Language and Institutional Encounters 1

Language and Institutional Encounters 1
• Institutional practices which people draw upon
without thinking often embody assumptions
which…legitimise power relations. Practices
which appear commonsensical can often be shown
to originate in the dominant class…and to have
become naturalized (Fairclough, 2001:27).
• While names, words and language can be and are
used to inspire us, to motivate us, …hey can also
be used to dehumanise human beings and to
“justify” their suppression and even their
extermination (Bosmajian, 2004: 9).
Understanding the place of
language in hierarchical societies
• 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
• Consent
--winning approval
--less costly, less risky
--discourse the instrument of power
• 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
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
• Assumptions are ideologies
• Ideologies are connected to power
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 power
• Viable alternatives: group solidarity
• Resistance to power : French Kreol, Haiti
Standard language becomes
Common-sense unquestionable
Deviation as backwards, incorrect
Part of everyday thinking: political
Uncritical thinking
Manipulative usage of language
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
Language is not neutral
Exposes attitudes, intentionalities
Conveying authority
Talk is part of social and cultural meanings
Beliefs systems serve specific functions
• Importance of understanding
1. Language and ideology
2. Language and status
Two ways of creating and maintaining power
1. Coercion
2. Consent
Discussion question
• To what extent are ideologies
variable within a society, and how
are such variations manifested in
Discussion Question
• What do you think is the future
of most languages in the
world? What can we do to
prevent the death of these
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