Headlines and Cultural Knowledge

This was 1991, about a quarter of a century ago. 

As a second language reading/writing instructor, I find it interesting to see the headline containing “Before YOU Were Born. The website running this article (Occupy Democrats) is open to anyone, thus does not assume a specific age group for its readership. However, the headline limits its audience to a specific age group, at least at its linguistic level. This seems to be related to recent conflicts between Black Lives Matter activists and Bernie Sanders. This informs us that understanding a headline requires way more than just deciphering its vocabulary and syntax. For second language learners, including me, this aspect of discourse is extremely difficult to catch. Without substantial cultural knowledge and experience, a learner may be at a loss how to interpret even a simple pronoun like “you.” 


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