Language and Politics


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Language of politics cannot be separated from the politics of language. The notion of "Political Discourse" does not remain limited to the "institutional" field of politics (e.g. parliamentary discourse, election campaigns, party programmes, speeches, etc.) but opens to all linguistic manifestations that may be considered to be political, provided that it is convincingly argued what makes them "political". In order to illuminate new and old forms of political discourses inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives and elaborated linguistic methodologies have to complement each other.

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Language and Politics

  1. 1. The Language of Politics Dr Shamim Ali
  2. 2. The Language of Politics Politics is concerned with power: the power to make decisions, to control resources, to control other people’s behavior, and to control their values. What are the features of language used by politicians? 2
  3. 3. Language as Thought Control Why do politicians choose their words carefully? They believe implicitly in linguistic relativity. They believe in the power of language to influence thought 3
  4. 4. The Language of Politics1.Presupposition.2.Implicature3.Metaphor4.Euphemism5.The ‘rule of three’6.Structural parallelism7.Dexies8.Bushism9. Political Correctness 4
  5. 5. . 1.Presupposition Presuppositions - the meaning of the word presuppose is to assume beforehand; involve, imply - represent some of the most powerful of language patterns. They are in common, everyday use by all of us and are built into the structure of the English language 5
  6. 6. Presuppositions Presuppositions may be fair and uncontroversial - based upon knowledge which is common to all parties privy to a communication, or unfair, counterfeit or controversial - made upon the basis of covert knowledge by a communicator with a hidden agenda. 6
  7. 7. a)True PresuppositionIt seems to me that a true presupposition is based on an unconsidered assumption by the encoder. That assumption is that the decoder will draw the same suppositions from the non-asserted elements of a message as the encoder holds 7
  8. 8. b)The Unfair PresuppositionThe unfair or premeditated form of presupposition can be defined as that used by a speaker to get the listener to presuppose (i.e. assume to be true, as a matter of fact) spurious assertions. 8
  9. 9. c)Presuppositions in Use Presuppositions in Questions Presuppositions in Addresses to Groups Presuppositions in Advertising Presuppositions in One to One Encounters Assumptions and their Refutation Courtroom Confrontational debates - political or otherwise Police interviews Advertising Political broadcasts Sales situations 9
  10. 10. 2.Implicature Implicature is a technical term in the pragmatics subfield of linguistics, coined by H. P. Grice, which refers to what is suggested in an utterance, even though neither expressed nor strictly implied the utterance. Paul Grice identified four types of general conversational implicature: Maxim of Manner Maxim of Relation Maxim of Quantity Maxim ofQuality 10
  11. 11. a)Maxim of Manner: Clarity Avoid obscurity of expression.("Eschew obfuscation") Obfuscation (or beclouding) is the hiding of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, wilfully ambiguous, and harder to interpret Avoid ambiguity. Be brief Be orderly When one tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as one can in what one says, and where one avoids obscurity and ambiguity. 11
  12. 12. b)Maxim of Relation: Relevance Be relevant How to allow for the fact that subjects of conversations are legitimately changed. where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion 12
  13. 13. c)Maxim of Quantity: Information Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required. Where one tries to be as informative as one possibly can, and gives as much information as is needed, and no more. 13
  14. 14. d)Maxim of Quality: Truth Do not say what you believe to be false. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence Where one tries to be truthful, and does not give information that is false or that is not supported by evidence 14
  15. 15. 3.Metaphors Combine a metaphor with another figure of style! Make the audience aware of a metaphor! Combine compatible metaphors Elaborate metaphorical mappings Expand metaphorical Create novel mappings 15
  16. 16. 4.Euphemism A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience. Euphemism is an inoffensive expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive. In other words, the communication of painful or hurtful concepts using softer words is known as euphemism. 16
  17. 17. Example of Euphemsim Words can signal strongly our attitudes to fundamental things; debates that may appear to be about words can actually be about values and world view. Whichever word is chosen may also affect peoples perception of the world and of themselves." Therefore, when teachers tell students that they have poor ability in their studies, they may feel that they are never likely to improve and that there is no room for improvement and they may ask themselves: “Why bother when I can’t improve anymore?”. But when teachers tell students that they have low attainment, they may feel they would do much, much better if they work harder. Thus, the word attainment here is a euphemism to cover up an unacceptable fact with a prettier word. 17
  18. 18. 4.1 Categorization Abstractions and ambiguities (it for excrement, going to the other side for death, do it or come together in reference to a , tired and emotional Indirections (behind, unmentionables) Mispronunciation (goldarnit, dadgummit, effing c, freakin, be-atch, minced oath) Litotes or reserved understatement (not exactly thin for "fat", not completely truthful for "lied", not unlike cheating for "an instance of cheating") Changing nouns to modifiers Slang, 18
  19. 19. 5.Rule of Three The rule of three is powerful speechwriting technique that you should learn, practice, and master Speechwriting is, of course, part of every culture. Examples of the Rule of Three can be found in some of the most famous speeches ever delivered 19
  20. 20. 5.1Examples of the Rule of Three Julius Caesar  “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar  “Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears.“ Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address  “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground.“  Government of the people, by the people, for the people“ 20
  21. 21. Examples of the Rule of Three General MacArthur, West Point Address, 1962  “Duty, Honor, Country” [repeated several times in the speech] Barack Obama, Inaugural Speech  “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America“ 21
  22. 22. 5.2 Rhetorical Devices — Rule ofThreea)HendiatrisA hendiatris is a figure of speech where three successive words are used to express a central idea. Examples of hendiatris include:“Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar]“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité“ [French motto]“Citius, Altius, Fortius” [Olympic motto] 22
  23. 23. Rhetorical Devices — Rule of Three Tricolon A tricolon is a series of three parallel elements (words or phrases). In a strict tricolon, the elements have the same length but this condition is often put aside. Examples of tricola include: “Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar] “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” [Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt] 23
  24. 24. 5.3 Western Culture and the Ruleof Three Christianity  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit  Heaven, hell, and purgatory  Three Wise Men with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh Movies & Books  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly  Superman’s “Truth, Justice, and the American Way“  Nursery rhymes such as the Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears  In a more general sense, there is the allure of trilogies as with Indiana Jones, The Godfather, The Matrix, Star Wars, and many others. 24
  25. 25. Western Culture and the Rule ofThree Politics  U.S. Branches of Government: Executive, Judicial, and Legislative  U.S. Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”  French motto: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité 25
  26. 26. 6.Parallelism It is when elements of a sentence “have the same weight and are often the same part of speech. Noun, noun, noun. Check. Adjective, adjective, adjective. Yep. Verb, verb, verb. Parallelism is all about equality; parallelism creates a nice rhythm in your sentence 26
  27. 27. 6.1 Obama’s Inaugural SpeechExamples of Parallelism Here are but some of them (in italics): My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shattered. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things … They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. [There is a double parallelism here. Do you see it?] But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. 27
  28. 28. 7.Bushisms Bushisms are unconventional words, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, and semantic or linguistic errors that have occurred in the public speaking of former President of the United States George W. Bush and, much less notably, of his father, George H. W. Bush.The term has become part of popular folklore and is the basis of a number of websites and published books. It is often used to caricature the two presidents. Common characteristics include malapropisms, the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words and grammatically incorrect subject-verb agreement 28
  29. 29. 7.1 Neologisms Neologisms as a linguistic phenomenon can be seen from different aspects: time (synchronic), geographical, social and communicative. Neologisms can be either loan words in the form of direct loans and loan translations, or newly coined terms, either morphologically new words or by giving existing words a new semantic content 29
  30. 30. 7.2 A Spoonerism A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched (see metathesis). It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this tendency.A spoonerism is also known as a marrowsky, after a Polish count who suffered from the same impediment. While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue resulting from unintentionally getting ones words in a tangle, they can also be used intentionally as a play on words. In some cultures, spoonerisms are used as a rhyme form used in poetry 30
  31. 31. 7.2.1Examples of Spoonerism "Three cheers for our queer old dean!" (dear old queen, referring to Queen Victoria) "The Lord is a shoving leopard." (a loving shepherd) "A blushing crow." (crushing blow) "A well-boiled icicle" (well-oiled bicycle) "You were fighting a liar in the quadrangle." (lighting a fire) "Is the bean dizzy?" (dean busy) "Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet." (occupying my me to another seat) "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain." (missed...history, wasted...term, down train) 31
  32. 32. 7.3 A Stunt Words It is created to produce a special effect, or to attract attention. Some stunt words are Portmanteau words portmanteau word is a blend of two (or more) words or morphemes into one new word.A portmanteau word typically combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog.More generally, it may refer to any term or phrase that combines two or more meanings. In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph which represents two or more morphemes 32
  33. 33. 8.Deixis In linguistics, deixis refers to the phenomenon wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and phrases in an utterance requires contextual information. Words are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place. Words or phrases that require contextual information to convey any meaning – for example, English pronouns – are deictic. Deixis is closely related to both indexicality and anaphora 33
  34. 34. 8.1 Indexicality Indexical behavior or utterance points to (or indicates) some state of affairs. For example, I refers to whoever is speaking; now refers to the time at which that word is uttered; and here refers to the place of utterance. For Charles Sanders Peirce, indexicality is one of three sign modalities (see further down), and is a phenomenon far broader than language; that which, independently of interpretation, points to something — such as smoke (an index of fire) or a pointing finger — works indexically for interpretation. Social indexicality in the human realm has been regarded as including any sign (clothing, speech variety, table manners) that points to, and helps create, social identity 34
  35. 35. 8.2 Anaphora Anaphora is an important concept for different reasons and on different levels. First, anaphora indicates "how discourse is constructed and maintained". Second, on the level of the sentence, anaphora binds different syntactical elements together. Third, in computational linguistics anaphora presents a challenge to natural language processing, since the identification of the reference can be challenging. Fourth, anaphora "tells us some things about how language is understood, and processed", which is relevant to fields of linguistics interested in cognitive psychology 35
  36. 36. 9. Political Correctness Political Correctness is a trend that wants to make everything fair, equal and just to all by suppressing thought, speech and practice in order to achieve that goal. In recent years, there has been a political and social movement to make some words in a language more neutral and less biased. Words like ‘passed away’ is used instead of ‘die’ or ‘disabled’ instead of ‘handicapped’ 36
  37. 37. Politics is not just Institutions Politics happens on the streets 37