Posts tagged ‘language’

1 December 2010

Attac and discourse analysis

Real live discourse analysis in action. Attac Berlin has a “language group”. Another language culture is possible.

Its aim is to analyse the language used by neoliberals, to explore the extent to which those metaphors, phrases, concepts, etc. pervade even the language of those contesting neoliberal practices, and to find ways of using language differently to open new possibilities.

The group meets on the first Monday of every month at 6.30pm in the attac-treff: Grünberger Straße  24, 10243 Berlin-Friedrichshain (U1 Warschauer Straße or U5 Frankfurter Tor).

22 February 2010

Language use and ideology

Open source manuscripts! And not only uploaded by third parties, but by the authors themselves. Jef Verschueren‘s latest book, for instance, is currently available online in draft form. In it, he argues that a ‘permanent monitoring of ideological processes’ is ‘imperative’. And that pragmatics offers useful tools to do this.

The book deals with what for me is one of the most fascinating (and important) aspects of language use: commonsensicalness.

Once ways of thinking about relations between groups of people are felt to be ‘normal’, they may become powerful tools for legitimating attitudes, behavior, and policies, whatever the frequently negative consequences in terms of discrimination, patterns of dominance, and even violence.

And more specifically, he offers an interesting thesis on hegemony which promises to engage closely with language practices:

Thesis 1.1.1: The wider the society or community, and the wider the range of discourse genres in which a given pattern of meaning or frame of interpretation escapes questioning, the more ‘hegemonic’ it may be.

The manuscript, which provides a research tool to explore these issues: Engaging with Language Use and Ideology: Pragmatic guidelines for empirical ideology research.

22 March 2009

“Dissident” – a resignification?

Something interesting happened in the news media last week.* After the fatal attacks on security forces in Northern Ireland on 9 and 10 Marc, the suspects were repeatedly referred to as “Irish Republican Army dissidents” (AP), “dissident republicans” (Guardian), “IRA dissidents” (The Star), “dissident republicans” (BBC), “dissident republican groups” (Telegraph), etc.

This fits with the standard dictionary definition of dissident (“disagreeing, esp, with an established government, system, etc.” according to the Oxford Concise Dictionary). But it does not fit with recent corpora, i.e., databases of the ways in which language is actually used. For example:


Note the distinct tendency for the majority of these “dissidents” to be positively valued (for a particular political position)? The dissidents are disagreeing with very particular types of governments and systems, and in a way which is pro-liberal, pro-democracy, pro-West and/or anti-Communist.

This is a random selection from the Collins WordbanksOnline English corpus (56 million words; contemporary written and spoken English). The British National Corpus (100 million words; British written and spoken English) returns similar results. (Oxford also now has a corpus, but they only have a video demo online.)

*It undoubtedly happened earlier, but I only became aware of it last week, reading the British coverage of the recent killings in Northern Ireland.