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Language and Power: Theories, ideas and concepts

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marcus randall

on 6 May 2015

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Transcript of Language and Power: Theories, ideas and concepts

who chooses/changes topic?
who interrupts?
who leads?
Social group
As a result of a person's job i.e. an employer will have personal power over an employee merely as a result of their role
Held by politicians, police, law etc
When power is used to influence or persuade others
Used by individuals to maintain and enforce authority
Power in talk
Ways of categorising power (Wareing 1999)
Type of power
Language and Power: Theories, ideas and concepts
what use is made of tags, fillers and hedges?
what politeness strategies are evident?
As a result of these factors, which participant(s) is/are dominant and which is/are submissive?
A person's social class, gender and age will affect this.

The people with the most power in this respect are white, middle class, middle aged males
Fairclough's (2001) ideas
For Fairclough language is a part of society - it can never be seen in isolation

all texts underpinned by ideology

No example of language is ever completely neutral

Language often (always) controls viewpoint (not always consciously)
Power in discourse
Situations where power relationships are set up and enacted

(The power comes from what the text

So language is used in a certain way or ways to achieve something
Power behind discourse
Where the power comes from 'outside' the text.

Allows contextualising of linguistic features

- wider ideologies/ideas, hierarchical structures and power relationships that shape language use
Belief system, attitudes and world values that an individual or group might hold

A text creator will use certain words to control how the receiver views the world (maybe not consciously)

Through language, grammar, graphological choices etc

Much broader than just political ideology
Grice's Maxims
"Make a contribution such as it is required, at the stage it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged"
Mostly applies to conversation, but does not have to. Also relevant for most jokes and puns etc to 'work'
This is not a rule, but a
cooperative principle
. When this principle is not followed (either on purpose or by accident) things can go 'wrong'.
Can be stated like this:
1. Maxim of quantity (just enough and no more)

2. Maxim of quality (be truthful)

3. Maxim of relation (make it relevant)

4. Maxim of manner (be clear)
Two ways of 'breaking' a maxim:

1. Violating

Not following the conventions of conversation

2. Flouting

Not following the conventions in such a way that it is
. You want the listener to notice, for some reason.
Perhaps this is done to
the maxim in some way.
Other ideas
Asymmetrical Power
The idea that one person has power over the other.

They are not equal.

Teacher - student

Parent - child

Friend - friend

Boss - employee
Powerful participant

speaker with higher status in given context who i able to impose a degree of power

Less powerful participant

speakers with less status in a given context who are subject to constraints imposed by the powerful participant(s)


a way in which the powerful participant blocks or controls the contributions of the less powerful participants (e.g. by interruptin or controlling content)
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