Review: Understanding the place
of language in hierarchical
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
• Is Language (speech) as a form of social
• Embodies Ideological assumptions
• Social conditions determine properties of
Assumptions and common-sense
non awareness
Authority and hierarchy as natural
Aura of authority
Assumptions embedded in language
Example: Hierarchical
assumptions embedded in
• “If you take them right, you are going
to be in pretty good shape… and of
course, everybody uses birth control
Language and Ideology
• Language = Belief systems = social orders
• Inherent superiority and inherent inferiority
• Messages  social order  consciousness
Development of ideologies about
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
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
• Rejection of dominant language for a local
• Appropriation of a colonial language:
Language always political
• Identified structures of languages as
enforcing structures of power
• Identifying languages as important for
Language and status
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
• 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
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
• It help us understand the non neutrality of
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
• Constraints on contents
• Constraints on relations
• Constraints on subjects
Text is ideologically creative
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
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
• Ideologically contested
• Meaning depending on the discourse
• Depending on the relation of some words
with others (Evil Empire)
Institutional Settings and
• Educational, health, judiciary, the media,
• Transmit and maintain societal structures
• Involves participants separated in place and
• Involves hidden power relations
Differences: face-to-face
discourse and media discourse
• 1. One-sided nature of media discourse
--sharp division: producer and audience(
--no room for contestation
• 2. Lack of close interaction in media
--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
The assumption of neutrality:
Media Discourse
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
--The pizza was eaten
Two headlines: The Times and
the Guardian
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.
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
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
• The nature of mass media is often not clear
• There are differences between face-to-face
• 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
• Institutional control (bureaucracy, social
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
• Relations: who can participate in types of
• Subjects: who can acquire a type of