Language and Power


Different types of power

Instrumental Power: Inequality of power in society i.e father/child, boss/employee. How the inequality of power effects the way the language is used.

Influential Power: Language to create power by persuading others i.e Politicians- persuade us to vote for them, advertisers- persaude us to buy their product.

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Waering 1999

Said there was three different types of power 

Political People backing the law i.e a judge in Court

Personal Result of their occupation, preofession or role in organisation i.e teacher

Social Individuals as a result of being a member of a dominant social group i.e mother and child.

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Constraints- a way in which the powerful participant blocks or controls the contributions of less powerful participants. 

Selecting certain people to contribute- The one with the most power indicates another person to contribute.

Controlling the discourse- Coulthard and Sinclair observed that powerful participants often used the initiation-responce-feedback discourse pattern where they initiate a discussion point.

Formulation- Powerful participant rewords anothers contribution.

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Key Terms

Transitivity: Powerful can use passive voice to conceal their own wrong doing. 'The bank made a mistake on the statement' changes to 'An error occured when printing your statement' therefore this hides the banks reponsibility.

Nominalisation: Verbs turned into nouns. 'to allege'-'allegation', 'to suggest'-'suggestion'

Lexicalisation: New terms are made i.e sexism, social identities 'chavs' or things 'bling' are brought into being

Over lexicalisation: Over-exaggeration i.e young deviants- 'thug, hooligan, yob or hoodie'

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Ways the powerless respond

Convergence: Powerless can use the language patterns of the powerful- initiate conversations, challenge assertions, adopt the accent and dialect of the dominant individual.

Divergence: Powerless may choose to reject the language pattern of the powerful- remain silent, diverge from the accent/dialect.

Challenging behaviour: Powerless openly confront or defy the powerful- deliberate misunderstanding, being rude, mimicry, threat and open aggression.

Passive resistance: Powerless frustrate and undermine the authority of the powerful by refusing to react to their strategies.

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Face Goffman 1955

Face is the public self-image of a person.

Maintaining face: conversation is a cooperative activity, one aspect of this co-operation is that we generally accept the face that the other participant offers us. Face work is where people in a lower-status position tend to be more respectful of the face presented by those in a higher- status position. They show this by using language that is respectful.

Positive and negative face (Brown and Levinson 1987): Analysed politeness on the basis of a Model Person who has negative and positive face.

Negative Face: The need to be independant, to have freedom of action and not to be imposed on

Positive Face: The need to be accepted, even liked, by others, to be treated as a member of the same group, and to know that his wants are shared by others.

Face Threatening acts: Challenging another's face i.e 'you dont know what you're talking about 

Face Saving act: In an interaction where there is a possibility of a face-threatening act, speakers use speech acts to reduce that possibility.

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Face threatening acts

Threaten the hearer's negative face: Orders, advice, threats and warnings, offers and impositions

Threaten the speaker's negative face: Accepting a compliment, breakdown in control, accepting offers for help, making a commitment and thanks

Threaten the hearer's positive face: Critism, disagreement, expressions of violent emotions, mention of taboo or divisive topics, boasting and brining bad news

Threaten the speaker's positive face: Confession, self-humilation, admission

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Brown and Levinson suggest that a level of politeness required in a situation is affected by three important variables:

Social distance: need to be more polite when speaking to a stranger, if you needed an extra 20p for a bus fare you would need to be more polite when asking a stranger to borrow some money than a friend.

Power distance: If someone is more powerful than you, you need to be more polite to them. If you are in a more powerful position than the person that you are talking to you don't need to be as polite. 

Degree of impostion: The more you are asking someone to do the more polite you will need to be.

Add them all together and thats the level of politeness required.

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The politeness principle Robin Lakoff 1973

She came up with the three rules that speakers usually follow. Make your reciever feel good, don't impose- don't force the reciever to do something and give the reciever options.

Positive politeness strategies: Making the reciever feel good, showing them that they are liked and admired 

Giving compliements, Notice or show interest in the hearer, Solidarity Strategy: claim group membership or common ground with the hearer:use of nicknames, slang, shared dialect or personal information, Claim reflexivity: 'well, you know I always help you out when you're broke I'm sure you wouldn't mind lending me five quid", Follow Grices Maxims, Use appropriete terms of address, Use appropriete degree of formality. 

Negative politeness strategies: When we avoid intruding on others' 

Giving people options, Using the passive voice to make instructions indirect "customers ae asked to not smoke', Asking questions, impersonal constructs 'smoking is not permitted here', hedges, Using negatives/ being pessimistic 'I don't suppose you could stop smoking', use pre-invitations/pre requests 'are you doing anything later' (when wanting advice)

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Power in education setting

The Role of a Supportive Learning Partner

Children often rely on a supportive adult to aid their learning. Bruner calls this 'scaffolding'. This is where one person can provide support for another person's learning. The adult/teacher has the control over the learning.

Classroom interaction

Very ofen follows IRF structure identified by Coulthard and Sinclair (1975): Initiation- teacher initiates a discussion point, often by asking a question. Response- the student gives a response. Feedback- the teacher gives feedback, evaluationg the students responce.

The teacher has initiated the topic this suggests that he/she is in control of the situation. The students utterances are sandwiched between the teachers. The teacher can use this to see what the child does and does not know.

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The law

Enacting the law: Parliament has the power to enact new laws and change laws.

Legal texts: Written statements of law such as sections of laws, written contracts, wills, licences and birth certificates

Application of the law: The courts, the police and other government bodies (the DVLA) apply the law by arresting people, passing sentence, giving out fines, coming to a judgement and granting licences.

Advocacy: Process of appealing to the people who are asked to apply the law. Barristers try to persuade judges that law should be applied in a way that is good for the client. In a criminal case at the crown court the barrister also has to persuade a jury that the facts of the case should be interpreted in a way that is good for the client. Advocates have to follow strict rules about sequence, evidence, kinds of argument and turn taking.  

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The Law

The lexicon of Law

The Law has its own language this preserves archaic terms. It promotes respect for legal processes, partly through intimidation. It is very important to establish the precise definition of words. 

The structure of legal language

Stuctures within written legal text are exceptionally complex. Try to ensure nothing is missed out. Common structural features in legal language are: numbered lists, parentheses, subordinate clauses, footnotes, numbered sections and sub sections, hyper complex syntax, lengthy adverbial phrases

Woolfe Report 

In 1999 Parliament enacted a law changing the lexicon of the civil law. These changes were made to make the law more accessible to people.

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The Workplace

Workplace discourse structures- Begeman

Meetings can be built around three kinds of conversations: possibility, oppotunity and action.

Possibility: the group realises that it has to come together to generate ideas, not to make decisions. Goal to maximize creativity.

Oppotunity: The goal is to not reach a final decision but to narrow down the range of oppotunites, Gather information, do some anaylsis and take postitions.

Action: decide on and commit to a particular course of action. 

'Doing power' Homles and Stubbs (2003)- called language used by superiors(people in a position of power) 'doing power' 

Oppressive discourse strategy: using language to openly exert power and control. They found superiors often gave direct instructions to those who they were in charge of. They would normally be face threatening acts however Holmes and Stubbs said that within an organisation there is little danger of face threatening acts when a superior directs their employees because of their powerful positions. Bernsten 1998- use of imperatives is a sign that power relationships are clear and stable.

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The Workplace

Repressive discourse strategy

examples of constraints used by the powerful participant: Controlling the discourse and talking more. Selecting individuals to contribute. Controlling the content and formulation.

Holmes and Stubbs have argued that as part of a repressive discourse strategy superiors use and control the amount of 'small talk' 

Small talk

Many organisations would not be successful without team spirit, collaborative support and mutual respect 

Small talk is the language that is primarily concerned with establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships. An important politeness strategy because it enables individuals to feel that they are included within an organisation. 

Morreall (1991)- humour is used in the workplace to maintain good working relations. Winnick demonstrated that humour can be used to criticise authority and undermine power structures.

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Influential power- Advertising

D. Ogilvy- identified a basic advertising lexicon. Qualifiers: new, improved unique, crisp, better Verbs: buy, give, taste, go, look

Specialist lexicons

Some are specific to the product such as technical lexis for cars BHP, valve, ABS                      Some lexical uses are specific to the product, image or target market i.e 'pot noodle everything else is just pants' "pants" is fashionable as a mild term of dissapproval among young people who form the products target market.                                                                                    Some lexical uses relate to recent events i.e the use of lexis from the semantic field of football to advertise the world cup.

Advertising often  makes use of short forms called minor sentences. Doesn't make the reader read the advert as much. 

One very common technique is to set nouns/noun phrases or verbs on their own where the reader or listeners supply the mising elements 'winter welcome' 'new year new deals'

Another trend is to take a brand name and use it as an adjective, adverb or verb 'thats so susuki'

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The aim of advertisers is to persuade their audience to adopt certain attitudes to lifestyle, products and services 

Adverts occupy 'dead space'. We don't watch t.v for the commercials therefore they have to grab the readers attention.

Norman Fairclough- identified three ways in which the language of advertising works

Building relations: discourse seeks to establish a relationship between the producer/advertiser and the audience 

Building images: adverts construct and establish an 'image' of the product being advertised

Building the consumer: use of images and ideas on the assumption that the audience forms a 'consumption community'

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Parliamentary language

Special lexicon and forms of address.

The UK parliament use very extensive lexicon i.e constituency, woolsack, vote bundle, lobbying

Within Parliament there are distinct examples of taboo language. Any personal abusive terms are disallowed. The speaker may ask any member who breaches these rules to withdraw the remark, if he/she persists the speaker may ban the offender from the House for given time 

Particular forms of address are required in Parliament. My honourable friend, the honourable member, madam/mr.

Parliamentary Priviledge

Speakers may assert things which would elsewhere mean that others could sue them for libel. Members can be punished if they are held in 'contempt' for behaviour such as giving false evidence, threatening MP's about how they should vote, offering or accepting bribes.

Rules for turn taking

Speaker of the House calls MP's to take a turn. The holder of turn may allow another to speaker to interrupt his or her speaking 

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Parliamentary Language

Procedural Rules 

A number of procedural rules apply in the house. MP's may not read written speeches but they are allowed notes. They are not allowed to read magazines, newspapers or letters. They make not make use of visual aid

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O'Bama's tricks

He flatters his audience.

He uses tricola- a series of three to emphasise his point.

Antonomasia- He doesn't name people when talking about them

Anaphora- Repeat of a phrase at the start of the sentence 

Epiphora- Repeat of a phrase at the end of the sentence 

Aristotle, who stated that good rhetoric should consist of Pathos(emotion), logos(argument) and ethos(character)

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