Language and Politics

Language and Politics

Language and Politics

Language and Politics

Synopsis

Language, this book argues, is political from top to bottom, whether considered at the level of an individual speaker's choice of language or style of discourse with others (where interpersonal politics are performed), or at the level of political rhetoric, or indeed all the way up to the formation of national languages. By bringing together this set of topics and highlighting how they are interrelated, the book will function well as a textbook on any applied or sociolinguistic course in which some or all of these various aspects of the politics of language are covered. The chapter headings include:
• How politics permeates language (and vice-versa)• Language and nation
• The social politics of language choice and linguistic correctness
• Politics embedded in language
• Taboo language and its restriction
• Rhetoric, propaganda and interpretation
• Power, hegemony and choices

Excerpt

In the last two decades, applied linguistics has abandoned the structuralist view of language as a self-contained, neutral system, in favour of a conception of language as political from top to bottom, in its structure as well as its use. This book examines the consequences of that conceptual shift, as it draws together key topics including language choice, linguistic correctness, (self-)censorship and hate speech, the performance of ethnic and national identity in language, gender politics and 'powerful' language, rhetoric and propaganda, and changing conceptions of written language, driven in part by technological advances.

In teaching language and politics to undergraduate and postgraduate students, I have felt my efforts hampered by the lack of a book that unites these topics and shows how they relate to the more structural aspects of language analysis as well as to the core concerns of applied linguistics. Nor did it appear that anyone was going to be rash enough to attempt such a book, given the breadth of areas that 'language and politics' potentially covers, and the fact that people working in some of these areas believe the rubric applies exclusively to what they do. A book like this one is bound to meet with a certain amount of adverse criticism from those who find that what they consider to be the core of language and politics is under-represented. Although breadth of coverage has been my aim, the exigencies of coherence, the need to demonstrate how a sampling of apposite questions might be probed in at least moderate depth, and the publisher's rather strict length parameters have forced me to omit or skim over topics that certainly deserve fuller treatment. I have tried at least to guide readers to a further range of relevant topics through bibliographic references and suggestions for further reading, which will in turn lead to a still more ample literature.

I am grateful to Alan Davies and Keith Mitchell for the invitation to contribute this volume to their series, and to Sarah Edwards of Edinburgh University Press for guiding it safely through what is never an easy process. Thanks are due again to Alan, along with Catherine Elder, for including my chapter on 'Language and politics' in their Handbook of Applied Linguistics (Blackwell, 2004). That chapter, which benefited from John Cleary's bibliographic assistance, became the template for this book – but getting from there to here required a sabbatical leave, generously granted . . .

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