LINGUISTICS CHARACTERISTICS ON THE LANGUAGE OF POLITICS
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. There are three aspects to this study: language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the description of language have been attributed to Pāṇini (fl. 4th century BCE), with his analysis of Sanskrit in Ashtadhyayi.
In linguistics, human language is a system of sounds, symbols, and meaning. Phonetics is the study of acoustic, visual, and articulatory properties in the production and perception of speech and non-speech sounds. The study of language meaning, on the other hand, deals with how languages encode relations between entities, properties, and other aspects of the world to convey, process, and assign meaning, as well as to manage and resolve ambiguity. While the study of semantics typically concerns itself with truth conditions, pragmatics deals with how context influences meanings.
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context.
The first is the study of language structure, or grammar. This focuses on the system of rules followed by the speakers (or hearers) of a language. It encompasses morphology (the formation and composition of words), syntax (the formation and composition of phrases and sentences from these words), and phonology (sound systems).
Language in its broader context includes evolutionary linguistics, which considers the origins of language; historical linguistics, which explores language change; sociolinguistics, which looks at the relation between linguistic variation and social structures; psycholinguistics, which explores the representation and function of language in the mind; neurolinguistics, which looks at language processing in the brain; language acquisition, how children or adults acquire language; and discourse analysis, which involves the structure of texts and conversations.
Although linguistics is the scientific study of language, a number of other intellectual disciplines are relevant to language and intersect with it. Semiotics, for example, is the general study of signs and symbols both within language and without. Literary theorists study the use of language in literature. Linguistics additionally draws on and informs work from such diverse fields as psychology, speech-language pathology, informatics, computer science, philosophy, biology, human anatomy, neuroscience, sociology, anthropology, and acoustics.
Language politics is the way language and linguistic differences between peoples are dealt with in the political arena. This could manifest as government recognition, as well as how language is treated in official capacities. Some examples:
• Recognition (or not) of a language as an official language. Generally this means that all official documents affecting a country or region are published in languages that are ‘official’, but not in those that are not. Evidence in a court of law may also be expected to be in an official language only.
• In countries where there are more than one main language, there are often political implications in decisions that are seen to promote one group of speakers over another, and this is often referred to as language politics. An example of a country with this type of language politics is Belgium.
• In countries where there is one main language, immigrants seeking full citizenship may be expected to have a degree of fluency in that language (‘language politics’ then being a reference to the debate over the appropriateness of this). This has been a feature of Australian politics.
• At various times minority languages have either been promoted or banned in schools, as politicians have either sought to promote a minority language with a view to strengthening the cultural identity of its speakers, or banning its use (either for teaching, or on occasion an entire ban on its use), with a view to promoting a national identity based on the majority language. An example of recent promotion of a minority language are Welsh or Leonese by the Leonese City Council, an example of official discouragement of a minority language is Breton.
• Language politics also sometimes relates to dialect, where speakers of a particular dialect are perceived as speaking a more culturally ‘advanced’ or ‘correct’ form of the language. Politicians may therefore try to use that dialect rather than their own when in the public eye. Alternatively, at times those speaking the dialect perceived as more ‘correct’ may try to use another dialect when in the public eye to be seen as a ‘man/woman of the people’.
• To promote national identity, what are strictly dialects of the same language may be promoted as separate languages to promote a sense of national identity (examples include Danish and Norwegian, and Serbian and Croatian – the latter two also use different scripts for what is linguistically the same language – Cyrillic for Serbian and roman script for Croatian). Whether or not something is a language can also involve language politics, for instance, Macedonian.
• The use of ‘he’ and other words implying the masculine in documents has been a political issue relating to women’s rights.
• The use of words which are considered by some to have negative implications to describe a group of people e.g. Gypsies (or even more negatively, ‘Gypos’) instead of Romani, or indeed using the term ‘Gypsies’ to cover Traveller peoples as well as Romanies.
• ‘Political correctness’ issues often stem from the use of words. For instance, some may object to the person in charge of an organisation being referred to as ‘chairman’, on the grounds that it implies a man must be in charge.
• Co-existence of competing spelling systems for the same language, associated with different political camps. E.g.
o Debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters
o Simplification of Russian orthography; proposals for such a reform were viewed as subversive in the late years of the Russian Empire and were implemented by the Bolsheviks in 1918, after which the “old orthography” became associated with the White movement.
o The two spelling systems for the Belarusian language, one of which is associated with the country’s political opposition.
Language also in political matters used to parsue, to unify, to organise, to criticise aiming to reach the time of unifying all member of such political party.
THE LANGUAGE OF POLITICS
One obvious feature of how language operates in social interactions is its relationship with power, both influential and instrumental. Neither rule nor law, neither discipline nor hierarchy sanctions influential power. It inclines us or makes us want to behave in certain ways or adopt opinions or attitudes, without obvious force. It operates in such social phenomena as advertising, culture and the media. Instrumental power is explicit power of the sort imposed by the state, by its laws and conventions or by the organizations for which we work. It operates in business, education and various kinds of management. (In many, but not all cases, if we resist instrumental power, we will be subject to some penalty or in trouble.)
Politicians impose laws, taxes, and bureaucratic systems (instrumental power) but seek to influence us to endorse their policies or turn out to vote for them (influential power). They may wish to influence us to use our collective power to return them to office, where they will use their executive power to direct some aspects of our lives – a curious paradox of our system of parliamentary democratic representation. (That is they get us to give them the power to tell us what to do and how to live. And we really do have the choice, collectively, as we show when we vote for a change of government.)
In looking at how power is exercised through language, you should be able to refer to real examples you have found, and explain these texts. But you should also have a theoretical approach that will enable you to interpret language data you are presented with in an exam. Among other things, you should look at pragmatics and speech act theory, lexis and semantics (forms and meanings), forms that include or exclude (insiders or outsiders), structures (at phrase, clause and discourse level), forms of address, phatic tokens, as well as structural features of speech, which may be used to exercise or establish power. And in some contexts, you will need to be able to show how rhetorical devices are used to influence an audience
Consider, for example, how conversational maxims may be adapted for reasons of expedience, rather than integrity. Does all power corrupt in language, as (according to Lord Acton) it does generally?
Language use is an inherently social phenomenon. How you speak depends on such factors as where you grew up, your racial and ethnic identity, whether you are a woman or man, and your education. That is, you use the variation in language as a creative means of expressing who you are (and who you are not). By studying this variation, researchers enhance their understanding of language as well as their understanding of social processes, and discover the social factors that influence our linguistic choices and how these choices are perceived by others. Linguists who study the social aspects of language also investigate such topics as how and why languages change over time, how new languages are created when speakers of divergent languages come into contact, how language attitudes are used to maintain forms of discrimination, how conversations are social transactions, the relation between language and power, and the use of language in the media.
LINGUISTICS CHARACTERISTICS ON THE LANGUAGE OF POLITICS
What politics means is an open question, but there is no doubt that politics is meaningful. Politics and language are thus inseparable, and one examines their relation in various and complementary ways. We study how language constructs our political and legal reality, as well as how it occasionally disrupts it. We study the use of framing in political communication, as well the politics of framing.
The intrinsic link between language and politics has long been recognized (for example, Aristotle wrote ‘… that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animal is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech’ (Politic, 1, 2). It remains a broad, flourishing, and highly contested area of academic study. On the one hand, it analyses how politicians use language, applying approaches which range from traditional rhetoric to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). On the other hand, it is also concerned with the political dimension that is arguably inherent in the use of all language.
When linguists study language as a structured, formal system, they investigate many distinct subsystems: the physical characteristics of speech sounds (phonetics); how sounds function together as part of a linguistic system (phonology); how words are formed and new words created (morphology); how words and phrases are combined to form a potentially infinite number of sentences (syntax); and meaning (semantics).
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