getting to the goal: linguistic and cultural aspects of brazilian and

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getting to the goal: linguistic and cultural aspects of brazilian and
Ana Clotilde Thomé Williams
University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
How does one get to the goal? That question is frequently asked by technical analysts
at soccer games when they want to know the secrets of winning a championship. But that is not
an easy question for those who actually play soccer or report on the game. This is especially
true when the reporters are working within different parameters of language and culture. The
coverage on how one gets to the goal is a social and cultural script and it has its own discourse
structures within Brazilian and French cultures. How are they similar and how do they differ?
One does not have to play a sport in order to experience it. It is not necessary to be
involved in game and actually compete in order to feel the spirit of competition, it’s enough to
follow a game on the radio or TV. In important games, radio listeners/TV spectators gather to
spend moments of relaxation or excitement with each other. They are before the radio or TV,
but they are not “passive”. This is not a passive scenario. When following the game, fans
become very excited and see themselves an extension of the players, sharing the same feelings
or sensations during the broadcast of the game. According to Bromberger (1998), a society
reveals much of itself by how it shares its emotions socially and as he points out, one of the
collective passions that has had a major impact on present day society is the game of soccer.
The popularity of the game throughout the world would not have achieved such
success without the coverage provided over radio and television. It is through the sports
announcer that the game of soccer has become the most cheered and the longest applauded
sport event. It is the sports announcer who makes one experience the game in real time. It is
the sports announcer who accomplishes this amazing feat through language. He makes the
narration of the event into an event itself.
Language is always inserted into specific social and cultural contexts, and has specific
functions. It takes that situation and re-presents it with its selected values and social
expectations. So the question becomes one of asking how a narrator accomplishes this. Most
importantly, who is his audience? What reactions he expects to generate in the public? How?
Soccer happens to be a game that follows the same rules in all countries and cultures,
however, the reporting of soccer games has its own cultural and linguistic rules. Hence, sports
reporters reflect these differences. They share the assumptions and the expectations of their
audiences. Such is the case in the reporting of the XVI World Soccer Cup game between
Intercultural Communication Studies XIII: 2 Fall, 2004
France and Brazil, in 1998. The reporters from these countries had specific ways to narrate the
same event.
In this paper, I outline some linguistic and cultural characteristics of Brazilian and
French soccer announcers, observing and comparing the scenario and the social scripts of their
Soccer is just like any other kind of event in that it occurs within a larger social
framework of organized structures known as a scenario. The protagonists in this scenario have
their own social roles to play and such is the case of the 22 players on a soccer field which
comprise two competing teams. The opposition between teams permeates the whole structure
of the game. There are on each side the major players, sideline players, the coaches, the
coaching staff, the referees, fans, and the sports announcers. Yes, each team has its own sports
announcers who share the activities at the game with their radio and television audiences. All
of this happens within a soccer stadium, a physical structure that also reflects the organization
of the game. What is important about this scenario is that each participant has a role to play.
The players try to score by making goals; the audience cheers and shares the spirit of the game
with their own teams; and the sport announcers share all of this with their radio listeners or
television spectators.
The “soccer game” scenario is portrayed below in S1 and is a fundamental part of
another scenario, the “soccer reporting”, S2. These two scenarios are connected. In S2, one
finds other participants: The sports announcer and his guest commentators, the technical
staff who are involved in the electronic transmission of the game, and the radio and television
audiences connected to the event through the narrated accounts of the sports announcer. What
is important about S2 is that it is mediated wholly through language. In S1, the scenario is a
physical event whereas in S2 the scenario constitutes a verbal event. This is especially true for
those who are in the radio audience, but also true for those who are in the television audience
because the camera selects what the announcer wants one to see, hear and understand about the
game. It is a staged reporting of the game. One could even say that it masks the reality of the
game. As Maingueneau (1989: 34) has noted, it is a social construction of reality portrayed
through language. It does not describe what is present, but what is re-presented.
Williams (2002: 196) observed that there are certain strategies of credibility and
engagement that a sports announcer must possess in order for him to convey his account of the
game to his listeners. He must not only engage his listeners, but he must also provide a sense
of instant reporting. It must be perceived as a life event. The credibility of the sports reporter
comes from his knowledge of the game and facts relating to the game. The engagement of the
listener, on the other hand, can only occur if the listener is seduced by the narrative account of
the game. Both of these aspects of the reporting of a game are socially and culturally related.
Good sports announcers know and understand the needs of their audiences.
St. Clair and Williams (2003) provide a theory of how contexts are visualized, a
theory that is based on social scenarios and social scripts. If one were to visualize a soccer
game and then transmits this image of the game to others by means of the medium of radio or
television, the result will be the scenario outlined in S1.
Image of the
Social Roles
The Lexicon
The Scripts
The soccer game taking place in a soccer stadium
The players, the referees, the coaches, the technical assistants, the fans in the
stadium, the radio and television reporters, mass media technicians, etc.
The players of the two teams enter the field in order to compete for the
soccer ball in accordance with the rules of the game. One team controls the
ball at a time and attempts to make points by scoring goals. The opposing
team tries to gain possession of the ball and also score goals. In this
competition, all kinds of minor scripts may occur: players may be
substituted or taken out of the game, the game may be interrupted, and goals
may or may not be scored. Whenever a goal is scored, the players express
their solidarity by hugging each other and the fans resonate with cheers of
victory. After a goal is scored, the ball is placed in the middle of the field
and the other team has the opportunity to start the next round by having the
first kick. The referee whistles to end the first half of the game that takes
place after 45 minutes of play. After a break, the second half of the game
commences. For other 45 minutes the same episodic functions will happen
again, until when the referee whistles to indicate the end of the match.
The actions that are taking place on the field are, above all, physical and not
verbal. Hence, many of the signs used in the game are non-verbal. The
referee shows the player a yellow card when he commits a fault and a red
one when he is being expulsed from the game. The referee uses a whistle to
close an event, recover from an error, or finalize the game. The players kick
the ball, bunt it with their head, or block it by jumping, etc. Even though the
event occurs nonverbally, there is a lexicon associated with the game. These
terms relate to the players who must follow the rules of the game, their
actions on the field, their sports clothes, the stadium, the cheering section,
and so on.
Each participant in this scene has a definite script to follow and these scripts
are related to their functions during the event. The players must follow the
rules of the game (they must enter the stadium, position themselves in front
of the opposing team, show respect to the national hymns of their respective
countries during international competitions, choose which side of the field
they will be in when the play begins, play according to the rules, and play
until the game is over). The public or the fans purchase tickets, enter the
stadium before the game, find their seats, wait for the games to begin, and
resonate with the accomplishments of their teams. After the game is over,
they leave the stadium and have physical closure with the game (the
emotional closure may not occur for many days, weeks, months, or years).
There are journalists who report what happened during the game. They are
part of a team that photographs the event or provides television coverage of
the event. It is their job to report on the game, interview specialists, provide
statistical information on the players, and after the game, they are the ones
who interview the players. It is important to emphasize that each game
differs in detail due to events happening on the field. These scripts may be
modified in part due to intervening transactions, but the scenario remains the
same. It is the scenario that contains the events and it is the scenario that
structures how the scripts are related to each other during a game.
Intercultural Communication Studies XIII: 2 Fall, 2004
Image of the
Social Roles
The Lexicon
Social Scripts
The soccer game as heard over the radio or as seen on television
The sports caster, the technical media staff, the radio listeners, and the
television spectators.
The sports caster is positioned in a special booth before the game begins.
The booth is electronically equipped with databases on the players, past
games, etc. He has guest announcers and his supporting staff with him in
the booth. He signals the audience that the game is about to begin. The
game begins (S1). The sports caster narrates the events during the game. It
is intercalated with advertisements, station promotions, etc. Eventually, the
game ends. He now shifts to sharing the victory of his team or disparaging
the victory of the opposing team. He interviews some of the players. Finally,
he closes his narration of the event. The show is over. All during this time,
the radio listener or television spectators turned on their sets at the
beginning of the game, listened or watched the events unfold, and finally
turn off their sets when the reporting of the game is over. Station managers
attempt to seduce their patrons to remain on the same channel or station
during the whole game and after it too.
The activities reported by the sports caster are exclusively verbal. Words are
used to portray the game. These lexical items relate to the function of the
game (soccer, the ball, the field, the teams, the players, the coaching staff,
the coaches, the referees, the owners of the team, the sponsors, the
commercials, media promotions, etc.). The link between the credibility of
the production and the full engagement of the media audience is done
through language. Metaphors, it turns out, are part of the reporting of the
game. The reason for this is simply that sports casters insert their own
metaphors in their narration of the events. Many sports metaphors are
agonistic. They have to do with images of battle on the field of sports.
Many sports casters, on the other hand, create special metaphors that help
define them and their presentations are being unique.
The narrator is isolated in a special booth in the stadium from which he can
broadcast details of the scene that unfolds before him and his staff. He has a
microphone in front of him and he addresses his audiences with own
conversational images of the scenario and its social scripts. It should be
noted that there are differences between the narration of events to radio and
television audiences. The radio announcer has the task of describing
precisely the activities taking place on the field. His task of visualization is
more difficult. His audience cannot see what is happening during the game.
Since time is money in radio casting, there must be no moments of silence
during the reporting of the game. The television sports caster has an easier
task. His audience can see some of the events taking place on the field. He
can witness replays, close ups, and even other television screens intercalated
onto the sports cast (split television coverage). The television spectator is
subject to more advertisements, greater lapses of silence, promotions,
interviews, various kinds of insertions that act as fill-ins during lapses of
inactivity on the field. The content of these scripts, however, is dependent
on what is happening on the field (S1). The manner in which this content is
reported, however, depends on the means of communication (radio or
television) and the personality of the sports caster and his team.
Once the creator of a social script is formed and its activities are established, these
scenarios, scripts, and episodic events emerge as established norms. At this time, it is possible
for various actors in that social drama to perform their respective roles or parts. These
discourse genres are established as social facts. They are social constructed and consequently
they are composed by and for the participants in that context of the situation. These generic
forms of social discourse are as various as other kinds of human activities. Bakhtin (1987: 60)
has noted that each area of speech (written or spoken) reflects the specific conditions and
objectives associated with a human activity. This reflection, he says, is not to be found only in
its content, but also in its linguistic style (i.e. word choice or the vocabulary of motives,
phraseology, grammatical patterns and compositional structure). The reflection of socially
constructed reality is most evident in the structural composition of events, scenarios, scenes,
scripts and episodes. He argues that the three aspects of these discourse genres that are
inseparable are those of thematic content, rhetorical style and compositional structure. These
are all linked to the contextualized domain of communication that is evidenced in speech.
Maingueneau (1998: 47) agrees that one can characterize a society by its discourse
genres because they describe what is possible in that society. Discourse depicts society as a
pageant and society portrays its pageantry through discourse.
The notion of a discourse genre was taken from the study of literature where there are
evidently different kinds of genres such as tragedy, comedy, poetry, and epics and these differ
substantially from such patterns of discourse as public announcements, personal letters, and the
narration of soccer games. The latter patterns of discourse differ from discourse genres in that
they occur in everyday communication, the sociology of everyday life. Consequently, one
concurs with Maingueneau when he claimed that one is able to describe a society by the kinds
of discourse genres it has.
All discourse genres function as canonical forms or slot-filler patterns in which one is
able to fill in the assigned roles, describe the assumed scenes, and orchestrate the social scripts
that are to be performed within a larger scenario. Those who are functional members of a
society understand these canonical forms. For those who are not part of this social construction
of reality, they are mere rituals, empty forms.
How does one know what aspects of a soccer game are to be portrayed through radio
or television? This answer depends on the culture of the narrator and his audience. Although
they are watching the same soccer game, the visualization of that game is portrayed differently
by French and Brazilian narrators. They bring with them different social scripts, different
interpretations of the scenario before them, and different audience expectations. They have
different ways of describing how one gets to the goal. They describe different pathways to the
goal. What relevance does this difference have for a theory of language and the sociology of
knowledge? What difference does it make if one laments over the loss of a goal or celebrates
its success? Obviously, one is not just getting to the goal in these reported soccer games, but
one is traveling along different pathways. There are cultural differences in which one
describes how his team gets to the goal. These pathways are culturally different.
Intercultural Communication Studies XIII: 2 Fall, 2004
Language is a linguistic and cultural act that is inherently associated with the social
construction of reality. Pierre Bordieu (1983) refers to this as the “alchemy of representation.”
It is this alchemy that accounts for the magic that one performs as a legitimate member of a
group. He is the spokesman that has the power to speak and act in the name of the group. This
spokesman embodies and identifies himself with the heart and soul of its members.
As Gérard Derèze (2000: 23) has noted, the sports narrator transfers to his public the
experiences of pleasure, emotion, diversion, and a sense of participation in the game. The
listener feels that he is one of them and on account of this, he understands them and their
language. The listener has the feeling of belonging to a group and identifying with this group
when he hears the sport cast. Derèze says that the language of the narrator gives the
community a form and creates the conditions in which there emerges a feeling of belonging
with them.
One must ask, however, is it the same for a French fan to interact with a French
announcer of a soccer game? Does this same sense of belonging occur when a Brazilian fan
interacts with a Brazilian announcer of a soccer game? Brazil and France have different
histories with regard to soccer. In spite of the fact that the sport shares similar periods of
development in both countries, they have different roots. In Brazil, for example, soccer is
deeply entrenched with national pride. Its team has already won 5 World Cups and for this
reason they are rather passionate about the game. France also appreciates soccer. They have
won important championships, among them the World Cup of 1998 in which they defeated
Brazil. However, the French do not live for this sport. These two cultures differ in how they
perceive the game and how they live it. Not surprisingly, these differences influence their
reporting of the game.
Harré (1994: 134) observes that social representations can be found in the semantic
organization of the lexicon and expression of formal syntactic structures, whether spoken or
written. Social representation occurs not only in connotations that words acquire, but also in
how they are used within a given culture. He even believes that they account for differences in
the grammar of a language. When one speaks a language, he portrays himself in the culture of
that language.
With regard to the social representation of the lexicon, Harré is initially concerned
about the vocabulary of emotions. It is the culture that determines and validates the meaning
of words of emotion. It is the culture that provides information on how it was created and how
it is used. If in the West, bravery is deemed to be a matter of honor and if in the East, bravery
is ridiculed, one may conclude then that the virtue is in the cowardice not in the courage. The
emotion of fear, like other emotions, may be evidenced quite differently from one culture to
There are many social and cultural exchanges between the radio or television
announcer and his audiences. The announcer acts in a way of communication by introducing
ideas, finding new forms of expressing himself and in creating new expressions that
strategically link him to his audience. The other plays a major role in the creation of this
discourse. Bakhtin (1992) stresses the importance of the other who constitutes a constant
dialogue in a society where without communication it is impossible to live.
As noted earlier, soccer is the most popular sport in Brazil and France and its
reporting reflects details specifically related to their cultures and languages. The sport
announcer must interact with his audience and he must identify himself with them. He makes
many choices in the process: prosodic, lexical, syntactic, and cultural. It is through these
choices that he reveals his identification and his engagement with his audience as a member of
that community.
It is time now to consider some examples that focus on how goals are reported by
Brazilian and French sports casters. The following selections regarding the narration of a team
making a goal is taken from two decisive television games on the XVI World Cup that
occurred in France in 1998: one is between Brazil and Denmark and the other between Brazil
and France.
Examples of the narration getting to the goal ∗
1. The game between Brazil and Denmark
Denmark has a goal by Jorgensen, 2 minutes into the first half
In Portuguese
“Olha a Dinamarca chegando a bola tocada pra TRAS GOOOL (6) da
dinaMARca::: Joergensen:: com MEnos de dois miNUtos’aquela bobeira de
deixá batê ali’ deixaram batê’ o brian laudrup tocou pra trás’ o Jorgensen
entrou’ fez o toque bateu à direita do Taffarel’ deu boBEIra a seleção
brasileira” (Galvão Bueno - TV)
Look at Denmark getting closer, the ball is kicked backward GOOOOL
Denmark’s :: Jorgensen :: with less than two minutes what a foolish thing of letting
him kick there, they let it happen, Brian Landrup kicked backward, Jorgensen
entered, controlled and threw it at the right side of Taffarel... that’s a foolish team,
the Brazilian team.
“Olho no LANCE::: azeDOU:::: azeDOU::: azeDOU o molho aqui em nantes’
JORgensen’ quando eram apenas jogados dois minutos do primeiro tempo
meteu a bala no arco brasileiro” (Sílvio Luís - SBT)
Look at the pass... the sauce got sour in Nantes... the sauce got sour in Nantes…
when Jorgensen who was only playing 2 minutes in the first half put the ball into
the Brazilian arc.
In French
PB - il va au côté gauche (2) entre pour le centre (3) une faute de dunga
DL [... qui va provoquer Junior Baiano
attention ça va très vite il a passé et but
PB Dl [- il ferme
Pb [- marqué par
Jorgensen apres (2)
quelques minutes de jeu”
(Dominique Le Glou and Patrick Batiston – TV)
PB: He is going to the left side, he is entering the midpoint. Fault by Dunga.
DL: Who is provoking Junior Baiano
PB: Hold on! He moves quickly, he passes and scores a goal.
DL: He closes.
PB: made by Jorgensen after only two minutes of play in the game
The established pattern for transcription of these excerpts are in the appendix
Intercultural Communication Studies XIII: 2 Fall, 2004
Brazilian Goal by Bebeto, 11 minutes into the first half
In Portuguese
“(…) todos os jogadores marcados’ finalmente ela chegou no
Ronaldinho’partiu roberto carlos lindo toque pra bebeto’ é batê pro gol’
Bebeto’ é batê pro gol bateu bebeto bateu bebeto bateu bebeto olha o gol olha o
gol’ go:::::::l (6) eeeeee::::::: é do brasil ((música ao fundo)) Bebeto aos dez
minutos e vinte ‘ desse meio tempo a enfiada pra ele’ Ronaldinho não tinha
tocado na bola’ Bebeto não tinha tocado na bola’ Ronaldinho pegou’ tocou pra
Bebeto’ Bebeto fez o gol voce vai assiná ((o gol passa em replay)) pode botá aí
Bebeto bate de novo Bebeto’ ajeita isso’ olha o Helveg atrás de você’ Bebeto
tocou de pé direito na saída de schmeichel’ meteu na rede ele saiu pro abraço
já deu o abraço agora bota seu nome bebeto’ seu terceiro gol na copa do
mundo assina Bebeto que o gol é seu::: um para o brasil um para dinamarca”
(Galvão Bueno - TV)
All of the players are being followed. Finally it gets to Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos
approached. Beautiful kick to BeBeto, shoot it to the goal, shoot it to the goal,
Bebeto, shoot it to the goal. He shot it, Bebeto, he shot it, Bebeto, he shot it, Bebeto.
Watch the goal, watch the goal. Gooooaaaalllll! Yeahhh! It’s from Brazil!! (music
in the background). Bebeto in 10 minutes and 20 seconds of this first half, the ball
was passed to him … Ronaldinho hadn’t touched the ball. Bebeto hadn’t touched
the ball, Ronaldinho took it, kicked it to Bebeto Bebeto made the goal. You will
sign your name (the goal is shown in a replay) .. put the ball there Bebeto, hit it
again, control it, watch Helveg behind you Bebeto kicked it with his right foot when
Schmeichel left, and he put it in the net ... he goes for a hug. He already got a hug ,
now write down your name, Bebeto… your third goal in the World Cup …sign your
name because the goal is yours. One for Brazil and one for Denmark.
“vamo botá o pagode pra arrumá a cozinha dos dinamarqueses olho no lance’
é:::::: mais um gol brasileiro meu po:::vo::: en::che o peito:::: sol:ta o grito da
garganta e con:fira comigo no replay::: foi foi foi foi foi foi ele bebeto’ o
craque’ da camisa número vinte:: tamo jogando redondo aqui em La
Beaujoire onze minutos’ o Brasil empata em cima da Dinamarca:::” (Sílvio
Luís - TV)
Let us play the pagode ((a Brazilian rhythm)) to organize the kitchen of the Danes.
look at the pass … yeah…. one more goal of Brazil, my people …throw out your
chests ….let out a scream from your throats and check this out with me in the
replay .. it was him, it was him, it was him, it was him, it was him, Bebeto …the
Ace with number 20 on his shirt.. we are still playing it beautifully here in La
Beaujoire …11 minutes and Brazil ties up with Denmark.
In French
“DL -Ronaldo Ronaldo suberbe ballon pour bebeto qui frappe et qui marque
Pb- [magnifique
Dl- [egalisation bresilienne’ de bebeto bebeto très
contesté par la presse et bebeto qui démontre que l’espoir de
Zagallo est sans doute le bon
(Dominique Le Glou e Patrick Batiston - TV)
DL: Ronaldo, Ronaldo, wonderful pass of the ball to Bebeto who kicks it and
PB: Magnificient!
DL: The Brazilian team ties up by Bebeto…. Bebeto very much attacked by the
press.. and Bebeto who shows that the hope of Zagallo is good without a doubt .
II. The Game between France and Brazil
In Portuguese
G/…/Karembeu’ tocou pra Thuram’ voltou pra karimbeu’ chegou Roberto (3)
tomou a frente’ fez lá a graça pra tentá evitá não conseguiu’ é escanteio’ Essa
gracinha que às vezes custa (3) ele podia até tomá um cartão porque foi lá’ Ó
lá’ VAi tomá um cartão’ não tinha nada que dá tapa na bandeira’ essa coisa de
querê matá no peito pra dá pra dá pra dá bicicleta’ Essa coisa’ Isso’ Isso não
cabe em copa do mundo quando tá zero a zero
Karembeu ... threw it to Thuram ...he returned it to Karimbeu .. Roberto arrived. …
he went forward instead of letting the ball roll “out of bounds” he tried to show off,
he failed… it’s corner… show offs like this sometimes are not worth it … he could
even get carded … because he’s been there … see there. … he’s going to get a
card .. he was not supposed to hit the corner flag… what a thing, trying to control
the ball on the chest in order to in order to kick it over the head… this type of
thing…. It can’t happen in the World Cup when it is zero to zero.
P- era só tocá a bola no lado ali’ quando levou no peito’ jogasse pra lateral
It would have been better if he had just tossed the ball on the side there… when he
just held it on his chest, he had to toss it on the side.
G - seria lateral e não escanteio’ aí o lançamento pra área brasileira’ Olha o
que aconteceu’ olha o que aconteceu go:::::::l (7)da FRANça::: ZiDAne::: Aos
vinte e sete minutos do primeiro tempo’ COpa do mundo é coisa séria’ final de
copa do mundo é coisa muito séria’ não é lugar de gracinha e de malabarismo’
na tentativa do malabarismo’ invés de lateral pintou um escanteio’ o que
aconteceu’ cabeça de Zidane bola no chão’ gol da França’ França um a zero’
Um para a FRANça’ ZEro para o brasil aos vinte e sete minutos do primeiro
tempo’ agora vai ter que mostrar muita personalidade o time brasileiro e outra
vez a mesma falha’ deixando o jogador saí na frente’ nem Júnior Baiano’ nem
Aldair’ nenhum dos dois subindo na bola” (Galvão Bueno and Pelé - TV)
It would be off to the side not a corner … Oh a toss to the Brazilian area … Look at
what just happened … Look at what happened … Goal by Zidane of France!! At 27
minutes in the first half. A World Cup is a serious matter … the final match at a
World Cup … it is rather serious matter … it is not a time for kidding and
juggling… in the attempt at juggling instead of a lateral it ended up in a
corner …then what it ended up on Zidane’s head … ball to the ground … a goal for
France… France has one to zero. One for France… Zero for Brazil. At 27 minutes
of the first half. Now the Brazilian team needs to show its character … and again
the same mistake… letting the player leave lead … Neither Junior Baiano … nor
Aldair … Neither of them took up the ball.
In French
T- elle est sortie' corner’ attention
JM- sur le jonglage de roberto carlos qui a un petit geste de mauvaise humeur
Intercultural Communication Studies XIII: 2 Fall, 2004
T- oui
JM- qui a delaissé le poteau de corner
T - et du reste monsieur belqola/ est allé: faire remarquer que dans une finale
de coupe de monde ce: geste la n’avait: pas raison d’etre Emanuel Petit pour
faire le premier corner de l’equipe de france
JM – corner entrant il a bien frappé au premier poteau
Et but’ de zinedine zidane
T - Zidane' sur ce premier corner français grace à un coup de tête
MAgistrale et ouvre le score alors que l’on joue depuis vingt sept minutes”
(Thierry Roland e Jean Michel Larqué - TV)
T - The ball is off the field, corner. Watch out.
JM - By juggling, Roberto Carlos displays a bad attitude
T- Yes
JM – By kicking the corner flag
T - And from there ... Mr. Belgola made it clear that in the final match at the World
Cup that gesture is uncalled for. Emanuel Petit is going to kick. That’s the first
corner for the French team.
JM - now at the corner, that’s a nice shot from the first flag corner…and goal...by
Zinedine Zidane
T and JM - Zinedine Zidane
T - Zidane on the first French corner gives us a big nod of his head and he opens up
the scoreboard… when they had played 27 minutes
This discourse genre of soccer sports casting contains points of similarity and
difference between French and Brazilian cultures. In addressing these matters of discourse, it is
possible to perceive how they are constructed and how they are expressed.
The Construction of Discourse refers to the composition of discourse. One notes that in
French there is much use of dialogue. There are always two speakers, one who narrates the
game and the other who makes comments. They take turns; their turns are short, one
immediately after the other. At times they appear to report events on the field simultaneously
with their occurrences. They do not leave much room between their alternating dialogues. In
Portuguese, the dialogue is less explicit and frequent. One announcer talks almost all the time
and lead the whole broadcast. In general he is the one who gives the turn to a guest
commentator. Even though his turns are long, his sentences are short, juxtaposed, as we see in
II g:
“G - seria lateral e não escanteio... Aí o lançamento pra área brasileira… Olha o que
aconteceu…Olha o que aconteceu go::::::::::l (7)da França::… ZiDAne::…..”
This explains the intense rhythm and emotional involvement that occurs when he is relating
the events as they happen.
The French narrators also juxtapose their sentences, but differ in that they tend to
embed their sentences, subordinating whole sentences by means of the pronoun subject marker
“qui.” We find the “ qui” subordinate conjunction in all examples, one of them is in I A c,
when DL initializes his turn
“PB - il va au côté gauche (2) entre pour le centre (3) une faute de Dunga
DL - [... qui va provoquer Junior Baiano”
That requires one to process sentences differently. One is required to look for the
subject of an action. This results to constructing the possession of a goal in terms of sequential
narratives immediately followed by argumentative explanations. The use of the pronoun “qui”
reinforces this use of argumentative explanations that underlie the act of speaking.
The Expressiveness of Speech refers to the involvement that a speaker has with
his audience. This engagement, according to Tannen (1991), has two strong points in lexical
choice: the musical force (that accounts for sounds and rhythms) and semantic forces. There
are three aspects to the expressiveness of speech that merits comment: Intonation or rhythm,
the use of metaphors, and the inclusion of the other in one’s discourse.
Intonation and Rhythm
When a goal is scored, voices are raised and this occurs among the French as well as
among Brazilians. This use of raising one’s voice to express emotion is a common human trait
that surpasses cultural differences (Bally, 1967). With regard to rhythm, it is more intense
when one expects a goal to be scored. If the goal is not expected, then there is not time for one
to raise his voice in intensity. As a consequence, the alternative is to raise the pitch of one’s
voice in expressing the commemoration of a goal.
The use of a prolonged shout or yell is a feature characteristic of Brazilian sports
narrators. This kind of prolonged bellow was first used by Rebello Junior in the middle of the
1940s. This prolonged shout fell out of popular use. What is interesting about it was that it
enabled one to prolong the vowel [o] in “goal.” The Brazilian word “gol” comes from its
English cognate “goal.” Sports narrators filled their chests with air and emitted a prolonged
“goal”, as Galvão Bueno does in the example I B d, sustaining the vowel for 6 seconds:
“bateu Bebeto bateu Bebeto bateu Bebeto olha o gol olha o gol’ go:::::::l (6)
eeeeee::::::: é do brasil”
The French have a different word for this achievement. They say “but” or use the verb
“marquer” or simply provide the name of the person who made the goal. A very typical
example is the one found in I B f:
“DL - Ronaldo Ronaldo suberbe ballon pour Bebeto qui frappe et qui marque ”
Or in II h:
“JM – corner entrant il a bien frappé au premier poteau
Et but’ de Zinedine Zidane”.
The Use of Metaphors
It seems that the Brazilians are far more imaginative in their reporting of soccer
games. Silvio Luis is a soccer narrator who is known for his use of metaphors. Some of them
are: (IAb) azedou o molho (the sauce got sour), vamo bota o pagode pra arruma a cozinha dos
dinamarqueses, (let us put the “pagode” (Brazilian rhythm) in order to have the Danes clean up
their kitchen), etc.
One does not find many uses of figurative language in French reporting of soccer
games. Often, soccer is taken to be a real “battle” and this is evidenced by the use of verbs
such as crucify, to gun down, and to bomb, that we often find in both languages and other
languages and cultures. It should be noted, though, that the creative use of metaphors and
Intercultural Communication Studies XIII: 2 Fall, 2004
figures of speech in reporting soccer is a mark of Brazilian commentators and sports casters.
One often finds the use of figurative expression coming out of soccer broadcasts, in the daily
use of Portuguese language in Brazil, as for example: dependurar as chuteiras (“to hang the
soccer shoes” - to retire), pisar na bola (“to step on the soccerball”, to make an error), etc.
Inclusion of the other in the discourse
It is very common for Brazilian sports reporters to use imperatives or other injunctive
sentences, such as olho no lance (“eye on the kick”), olha o gol (look at the goal), and confira
comigo (check with me). They insert these expressions in their discourse to call the attention
of their audience and to make them participate of the very act of ‘ narrating’ the match. This
happens principally during moments of tension, celebration or frustration when narrators want
to share moments of happiness, sadness, or highlight an event that had just occurred. Soccer
players are in their talk too. In IBd, Galvão Bueno draws attention to the soccer player Bebeto
and talks to him, asking him to shoot the ball to the goal “é batê pro gol’ Bebeto’ é batê pro
gol”. This same narrator reprimanded Roberto Carlos when he let the French score a goal. He
said in IIg:“copa do mundo é coisa séria, final de copa do mundo é coisa séria, não é lugar
de gracinha e de malabarismo” – (The World Cup is a serious matter, the final match of a
World Cup is a serious matter, it is not a time to joke or juggle the ball). The French do not
insert this kind of figurative language into their reporting during moments of levity or
heaviness. When the French scored a goal against Brazil, in IIh, Thierry Roland does not show
the same level of emotions, even though to beat Brazil was a French dream. There is no
intensity in proclaiming the ‘goal’, the name of the soccer player is announced, yes, in
acclamation (T and JM shout: “ZINEDINE ZIDANE”), but after that, the reporting of the
details is more emphasized than the emotions of the moment “T - Zidane' sur ce premier
corner français grace à un coup de tête MAgistrale et ouvre le score alors que l’on joue depuis
vingt sept minutes”.
The Brazilian soccer announcers prefer to insert the other in his discourse when a goal
is scored or when a great frustration takes place, he wants not only to emphasize the emotion,
but to share it with his listener, who is invited to participate activelly in his discourse. The
details come later, the listener is there before anything, taking part of the “show”, as we see in
the example IBe:
“mais um gol brasileiro meu po:::vo::: en::che o peito:::: sol:ta o grito da garganta
e con:fira comigo no replay”( one more goal of Brazil, my people …throw out your
chests ….let out a scream from your throats and check this out with me in the replay ..)
Thus one can readily visualize the scripts that they followed in their reporting of the
process of getting to the goal:
The Brazilian
Social Script
The French
The goal is about to be made. The reporter raises the volume of his
voice and speaks rapidly. Normally, he celebrates the event of scoring a
goal with a sharp and prolonged enunciation of the word “gol.” He
brings the listener into the event and lets him join in the celebration. He
creates metaphorical expressions and metonymic phrases to visualize
the event in the minds of his listeners. He is more concerned with
celebrating the event than in reporting it.
Two soccer sports casters take turns in commenting on the game. As
the goal is about to be made, they raise their voices and quicken the
Social Script
rhythm of their reporting. They celebrate the making of the goal and
shout the name of the player who made it. They use expressions such as
“but” or “marquer” to describe the event. However, in a much lower
tone, they begin to explain the details of the game. They do not show
much emotion; they do not have emotional outbursts as the Brazilian
do; and, above all, they are more concerned with the reporting of the
event than in its celebration.
Getting to the goal or the social script of making a goal is not the same experience for
Brazilians as it is for the French. Soccer, after all, plays a major role in the national identity of
Brazilians. It is a matter of greater national consciousness for the Brazilians. When the World
Cup soccer games are reported in Brazil, the event takes on special significance, especially
when Brazil is involved in the final rounds. People want to celebrate with the soccer
announcer; they are in a happy mood; they show their emotions about the status of the game;
they convey their love of the game; and they cheer on their home team. The French, on the
other hand, prefer to hear a less emotional account of the game. They are more interested in the
logic of the game.
For Brazilians, the goal is a moment of ecstasy. They cannot contain their emotions.
For the French, the goal is just a part of the game. It is something that one assumes will happen
sooner or later. It is not an unforeseen event. The French culture does not welcome unforeseen
events. They differ from the Brazilians who are accustomed to the uncertainties of tomorrow.
The French enjoy goals, but it does not mean that the goals scored touch the very depths of
their souls. They are not part of their emotional consciousness, as they are for the Brazilians.
The Brazilian soccer announcer is, in essence, a narrator. He joins in the narration of
the game. He lives in its verbal descriptions. He joins others who share a communal
experience of being a part of history. He shares his conversational images with others in these
social dramas with his fellow listeners. The French soccer announcer, on the other hand, is a
commentator who joins in with others in explaining what is happening in the game. He is an
analyst. He likes to watch the game and comment on it. While he is more concerned with the
accuracy of the details and the logic of the facts, the Brazilian is more concerned with
experiencing the facts, making a soccer match part of his own history.
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Bourdieu, Pierre (1982) Ce que parler veut dire. Paris, Fayard.
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Intercultural Communication Studies XIII: 2 Fall, 2004
Maingueneau, Dominique (1998). Analyser les textes de communication. Paris, Nathan.
Tannen, Debora (1991). Talking voices. Repetition, dialogue, and imagery in conversacional
discourse. Cambridge University Press.
St clair, R. N and Williams, Ana Clotilde T. (2003) Metaphor, Metonomy and the visualization
of social scripts, manuscript version, University of Louisville.
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Appendix: Established patterns for transcription of narratives in radio or television.
Intonation: medium tone
high tone
Prolonging vowels or consonants (as
“s” or “r”)
WITH the word “GOL”
Micro pause
Comments of the transcriber
Superposition of voices
normal letters
:: (or :::::: if longer)
(the seconds of its length come in parenthesis)
(the number of seconds are in parenthesis)
((in double parenthesis))
[ bracket connecting lines
Speed of the speech:
Fly UP