Review: Understanding the place
of language in hierarchical
societies
Language and society
• Language and ideology
--ideology part of discourse
• Language and social status
---status and authority non-partial
Power and language
• Coercion
--through force or threat of force
--institutions instruments for power
--Example:Apartheid, dictatorship
• Consent (“Democracy”)
--winning approval through discourse
--less costly, less risky
--discourse the instrument of power: institutional settings
Discourse
• Is Language (speech) as a form of social
practice
• Embodies Ideological assumptions
• Social conditions determine properties of
discourse
Assumptions and common-sense
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Implicit
non awareness
Authority and hierarchy as natural
Aura of authority
Assumptions embedded in language
Example: Hierarchical
assumptions embedded in
language
• “If you take them right, you are going
to be in pretty good shape… and of
course, everybody uses birth control
pills.”
Language and Ideology
• Language = Belief systems = social orders
• Inherent superiority and inherent inferiority
• Messages  social order  consciousness
Development of ideologies about
language
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Standard languages
Naturalization of language
Only one correct form of language
Standard language and nation-states
Language and social control
Non-standard languages
• Less powerful
• Viable alternatives: group solidarity
• Resistance to power : French Kreol, Haiti, AAVE,
When standard languages
become naturalized
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Common-sense unquestionable
Deviation as backwards, incorrect
Part of everyday thinking: political
Uncritical thinking
Manipulative usage of language
The Power of Language
• Transmit culture
• At the center of cultural, political and
economic struggle
• Potent instrument of control
Resistance
• Rejection of dominant language for a local
language
• Appropriation of a colonial language:
realization
Language always political
• Identified structures of languages as
enforcing structures of power
• Identifying languages as important for
nation
Language and status
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Rights and values manifested in language
Power of naming, classifying, etc
The power of defining others
Definire: to limit
Right to speak and the right to name
(correlated with higher social positions)
Language is not neutral
• Exposes attitudes, intentionalities (social
positions)
• Conveys authority or subordination
• Talk is part of social and cultural meanings
• Beliefs systems serve specific functions
(gaining and maintaining political and
economic control)
Construction of language
• Non-arbitrary
• Determined by social conditions
• Particular to social and cultural environments,
• institutions
• and society as a whole
Social conditions determine:
• properties of discourse (the parts that
constitute it)
• and types of discourse (valuable and lessvaluable discourses)
Discourse connected to the whole
of society implies that:
• 1. Language is part of society and not
something external to it
• 2. That language is a social process:
interconnected, regulated
• 3. Language is a socially conditioned
process: conditioned (by other nonlinguistic)parts of society
Text and discourse
• Text: (a product of the process of text
production) the product of social
interaction, utterance
• Discourse: the whole process of social
interaction including text
The conditioning of discoursive
language
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MR (members’ resources)
Cognitive but dependent on social relations
Internalized and naturalized
MR part of the individual’s psyche
Resources for life
Social conditions and levels of
social organization
• 1. Social situation: the immediate social
environment in which the discourse occurs
• 2. Social institution; wider contexts
• 3. Society as a whole: Structures of
capitalist society
It is important to see language as discourse
and discourse as a social practice because:
• It forces us to be critical thinkers
• It help us understand social structures
• It help us understand our position in the
world
• It help us understand the non neutrality of
discourses
Cultural capital
• Unequally distributed in society (literacy,
professions, knowledges)
Discourses carry particular
knowledges and power
• Institutional system
• Reproducers of structures of power
• Limited access
Constraints on less powerful
participants
• Constraints on contents
• Constraints on relations
• Constraints on subjects
Text is ideologically creative
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Individual
Commonsensical
Related to one’s position in society
Develop knowledge about ourselves
(technologies of the self)
Discourse types
• Ideologically particular or ideologically variable
(one position or another)
• Determined by different economic and political
realities (elite and dominant block, resistance)
• Naturalization and universality of discourses
(sustaining power in social institutions)
Alternative discourses
• Conscious (against dominant discourse)
• Oppositional (resistance)
• Marginal to political and economic
dominance
Presentation of experiential
values through words
• Coded in vocabulary
• Significance of ideology in words
(subversive, democratic forces, etc)
• Example of the Contra war in Nicaragua:
freedom fighters or murderers
Relations between words in
discourse
• Ideologically contested
• Meaning depending on the discourse
• Depending on the relation of some words
with others (Evil Empire)
Institutional Settings and
Discourse
• Educational, health, judiciary, the media,
etc.
• Transmit and maintain societal structures
• Involves participants separated in place and
time
• Involves hidden power relations
Differences: face-to-face
discourse and media discourse
• 1. One-sided nature of media discourse
--sharp division: producer and audience(
interpreter)
--no room for contestation
• 2. Lack of close interaction in media
discourse
--adaptability of face-to-face discourse
--mass media design for mass audiences
Why do we need to understand
media discourse?
• Influence of media unquestionable
• Construct and reconstruct particular realities
• Aura of partiality of media is deceiving
• Expressed bias: they highlight some items and ignore
others
The assumption of neutrality:
Media Discourse
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TV
Sustained by form and content
Form: familiarity
Familiarity creates a sense of trust
Printed Media
Neutrality by anonymity
Language control: institutional control
Language devices: nouns, verbs, etc
Syntactic Constructions and
Media Discourse
• Agents of actions and subjects
• Example:
--Anna ate a pizza
--The pizza was eaten by Anna
Shifting focus from agent of action to recipient of
action
--The pizza was eaten
Two headlines: The Times and
the Guardian
• RIOTING BLACKS SHOT DEAD BY POLICE AS
ANC LEADERS MEET
Eleven Africans were shot dead and 15 wounded when
Rhodesian police opened fire on a rioting crowd of
about 2,000 in the African Highfield township of
Salisbury this afternoon.
• POLICE SHOOT 11 DEAD IN SALISBURY RIOT
Riot police shot and killed 11 African demonstrators
and wounded 15 others here today in the Highfield
township on the outskirts of Salisbury.
TV, Film
• Similar hidden messages
• Focus on particular topics
• Sounds influences moods
• Organization of images
Why do we need to understand media
discourse?
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Influence of media unquestionable
Construct and reconstruct particular realities
Aura of partiality of media is deceiving
Expressed bias: they highlight some items and
ignore others
• Syntactic Constructions and Media Discourse
• Agents of actions and subjects: --Anna ate a pizza,
--The pizza was eaten by Anna
Then
• The nature of mass media is often not clear
• There are differences between face-to-face
interactions
• Lack of feedback
• Media discourse designed with mass audiences in
mind: construction of ideal subject
• Involves grammatical constructions, vocabulary
and language
Two ways of colonization of
people’s lives
• Consumerism(economy and commodity
markets)
• Institutional control (bureaucracy, social
order)
Social tendencies
• Imposed by the dominant block
• They change according to the change of
these tendencies
• Discourse of consumerism: re-structuring of
other discourse types
• Strategic discourse
The dimensions of ideological
work in advertising
• 1) The relationship advertising discourse construct
between the producer/advertiser and the consumer
• 2) The way advertising discourse builds an imagine
for the product (predicated on the ideology (freedom,
richness, efficiency, etc)
• 3) The way it constructs subject positions
for consumers
Advertising construct
consumption communities
• Through ideology
• Superficial view of the relationship between
truth and fiction
• Commons sense assumptions
Works ideologically through
• Building relations
• Building images
• Building the consumer
Types of constraints in discourse
• Contents:what can be part of types of
discourse
• Relations: who can participate in types of
discourses
• Subjects: who can acquire a type of
discourse
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Review