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Language and Politics

Language and Politics

John E. Joseph
Alan Davies
Keith Mitchell
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Language and Politics
    Book Description:

    Language, this book argues, is political from top to bottom, whether considered at the level of an individual speaker’s choice of language or style of discourse with others (where interpersonal politics are performed), or at the level of political rhetoric, or indeed all the way up to the formation of national languages. By bringing together this set of topics and highlighting how they are interrelated, the book will function well as a textbook on any applied or sociolinguistic course in which some or all of these various aspects of the politics of language are covered. The chapter headings include:*How politics permeates language (and vice-versa)*Language and nation*The social politics of language choice and linguistic correctness*Politics embedded in language *Taboo language and its restriction*Rhetoric, propaganda and interpretation*Power, hegemony and choices

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2697-7
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Editors’ Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Alan Davies and W. Keith Mitchell
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    In the last two decades, applied linguistics has abandoned the structuralist view of language as a self-contained, neutral system, in favour of a conception of language as political from top to bottom, in its structure as well as its use. This book examines the consequences of that conceptual shift, as it draws together key topics including language choice, linguistic correctness, (self-)censorship and hate speech, the performance of ethnic and national identity in language, gender politics and ‘powerful’ language, rhetoric and propaganda, and changing conceptions of written language, driven in part by technological advances.

    In teaching language and politics to undergraduate...

  5. Chapter 1 Overview: How politics permeates language (and vice versa)
    (pp. 1-21)

    Over the last decade, some highly regarded and influential scholars of the origins of language have been putting forward the view that it began for fundamentally political reasons. Dunbar (1996) believes that language evolved as an ultra-efficient means of distinguishing allies from enemies and of grooming allies and potential allies. Dessalles (2000) locates its origins in the need to form ‘coalitions’ of a critical size, representing the initial form of social and political organisation:

    We humans speak because a fortuitous change profoundly modified the social organisation of our ancestors. In order to survive and procreate they found themselves needing to...

  6. Chapter 2 Language and nation
    (pp. 22-42)

    The Book of Genesis says that after the Flood the descendants of Noah spread out over the earth, ‘every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations’ (Gen.10: 5).¹ The Judaeo-Christian-Muslim tradition is far from being the only one that makes such a strong link between ‘tongue’ and ‘nation’, or that gives a particular language a special, quasi-divine status as the repository of meaning and of cultural memory. But the Bible is the most direct source of the modern (post-Renaissance) conception of the nation as a people linked by birth, language and culture and belonging to a particular...

  7. Chapter 3 The social politics of language choice and linguistic correctness
    (pp. 43-63)

    The preceding chapter looked into the political aspects of how different languages come to be recognised, as well as into obstacles to such recognition. This chapter will be concerned with the closely related question of the choices individuals make from among the ways of speaking available in their environment, with the focus on the political motivations and ramifications of their choices.

    In §2.5 the point was made that, in traditional Christian doctrine, language differences do not really matter, being superficial in comparison with that inner language of knowledge that exists before any human language and is the same for all....

  8. Chapter 4 Politics embedded in language
    (pp. 64-85)

    The book credited with being the starting point of modern linguistics, Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics (see above, §2.6), famously declares that langue, a language, is a social fact, and that social force holds the system together so powerfully that no individual can change the language. Changes occur in parole ‘speech’, and if eventually the community accepts the change, the whole system shifts to form a new langue. But the social space which language occupies for Saussure is not political: every member of the speech community possesses the language, he says, in identical form. There is no scope for one...

  9. Chapter 5 Taboo language and its restriction
    (pp. 86-109)

    The word taboo is a borrowing from Tongan, first introduced into English by Captain James Cook (1728–79) in the second volume of his A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (2nd edn, 1785; see further Gray 1983). Not only is the word modern (outside Polynesia), but so is the concept of a category of words whose most salient feature is that, whether on grounds of profanity or obscenity or political offensiveness, they are ‘forbidden’ in the minds of speakers, those who use them as well as those who don’t. The concept’s modernity is signalled by the exoticness of the word...

  10. Chapter 6 Rhetoric, propaganda and interpretation
    (pp. 110-135)

    The origins of rhetoric as a formal technology of persuasion through language are closely bound up with the origins of democracy in fifth century BC Athens. It did not appear out of nowhere – already in monarchy, wise rulers surrounded themselves with advisors who represented different interests and were not like-minded, and whose job is was to convince the ruler that the particular course they were advocating was the best one. Subjects too had to persuade the ruler, or a functionary delegated with authority by the ruler, of the justness of any petition they might make, or the unjustness of any...

  11. Chapter 7 Conclusion: Power, hegemony and choices
    (pp. 136-149)

    This book has put forward a broad view of the range of topics that can be cogently and usefully grouped together under the rubric of ‘language and politics’ – cogently because, despite their surface diversity, they are linked by virtue of all being cases where language impacts directly upon the politics of identity, interpersonal relations, the relation of the individual to the community and the state, or all of these; usefully because of the light they shed upon one another, for example when an analogy from the use of familiar pronouns helps us to understand something about language change or the...

  12. References
    (pp. 150-162)
  13. Index
    (pp. 163-174)