A Syntactic Analysis of Cambodian News Discourse on COVID-19 Outbreaks: Sentence Lengths and Structures as Predictors of Readability

Bunlot Khoy, Sotheara Suon & Bophan Khan,

Faculty of Social sciences and Humanities, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Faculty of Social sciences and Humanities, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia & Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Abstract

The purpose of the study is to conduct a syntactic analysis of news discourse published online in four popular Khmer newspapers in Cambodia. A sample of 60 articles on COVID-19 outbreaks published from 23 to 29 January 2020 were analysed qualitatively and quantitatively, and with the PAN Khmer Line Breaking Program used to separate Khmer words for word count the way English words are counted as Khmer writing conventions do not require a space in between words but phrases. The researchers used descriptive and inferential statistics to calculate and compare average lengths of the articles, paragraphs, and sentences. The study compared its results to subject-specific academic discourse for Grade 12 and undergraduate studies, and found no statistically significant difference in average sentence lengths between academic texts and the target articles, with sentences of the newspaper articles averaging 32.25 words, compared to 34.3 for the academic texts. Complex sentences were most commonly used, accounting for 44% of a total of 442 sentences in the study’s dataset. Based on the findings, Khmer journalistic writers are recommended to reduce complexity of clauses and sentences in their written news pieces, observing the standard readability of under 20 words per sentence.

Keywords: COVID-19, News Discourse, Readability, Syntactic Analysis, Sentence Structure

 

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