Linguistic Politics and the Reinforcement Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

To this point, Chouliarki (2000) argues that "the facilitation of deliberative processes among audiences is a matter not only of changing institutional arrangements (towards a regulation of marketized media) but also of changing the mode of articulation of media discourse itself; even though the latter may be a consequence of the former, each is a sine qua non-for deliberative democracy." (Chouliarki, 293)

To an extent then, these approaches to language and the degree to which the cognitive experience of this language are shared in a culture will dictate how extensively democracy is truly fostered. Beyond this, there are distinct messages of self-reference and the implications of power structures within a culture such as may occur when one reduces the content of a statement in the interests of word economy in settings where less formality is required. As a simple example, a speaker may reply to an inquiry regarding how he is feeling by asserting 'fine.'

Our understanding of this statement is that it is roughly identical in meaning to the proposition, 'I am fine.' In Palmer's (1981) discussion of sentences as being the basic units of the spoken language, he suggests that we might correctly understand the utterance of a sentence as the 'expression of a complete thought.' (Palmer, 37) Yet by virtue of the familiarity that we develop through constant social interaction of certain implied cues in our verbal exchanges, there develops a certain degree of scripted formulism which allows us to enable obviations in place of, in this case, such deictic terms as 'I' or 'me.' (Palmer, 37)

There is an opportunity provided by the context of a conversation which allows us to reduce those formulaic scripts to the sparest and most essential terms of information. In the statement provided, the proposition that the speaker is referring to himself in his assertion may be assumed according to the social response obviated by the question to which he is responding. It is inquired of him to describe his condition, so without necessarily applying the disambiguating deictic, it may still be assumed without a reasonable doubt that speaker is making a proposition regarding himself.

More, the absence of a verb, in this case the expediting 'am,'(contracted here to the 'm) is a manifestation of context as well. When it is asked of the respondent 'how are you?,' it is already anticipated that the reply will concern the respondent's state of being. Thus, the adjective which will be required to attend to the 'how' is implicitly reinforced by the connotation of a verb supplement asserting the 'being' which will be described by the state. In this case, the state is 'fine,' and thus, according to the formula of expressive interchange that is socially obviated, the 'am' is implied.

Palmer explores throughout his text the ways in which we communicate either directly or indirectly by conveying meanings through the exclusion of words as well as through the careful selection of words.

Palmer's text offers a discussion which helps to elucidate the nuances of language that are not universally perceptible but perceptible to those willing or able to incorporate contextual clues and a knowledge of the speaker the relationship implied by conversation with said speaker. (Palmer, 174) Often, what is said is not exactly what is meant. By way of irony, sarcasm, humor, derision or any other number of sophisticated uses of the language, it is possible to say one thing and mean something totally different. Moreover, if there is a relevant significance of such an utterance to its recipient, the likelihood is high that the subtextual meaning will be received.

The nature of such an occurrence in language illustrates much about the manner in which "language is often deeply concerned with a variety of social relations." (Palmer, 40) in order to understand a statement such as any of these, one must understand the implications underlying its utterance. Palmer's text refers to this as implicature, arguing that the socially understood and accepted use of language for the purposes of communicating both information and sentiment simultaneously through such a device as irony or sarcasm renders what is produced as a common and identifiable part of speech.

Taken together, the instances of semantic deconstruction considered here are indicative of the culturally derived peculiarities of the spoken language. In many ways, what is addressed in this discussion constitutes an exploration of the manner in which meanings and expressions are manipulated as a reinforcement of cultural norms. Factors such as context, the nature of the relationship between the conversant partners and general social conventions within a culture will play a determinant role in the way that individuals choose the information they disclose, the manner in which they disclose it and the manner in which they interpret it.

III. Discussion of how manipulation of language can mean power in our society; followed by close examination of several longer examples (political speeches, propaganda, campaign advertisements).

The semantic realities considered above for the basis for the claims in the section to follow, which demonstrate through a consideration of English in world culture that linguistic cultural dominance can manifest as linguistic imperialism. Economic, military and structural conditions have helped English to permeate global culture to the point that it is often taken for granted, especially in such distinctively ethnocentric cultures as that of the United States, that English is a universal language. In corollary to that theory, many native English speakers react harshly to those immigrants who have yet to master the language and many of the familiar nuances discussed in the section above. Moreover, it is even expected by many native English speakers that wherever they may tread in the world, they might be entitled to locate an English speaker with whom to interact. While even a modest linguistic education should dispel this myth, there is yet some cause to examine the belief, as it does not arise from a total vacuum of cultural conceit. Instead, we might recognize that this viewpoint is provoked by a far larger and long-standing reality of global hierarchy, in which language serves as a marker of dominance in the molding of world politics, world economy and world culture. Thus, as we enter into a discussion of the role which language has played both historically, within the context of international colonialism, and currently, within the context of economic globalization, we can assert that English has ascended to its unparalleled status of recognition and conceit on the world stage with the design of fostering the impression of its linguistic superiority. In fact, such theories as that espoused in Phillipson's (1990) text, Linguistic Imperialism, argue that there has been an intentional enforcement of the global adoption of English as a product of the assumed cultural superiority of the British, and subsequently, the Americans.

The sheer vastness of the Empire which the British would extend throughout the world would be significant enough to introduce such venues as India, Pakistan, South Africa and North America to the English language. Britain's long-standing occupation in these settings, accompanied by its long-standing assumptions of racial and cultural superiority, rendered a circumstance in which it would become an economic imperative to function in what were increasingly English-speaking nations. The ability to subsist, earn advancement opportunities and even interact within the courts and legal system would be determined by the ability of native-tongue speakers to accept the primacy of English in their own countries. The success of this approach to levying cultural dominance upon its possessed territories would prove incredibly effective and long-lasting, as may be testified by the unwavering dominance of English in most of the nations which would gradually achieve independence from the massive empire.

By the start of World War II, with the British drawing inward to focus on continental strife, "the British Empire has given way to the empire of English." (Phillipson, 1). In the fallout of the centuries upon which it militarily, diplomatically and economically exported its own culture, the subsiding British Empire would nonetheless disseminate its educational and linguistic proclivities to nearly every part of the globe. Even as the people of the world would gradually come resist the colonialist conceits which would project a universality of British culture, there could be no returning of the English language to its source. Its permeation of other cultures would be permanent.

This conforms with the conception of English as a global language. Whether it may truly be regarded as 'superior' or otherwise, it has ascended to a point of relevance in nearly all parts of the world. As one theorist defines it, "a language achieves a genuinely global status when it develops a special role that is recognized in every country." (Crystal, 2)…

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