The Power of Language - Multilingualism - Goethe-Institut
LANGUAGE & POWER RELATIONSHIPLanguage is the means by which we communicate. Every culture has it's own language which allows the people. About the theme: What is the difference between a language and a dialect, and the complex relationship between speech and society, taking language as the. Received: 4. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LANGUAGE. AND POWER. Dario Saftich, PhD. Edit Rijeka, Croatia e-mail: [email protected]
One example of the way that language is said to affect society is in sexist language. The theory is that language affects the way we view men and women because it treats men and women differently. If you use words like chairman or fireman it implies only men can do the jobs, so women feel left out.
It is worth noting, though, that the form of the words can influence our view of things. Another feature of English that might exclude women is the use of "him" to mean "him and her". This way the language may create sexism in a society. But really, it's more likely that the society made the language sexist, eg using words to put women down like chick, bird etc. Bird used to refer to men and women, but now it is just derogatory to women.
BSL does not have gender pronouns to correspond to he and she, but does this make the deaf community any more or less sexist? It is possible that signers look at the world differently from speakers, because sign languages are visual and spatial. If you think in a language that concentrates on order and space, then you are more likely to look at the world like that.
One of the biggest blocks to hearing people learning signed languages rather than signed versions of spoken languages is learning to think about the world so that it is spatially organised. Note, though, that hearing people are fully capable of seeing the world spatially - it's just that they aren't used to building space into their language. We have seen, then, that to some extent, language can have an effect on the way we think. We need to consider the attitude that some people have towards their own language, and attitudes that other people have.
The language that we use can make a big difference to the way that we see ourselves, and the way society sees us. It can also influence the way we relate to society. Find out which adverts on television have regional accents of English, and which have "middle-class accents. What products are they advertising? Can you spot any pattern? Accent is very important in Britain. Advertisers on television only use regional accents for voice-overs if the product is cheap or if the aim is to amuse.
Serious things or expensive products use the voices of middle-class men. During the war, the BBC had to use "middle class" speakers the read the news because no one believed the people with regional accents. This has now changed, which goes to show that social factors in languages do vary and change over time. However, not all regional accents have the same social acceptability and "broad" that is, strong regional accents are still cannot be too strong for some media broadcasts.
Everyone seems to have an idea what is a "good" language or variety and what is a "bad" one. This opinion is entirely socially conditioned. Sometimes people with power e. Sometimes it is just ordinary members of a language community who have these views.
Linguistically they are all the same, because they can all communicate in the same way, but they just have different social values. In the past, many deaf people weren't proud of their language and even denied they used it. Now, there is more pride, but many deaf and hearing people still think it is not a "good" language, or that English is in some way "better".
English is not "better" than BSL in any way, except that it does have a higher status in British society. Social context will look at the relationship between language and power and attitudes to language. The language that someone uses may influence other people's attitudes towards them. People have fought and died for language e. In some countries in the world, you can be arrested for speaking a forbidden language.
The history of BSL is closely tied up with power. We can think of some of the abuses of children caught using signing in school. We can think of hearing people telling deaf people that they are stupid because "Deaf English" is influenced by BSL, so it looks like "bad English". Deaf people are often denied access to all sorts of jobs, or roles in society e. Hearing people writing in journals and newspapers about deaf people and get it wrong, but deaf people don't get the chance to reply because they feel their English is not up to writing a publishable reply.
All these are examples of a language being affected by power. This is the same for many languages all around the world, for example, minority languages in India. People may think their language is not a good language because it isn't the one taught in schools and isn't used in business. Through it humans express and communicate their private thoughts and feelings as well as enact various social functions. The social functions include co-constructing social reality between and among individuals, performing and coordinating social actions such as conversing, arguing, cheating, and telling people what they should or should not do.
Language is also a public marker of ethnolinguistic, national, or religious identity, so strong that people are willing to go to war for its defense, just as they would defend other markers of social identity, such as their national flag. These cognitive, communicative, social, and identity functions make language a fundamental medium of human communication. Language is also a versatile communication medium, often and widely used in tandem with music, pictures, and actions to amplify its power.
Silence, too, adds to the force of speech when it is used strategically to speak louder than words. The wide range of language functions and its versatility combine to make language powerful. Even so, this is only one part of what is in fact a dynamic relationship between language and power. The other part is that there is preexisting power behind language which it reveals and reflects, thereby transferring extralinguistic power to the communication context.
It is thus important to delineate the language—power relationships and their implications for human communication. This chapter provides a systematic account of the dynamic interrelationships between language and power, not comprehensively for lack of space, but sufficiently focused so as to align with the intergroup communication theme of the present volume.
It echoes the pioneering attempts to develop an intergroup perspective on the social psychology of language and communication behavior made by pioneers drawn from communication, social psychology, and cognate fields see Harwood et al. This intergroup perspective has fostered the development of intergroup communication as a discipline distinct from and complementing the discipline of interpersonal communication.
Against this backdrop, this chapter will be less concerned with any particular social category of intergroup communication or variant of social identity theory, and more with developing a conceptual framework of looking at the language—power relationships and their implications for understanding intergroup communication.
Readers interested in an intra- or interpersonal perspective may refer to the volume edited by Holtgraves a. Conceptual Approaches to Power Bertrand Russell, logician cum philosopher and social activist, published a relatively little-known book on power when World War II was looming large in Europe Russell, In it he asserted the fundamental importance of the concept of power in the social sciences and likened its importance to the concept of energy in the physical sciences.
But unlike physical energy, which can be defined in a formula e. This state of affairs is not unexpected because the very nature of social power is elusive. Foucaultp. Power is also a value-laden concept meaning different things to different people. These entrenched views surface in management—labor negotiations and political debates between government and opposition.
The two discourses also interchange when the same speakers reverse their power relations: The elusive and value-laden nature of power has led to a plurality of theoretical and conceptual approaches.How language shapes the way we think - Lera Boroditsky
Five approaches that are particularly pertinent to the language—power relationships will be discussed, and briefly so because of space limitation. Another approach views power as the production of intended effects by overcoming resistance that arises from objective conflict of interests or from psychological reactance to being coerced, manipulated, or unfairly treated. It provides a structural account of power-balancing mechanisms in social networking Emerson,and forms the basis for combining with symbolic interaction theory, which brings in subjective factors such as shared social cognition and affects for the analysis of power in interpersonal and intergroup negotiation Stolte, According to this model, it is psychological group formation and associated group-based social identity that produce influence; influence then cumulates to form the basis of power, which in turn leads to the control of resources.
Common to the five approaches above is the recognition that power is dynamic in its usage and can transform from one form of power to another. Non-decision-making power, the second dimension, is power behind the scene. It involves the mobilization of organizational bias e. Conflict of interests, opposition, and resistance would be absent from this form of power, not because they have been maneuvered out of the contest as in the case of non-decision-making power, but because the people who are subject to power are no longer aware of any conflict of interest in the power relationship, which may otherwise ferment opposition and resistance.
Power in this form can be exercised without the application of coercion or reward, and without arousing perceived manipulation or conflict of interests.
Language—Power Relationships As indicated in the chapter title, discussion will focus on the language—power relationships, and not on language alone or power alone, in intergroup communication. It draws from all the five approaches to power and can be grouped for discussion under the power behind language and the power of language.
Language, power, and identity
In the former, language is viewed as having no power of its own and yet can produce influence and control by revealing the power behind the speaker. In the case of modern English, its preeminent status as a global language and international lingua franca has shaped the communication between native and nonnative English speakers because of the power of the English-speaking world that it reflects, rather than because of its linguistic superiority.
In both cases, language provides a widely used conventional means to transfer extralinguistic power to the communication context. Research on the power of language takes the view that language has power of its own. This power allows a language to maintain the power behind it, unite or divide a nation, and create influence. In Figure 1 we have grouped the five language—power relationships into five boxes.
Note that the boundary between any two boxes is not meant to be rigid but permeable. For example, by revealing the power behind a message box 1a message can create influence box 5. As another example, language does not passively reflect the power of the language community that uses it box 2but also, through its spread to other language communities, generates power to maintain its preeminence among languages box 3.
This expansive process of language power can be seen in the rise of English to global language status. A similar expansive process also applies to a particular language style that first reflects the power of the language subcommunity who uses the style, and then, through its common acceptance and usage by other subcommunities in the country, maintains the power of the subcommunity concerned. A prime example of this type of expansive process is linguistic sexism, which reflects preexisting male dominance in society and then, through its common usage by both sexes, contributes to the maintenance of male dominance.
Other examples are linguistic racism and the language style of the legal profession, each of which, like linguistic sexism and the preeminence of the English language worldwide, has considerable impact on individuals and society at large. Space precludes a full discussion of all five language—power relationships. Instead, some of them will warrant only a brief mention, whereas others will be presented in greater detail.
The complexity of the language—power relations and their cross-disciplinary ramifications will be evident in the multiple sets of interrelated literatures that we cite from. These include the social psychology of language and communication, critical language studies Fairclough,sociolinguistics Kachru,and conversation analysis Sacks et al.
Power behind language and power of language. The message merely reveals the power of a weapon in their possession. Apart from revealing power, the gangsters may also cheat. As long as the message comes across as credible and convincing enough to arouse overwhelming fear, it would allow them to get away with their demands without actually possessing any weapon.
In this case, language is used to produce an intended effect despite resistance by deceptively revealing a nonexisting power base and planting it in the mind of the message recipient. The literature on linguistic deception illustrates the widespread deceptive use of language-reveals-power to produce intended effects despite resistance Robinson, Language communities in a country vary in absolute size overall and, just as important, a relative numeric concentration in particular regions.
Francophone Canadians, though fewer than Anglophone Canadians overall, are concentrated in Quebec to give them the power of numbers there. Similarly, ethnic minorities in mainland China have considerable power of numbers in those autonomous regions where they are concentrated, such as Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang.
Another base of ethnolinguistic vitality is institutional representations of the language community in government, legislatures, education, religion, the media, and so forth, which afford its members institutional leadership, influence, and control. The third base of ethnolinguistic vitality comprises sociohistorical and cultural status of the language community inside the nation and internationally.
In short, the dominant language of a nation is one that comes from and reflects the high ethnolinguistic vitality of its language community. An important finding of ethnolinguistic vitality research is that it is perceived vitality, and not so much its objective demographic-institutional-cultural strengths, that influences language behavior in interpersonal and intergroup contexts.
Outer circle nations are made up mostly of former British colonies such as India, Pakistan, and Nigeria. In compliance with colonial language policies that institutionalized English as the new colonial national language, a sizeable proportion of the colonial populations has learned and continued using English over generations, thereby vastly increasing the number of English speakers over and above those in the inner circle nations.
The expanding circle encompasses nations where English has played no historical government roles, but which are keen to appropriate English as the preeminent foreign language for local purposes such as national development, internationalization of higher education, and participation in globalization e. At exactly this point begins the empowerment through language that marks the work of the Goethe Institute.
It is an empowerment through the genuine power of language, not through a specific content or body of knowledge which is conveyed through language.
Language, power, and identity
And it is within this frame that the decentralised, world-wide projects of the Goethe Institute are to be understood. Dimensions of the power of language 2. A comparable dialectic may also be found where language serves not repression and compulsion, but rather founds, illuminates and corroborates comprehensive and cosmological meaning in aesthetically pleasing, well thought-out forms.
This is done above all by mythic or ritualised speech, by means of which man envisages and satisfies himself of the existence of a transcendent and sacred order. Even when in this way a certain social or ruling order is sacralised, mythic and ritualised speech is not another, possibly especially massive, instance of overpowering through language. Man needs the foothold provided by order and social institutions which are established and sustained mainly by linguistic symbolisation.
But precisely here the rendering into language has always opened the possibility of the variation and change of given interpretations, and to the extent that mythic grounds are themselves interrogated about their grounds.
Sooner or later, the language of myth presses beyond itself to logos: This science now speaks with the highest, universally binding authority, world-wide and about everything in the world.
Power, language and social relations: doing things with words
Its language is the real lingua franca of the developing world society. In fact, however, the language of the sciences is, at least to a good degree, comprehensible and accessible only to the relevant experts. For the bulk of people, on other hand, it is a secret language — also when it is not expressed mathematically but in a very reduced English. In this certainly lies considerable possibilities for the abuse of power, of which many representatives of science, often together with those who hold political or economic power, avail themselves.
Not only recently but as long as there has been science, people have observed and criticised the extent to which our experience of the world and of ourselves is stunted when it is restricted to what can be expressed in scientific language. This identity-forming power of language is not a secondary effect through which individuals can form themselves into small or large social groups, or with whose help the social cohesion of societies or state and supra-state unions can be fostered; it takes hold much earlier than these.
In his process of growing up, in the formation of his person and personality, language is not an element that the individual acquires at a certain point, but rather the acquisition of language is precisely this process in which the individual constitutes himself, not only as individual but also as an independent subject.
By means of language he attains to a consciousness of himself and his surroundings. He acquires competencies to act and to make himself understood; in a word, he not only learns to interpret his world, but he also receives his world through and as language.
Everything that he latter thinks and decides can be analysed and interpreted by his understanding, but finally he must always reach back to the level of his natural language. This observation touches on the double function of the first language. The first language lays the foundations for the understanding, its possibilities of grasping things and expressing them.