it is Level 4 that would be desirable for objective journalism, seldom does
a newspaper enjoy financial independence from decision-makers to an extent that would make full objectivity feasible. This is especially true in Hungary,
where the newspaper market cannot in fact support all the daily papers and where non-party-biased central government support under certain political powers
in government is virtually non-existent.
With respect to potential media bias in a given political environment, Mazzoleni (2002)
claims that non-biased normative and ethical principles of journalism are a key factor that influences the level of media bias: the higher the level of
keeping to the normative and ethical principles of journalism, the fewer instances of advocacy and watchdog journalism can be observed.
3. Political reality
The actual reality of political events, the presented reality in political texts and their relationship have long been in the focus of
political communication. Actual reality here denotes the political events as they happen, while presented reality comprises all the ways and means
political reality is communicated through different channels and the media. Certain political communication approaches to political reality and the
presentation of actual reality center around the ways political reality is reflected in the construction of news pieces (McQuail ) or in agenda
setting (McCombs ), i.e. what political events are discussed in news pieces and what political events will be part of longer-term political plans or
agendas. Besides this, certain other approaches focus on the notion that the majority of receivers, who are not present when certain political events take
place and do not personally experience the political event in question themselves, are provided only with a linguistic expression of it (Corcoran ,
Edelman , Oakeshott , Szabó ). This suggests that the linguistic expression of a political event may give a different perception of
the event than experiencing the event itself. This latter approach to political reality has fueled research on the effects political reality presented in
the context of mediatized politics exerts on the receivers of such mediatized reality and the society concerned.
Investigating the relationship between the media and political events based on
Crespi’s (1994) account of the research of the Chicago School, and especially the work of Mead (1934) and Gurevitch and Blumler (1990), Mazzoleni
(2002) appoints forming the social structure of reality to be the central role of the media. This term refers to “the ability to structure the
system of meanings characterizing and guiding individuals’ actions in society” (Mazzoleni 2002: 60, translation by the author); in other words,
providing a mediatized interpretation of political events. Obviously, characterizing and guiding in such a social and political context
cannot result in an unbiased presentation of political reality, especially since we are talking about the interpretation of political events by a
person working for the media. Given the role of the media in political communications and the fact that the media interprets political events, the
presentation of such events is seen as manipulative in the present context (cf. Szabó 2003).
In connection with manipulation, in accordance with the constructivist approach to
discursive political science, Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatized Political Reality Theory differentiates between three categories of the actual political
reality as it is presented by the media:
, which denotes events, people, and activities related to a political evente.g. a government and its decisionswithout any orientation to
presentation or distortion, i.e. exclusively the actual events, people and activities are presented;
, which relates to the same objective reality but this reality is perceived from the perspective of the participants of this reality and the audience
of such political reality. Here participants basically means the people taking part in and/or being affected by the political events in
question, e.g. voters, families, journalists, etc.;
refers to those events that will be visible, perceivable and will make sense to non-insiders or non-professionals, i.e. to all others than politicians
and politics scholars, only if the media, in its own interpretation, presents these events. Presentation encapsulates establishing connections between
political events and providing an explanation thereof.
It follows from the above that the political reality presented by a journalist will fall
into the category of either subjective or constructed reality (or both, as these may overlap). It is important to note here that argumentative texts such
as newspaper articles are likely to be categorized in one of the above categories (portraying subjective or constructed reality) as these articlesdue to
their argumentative naturedescribe political events and establish causal relationships between them, as well as present these events from the perspective
of the author (and the translator) of the mediatized text. Argumentative texts, on the other hand, are most likely to offer explanations of political
events as they describe political events and establish connections between such events as part of their argumentation.
Whatever is non-objectivelet it be subjective reality as perceived by the journalist
or constructed reality as a result of the journalist’s political explanationsis inevitably bias-prone, and nothing constructed can exist
independently of its constructor(s). Such a non-objective scenario will without doubt result in a subjective and therefore biased presentation of events,
people and political activities. Besides, objective reality in itself can never be presented, since it is impossible to give an account of events “as
they are”: in the case of the press, political events are always presented through the mind of journalists, who interpret the events in their
Another important factor in the presentation of political reality on the part of
political text producers, including journalists and translators of political texts, is active audience (Mazzoleni 2002). Active audience describes
how the journalist and the translator as citizens relate to the political issues that are currently on the political agenda. Journalists and translators
may observe differences in stance between the various parties and may well sympathize with the party that best represents their views (Mazzoleni 2002) and
consequently express their sympathy in texts through their presentation of constructed reality. Similarly, when journalists and translators expose
themselves to the effects of political texts, they may want to reinforce their own opinion on any given issue in any context: that is, it may well happen
that journalists produce articles and translators produce translations that reflect their own political views through the presentation of constructed
In connection with the presentation of political reality and the political potential
that lies in it, Noelle-Neumann (1984) and Losito (1994) observe that through the media powerful groups with high interest representation potential are
able to give voice to their political opinion repeatedly and markedly, as a result of which the receivers of such political texts assume that these
opinions are decisive.
As noted above, it is almost impossible to present political reality or write about it
in an objective manner. If this non-objective presentation often happens and is done in line with certain tendencies, we talk about bias, which is
discussed in more detail below.
4. Types of bias
The media’s incapacity to provide receivers with objective reality seems to allow for the speculation about whether the media can even choose to
deliberately present a certain subjective or constructed political reality and/or can depict political reality in a way that the resulting presentation is
coherent with the political stances or world views of certain powerful groups (Gitlin , Entman , Mazzoleni ). If objective political
reality is purposefully presented as subjective or constructed reality, relying on Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias, we talk about intentional bias. Should subjective or constructed reality be presented in order to achieve an ideological goal, manipulation is occurring.
Manipulation is in fact “the product/result of the partiality and one-sidedness of the media presenting messages in the interest of one or more
parties of the political system” (Mazzoleni 2002: 27, translation by the author), which is an obvious expression of intentional bias.
According to Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias, apart from intentional bias, inadvertent bias also exists, in which case journalists are unaware of their subconscious tendencies of presenting subjective or constructed
reality. We shall exclude such instances from the current investigation, since the present study does not extend to the exploration of subconscious
tendencies of text producers (including journalists and translators). As a consequence, we will presuppose that text production will reflect conscious
tendencies, including the possible application of intentional bias.
The creation or distortion of reality
With reference to the possible causes of intentional bias, it has been pointed out that journalists may have their own political preference: they may be
affiliated to a party or a government, and can therefore produce texts that are telling of these sympathies or bear the textual marks of the effects of
these affiliations (Blumler and Gurevitch 1990: 275). On the part of journalists, personal political affiliations that manifest themselves as bias on a
textual level will be termed personal political bias in the present theoretical context (political bias in Mazzoleni’s 
Theory of Bias to be precise). Translators may also exhibit personal political bias in their target texts. This practically means that journalists and
translators reproduce their own political convictions in their articles or translations, respectively.
However, Mazzoleni (2002) also asserts that the professional norms and standards
required by journalism in general and/or by a specific medium a given journalist works for equally play a dominant role in causing bias to appear in
newspieces. If a journalist abides by these professional norms and standards, the resulting text will show, according to Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of
Bias, structural bias. That is, newspieces will reflect the professional norms and standards of the medium publishing the given piece. These norms
and standards can prescribe a most objective or less objective presentation of political reality, the production of argumentative texts or sensational
articles, as the case may be, suited to the type and nature of the actual medium and so on. This also suggests that certain media, as dictated by their
professional norms and standards, publish newspieces that exhibit left-wing or right-wing political bias, are argumentative or sensational in their nature,
etc. Such features describe the structural bias of these articles.
With reference to the current study, the bias present in political mass communication
links up with the TDSI Model as the bias in political communication “is the source of power: it is an instrument to exercise influence, it has a
controlling and innovative role in society” (Mazzoleni 2002: 40, translation by the author). This suggests that bias and the presentation of reality,
on the one hand, and society, context, power and ideology, on the other hand, are interrelated in the domain of political mass communication. Below, it
will be clarified how the diverse forms of reality and bias present in source and target texts will be interpreted in the light of political mass
communication through a two-component analytical model, the Translation-centered Political Mass Communication Model (TPMC Model). It will also be described
how the two components of reality and bias link up with the four components of the TDSI Model. In fact, the TPMC Model will be used for the interpretation
of the findings obtained through the TDSI Model.
5. The Translation-centered Political Mass Communication Model
The TPMC Model has been specifically designed for the interpretation of the findings obtained through the TDSI Model. Nonetheless, the TPMC Model can also
be used independently. In fact, the TPMC Model accounts for and explains the results generated by the TDSI Model from a functional perspective and will
allow for drawing conclusions in connection with journalist and translator behavior as well as translators’ critical awareness with reference to the
translation of political texts.
The TPMC Model is made up of the following two components: Reality, as defined in
Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatized Political Reality Theory, and Bias, as defined in Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias. As the TDSI Model
reveals textual features connected to the social-political context of source and target texts as well as the reproduction of power and ideology in these
texts, one can account for and explain these textual features by finding answers as to why the source texts are constructed the way they are and why the
target texts are translated the way they are in relation to the political mass communication function of the texts in question. As the primary function of
all political texts is to persuade receivers (Oakeshott 2001: 193), the presentation of reality and bias is crucial as through them a certain reality can
be presented, explained and politically positioned for receivers in order to promote certain political interests.
In light of the above, the Reality component of the TPMC Model focuses on the objective
or non-objective presentation of political reality in newspieces and their translations. In the TPMC Model, Reality has two aspects: subjective reality and constructed reality. The term subjective reality denotes the reality perceived from the perspective of the
participants of this political reality and the method of the presentation of this reality. In a Translation Studies-oriented research context, this implies
that both the journalist and the translator will phrase their own subjective realities in the texts they produce, since they are participants of the
political events pictured in the source and target texts.
Constructed reality refers to those events that are presented through the interpretation
of the media and describes the method of the presentation of this interpreted reality. In a Translation Studies-focused research context, this implies that
the journalists will present certain political events through their own interpretation in their newspieces functioning as source texts, while translators
in their target texts will also produce their respective interpretation of the political reality in question, naturally within the limits afforded by the
The other component of the TPMC Model, Bias, refers to journalists’ and
translators’ personal political convictions and to the professional norms and standards of journalism and of the translation of political texts. The
Bias component incorporates two aspects: personal political bias and structural bias. Personal political bias denotes personal political
affiliations, which appear as bias on a textual level: such bias is manifested by journalists and translators as personal political affiliation with
traceable textual signs. In the context of the current study, this implies that the journalists will include their personal political views in the source
texts as they most probably sympathize with the political side whose newspapers employ them, and likewise translators will have their own political
convictions, which they may incorporate in their target texts.
The second aspect of Bias, structural bias, denotes professional norms and standards
associated with text production. In the context of the present study, structural bias can function in the following way: journalists observe the
professional norms and standards required by the journals that employ them, whereas translators will be guided by the professional norms and standards of
translation as perceived by them. It is likely that both journalists and translators will strive to produce texts that satisfy the editorial boards or
For the sake of clarity, Table 1 displays the aspects of the Translation-centered
Political Mass Communication Model broken down into the two components of the Model.
Translation-centered Political Mass Communication Model Component: Reality
reality perceived from the perspective of the participants of this reality (journalists and translators) and the presentation of this
events presented through the interpretation of the media or translation as well as the presentation of this interpretation
Translation-centered Political Mass Communication Model Component: Bias
personal political bias
journalists’ and translators’ personal political affiliations that are manifested as bias on a textual level
the professional norms and standards of journalism and of the translation of political texts that are manifested as bias on a textual level
Table 1: The components and aspects of the Translation-centered Political Mass Communication Model
As mentioned above, the TPMC Model can be used for the interpretation of the findings
obtained through the four components of the TDSI Model: the two components of the TPMC Model will be linked to the four components of the TDSI Model. In
practice this means that the output of the four components of the TDSI Model will serve as the input of the two components of TPMC Model in the theoretical
model introduced here.
The four-component TDSI Model reveals textual features with reference to the
social-political context of source and target texts (component Context), social action hoped to be achieved by the texts (Action component) and the
reproduction of power (Power component) and ideology (Ideology component). The TPMC Model’s Reality component centers on the presentation of
political reality, while the Bias component on personal political convictions and professional norms and standards of text production. In an attempt to
interpret the findings of the TDSI Model with the help of TPMC Model, the findings obtained with the help of the Action and Ideology components of the TDSI
Model are explicated through the TPMC Model Bias component, while the findings obtained with the help of the Context and Power components of the TDSI Model
will be explained through the TPMC Model Reality component. This is justified by the following: the Action and Ideology components of the TDSI Model reveal
hoped-to-be-achieved social action and ideologically charged text production, which link up with person-specific political and professional attitudes to
bias incorporated in the TPMC Model Bias component. Person-specific political attitudes are observable on the part of the journalists and the translators,
while professional attitudes are required by the newspapers publishing the source texts and the “art,” “trade,” or market of
translation. On the other hand, the Context and Power components of the TDSI Model uncover social and political contexts and describe both the power that
provides access for journalists and translators to produce texts about the actual political reality and the power such access guarantees in communication.
These aspects relate to political reality incorporated in the TPMC Model Reality component.
Figure 1 visually depicts the relation of the different components of the TDSI Model and
the TPMC Model.
Figure 1: Visual representation of the relationship between the components of the TDSI and the TPMC Models
Looking at the figure, it becomes obvious the outputs of which components of the TDSI model serve as inputs to which components of the TPMC model. It is
also apparent that the two models are in a symmetrical relationship (2 components of the TDSI model link to each one component of the TPMC model). It can
also be assumed that the same amount of data is generated along each component, which enables a balanced analysis using or producing roughly the same
amount of data as input and output, respectively.
To facilitate the research of mediatized political texts in Translation Studies, based on Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatized Political Reality Theory and
Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias, the TPMC Model has been established to more thoroughly account for source and target text features of mediatized
political texts as well as to enable the analysis of the findings produced with the help of the TDSI Model in the context of mediatized political
communication. The study has justified the concurrent application of the TDSI and TPMC Models and also clarified the relationship between the different
components of the two Models. It is hoped that the application of the TPMC Model in Translation Studies will not only make the research of mediatized
political texts easier and more transparent but also facilitate an easier comparison of the findings of research produced through the use of the TPMC
It is also hoped that the use of the TPMC Model and the research findings produced
through it will generate awareness of the presence of possible political manipulation in translations.
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