English Language and Power - Full Revision Notes

This is a revision set for Power and Language condensed into revisiion cards.

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Language and Power


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Topic List:

        Different forms of Power (3-6)                     Political Correctness (11)

        Power in a conversation (7)                        Media and power (12-13)

        Power in context (8)                                   Newspapers and Power (14)

        Powers in different ways (9)                                      

       Jargon used to dominate (10)                                                              


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Power in Politics:

Political Language:

The purpose of political language is to persuade. To achieve this, politicians use rhetorical devices. (rhetoric is the art of using language persuasively)

1) Repetition  - Those who betray their party betray themselves.

2) Three-Part Lists - He came, he saw, he conquered.

3) First Person Plural Pronoun - We must strive together.

4) Figurative Language - Under our leadership the winter of discontent has become a summer of prosperity.

5) Rhetorical questions - How much longer must our people endure this injustice?

6) Hyperbole (exaggeration) - They intend to destroy our nation!

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Power in Legal Language:

1) Legal language is quite distinctive - it has its own lexis. The specific vocabulary used by an occupational group is known as jargon

2) The syntax is often complex, with lots of subordinate clauses. Its also repetitive.

3) Because its so complex, knowledge of this language gives specialists a distinct advantage over non-specialists. This means that lawyers have a lot of power - the client may not fully understand the jargon, and so blindly trusts that their lawyers understand their case.

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Power in Education:

1) The language of power is seen in schools, colleges and universities. The language of education reflects the power structures in schools.

2) Teachers often use imperatives - open your books, and indirect questions - what's the answer to question four?

3) Students use fewer imperatives and ask more indirect questions - is it okay if I go to the toilet.

4) There's often an imbalance in address terms - students might use respectful address terms to the teacher like Sir, or title +surname constructions. (Ms Smith), while teachers just use the students first name.  This shows an understanding that the teacher has authority

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Power in Businesses:

1) Power structures in the language of business are very similar to those in education - managers may speak more directly to their employees, while the employees may use more politeness strategies and fewer imperatives.

2) The hierarchical structure of many business is shown in nouns such as subordinate, superior, team leader and chief executive.

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Power in Conversation:

Power relationships are shown in the way people talk to each other.

  • 1) Initiating the conversation - this can be a means of taking the lead and starting a topic.
  • 2) Holding the floor - this is when one speaker gives no opportunity for turn taking.
  • 3) Imperative sentences - giving orders and directions e.g. shut that door.
  • 4) Interrupting - cutting into the other persons turn, shows little interest in the topic.
  • 5) Unresponsiveness - this is a more negative way of asserting control, ignoring and half-hearted responses undermines the status of the speaker.
  • 6) Questioning - questions direct the topic, and make it clear for another to talk.
  • 7) Topic exchanging - reasserting control. Sometimes politicians do this when uncomfortable about a particular topic. Gaining control of the direction of the conversation
  • 8) Closing a conversation - asserts power by not allowing any more speakers to continue talking e.g. saying goodbye or walking away.
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Power in Context:

It's important to pay attention to the context of the conversation when your looking at power.

1) In a particular situation, the way power shows itself depends on how the people are 'positioned' in relation to each other.

2) These relationships between speakers can shape the conversational strategies and type of language they used.

3)Depending on the context of the conversation, some of the power relationship examples of dominance can actually be interpreted as ways of  showing support.

4) For example, interrupting with words like yes, or cutting in to repeat what the speaker has said can show that you agree or are listening, not just asserting power.

5) Similarly, asking questions can be a sign that you want to control the topic of the conversation, or it can be a way of passing control to somebody to encourage them to hold the floor

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Power shows itself in Different Ways:

1) Non-verbal communication (NVC) - is using posture, positioning, gestures, eye contact and facial expressions to convey feelings and attitudes, e.g. crossing your legs away from someone can function as a barrier and appear defensive. Maintaining eye contact longer than normal can be away to assert dominance. Smiling at someone and pausing as you walk past them can be a way of initiating a conversation.

2) Non-verbal aspects of speech (pitch, intonation, volume, pace and stress) - can also be used to assert control, e.g. when people argue they may try to dominate by shouting, raising pitch of their voice or by speaking more quickly.

3) Standard English and Received Pronunciation - are varieties of English that carry the most prestige. They're associated with professional jobs and a good education. Because of this, speakers who use Standard English and RP are often perceived to have more authority and status than people who speak in a regional dialect or accent.

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Jargon - Used to Dominate

Jargon is the specialist vocabulary used in particular fields of activity, especially in occupations. For example:

  • The medical world uses terms like adenovirus, meningococcal, and septum.
  • Electrical engineers use terms like chrominance, phase jitter, and watchdog circuit.
  • Terms like these aren't generally understood by non-specialists

1) Jargon is often necessary when specialists are taking to other specialists.

2) People who understand the jargon have a sense on inclusion in a group.

3) The problem with jargon is that when specialists use it to communicate with non-specialists, it can become a barrier to understanding.

4) Non-specialists can feel intimidated by the specialists and excluded from the high status group.
5) Specialists can exploit this by using to jargon with non-specialists in order to impress them.

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Political Correctness:

1)Political correctness is a term to describe ways that language can be adapted to minimise  social inequality.

2) It's politically correct to avoid language that insults, marginalises, or seeks to control other people or groups of people - in particular, language that is sexist, racist, ageist and ableist.

3) Political correctness is based on the idea that language does not just reflect social attitudes, but also helps to shape them. So if discriminatory language is changed or avoided, then people are less likely to discriminate against others.  


Half caste - Mixed race: Half caste suggests less than whole, incomplete.

Stewardess - Flight Attendant: Stewardess reveals the persons gender.

Disabled Person - Person with Disabilities: Disabled person is dehumanising.

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Power in the Media:

The language of the media can have a big difference on people's attitudes and values. This occurs in a number of ways:

1) Bias - Taking sides and viewing things subjectively - only focus on the positive.

2) Prejudice - preconceived opinion of a person or group that's not based on fact.

3) Stereotypes - a simplified image of something commonly based on gender roles.

4) Sensationalising - Making a big deal out of something - being selective with information, quotes or using ambiguous language.

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Media and Power - Pursuasiveness:

All adverts aim to attract an audience to a particular product, service or cause, by focusing on the following things:

1) Selling - advert makers use different approaches to do this, e.g. showing attractive people with luxurious things to persuade the audience to buy it.

2) Form - written adverts come in different forms, e.g. in newspapers and magazines. They can also be in forms of letters, emails, leaflets, fliers etc.

3) Target Audience - is the audience the advert is aimed at. Could be very broad or specific.

4) Hook - the device advertisers use to get the audience's attention - could be verbal, visual or musical.

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Power in Newspapers:

Every newspaper takes a slightly different political viewpoint, so their purpose is to persuade as well as to inform. Newspapers are in competition with each other, so they also need to entertain readers to keep them interested and to sell papers.

1) Tabloid newspapers are ones like The Sun and The News of The World (RIP). They tend to make their viewpoint on a story very clear, and use quite straightforward language.

2) Broadsheets are newspapers like The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. They're aimed at professional mostly middle class readership.

Tabloid:                                                                            Broadsheet:

Short Paragraphs                                                             Longer Paragraphs

Large Print (May Day Massacre)                                      Smaller print - factual

First Names or Nicknames (Gordon, Macca)                  Fullnames or surnames

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Thats it?

Isn't there more?

Henry Barnes

No sorry, I keep saving it to preview the final outcome. It shall be done soon.


henry wrote:

No sorry, I keep saving it to preview the final outcome. It shall be done soon.

Its ok .Thanks :),even though I should be making my own notes:P


When will it be done? My exams on friday

Henry Barnes

It shall be done in 15 minutes.

Henry Barnes

The set is now complete.

Omar Mansur

is this A-level?


so much helpful info, thank you!

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