The Power of Language

Language is one of the most important elements in our lives.  It is used in many different ways.  It can be defined as a verbal, physical, biologically innate, and a basic form of communication. The behaviorists often define language as a learned behavior involving a stimulus and a response. (Ormrod, 1995.) «I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain» (Jane Wager).  People use language to express inner thoughts and emotions, make sense of complex and abstract thoughts, to learn to communicate with others, to fulfil our wants and needs, as well as to establish rules and maintain culture.  In this essay I would like to discover language as an agent of communication which people use to express themselves. As far as I am concerned each language has its own rules and regulations. Nearly all the languages have grammar. And this aspect of language depends very much on life’s philosophy of people it belongs to. Grammar reflects life position of entire nations. ‘’Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is grammar of reason’’ (Richard Chenevix Trench). Each language is more than just words and proper punctuation. It is the ability to communicate. It allows people to accurately express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Language is also used to relate to society, as well as individuals, information about facts and events. On everyday basis it is used to talk to people, to listen to the radio, to watch television, to read the newspapers or to use the telephone. Events of the past, present and future are learned of through language. It helps to shape society as a whole and the individuals in it and the society and the individuals that make it up the power to grow, change, and develop. Everyone in society is affected by language and communication in some way.

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Of all possible human qualities, the one that wields the most power is the ability to use, understand and communicate effectively through language. A proficient use of language allows us to clearly communicate an exact idea from one person to another person or group of people. This precise science of being able to convey exactly what you want equates to the acquisition of power. An important link between language and power is persuasion. The power of persuasion is so strong it allows certain individuals to influence, and therefore, control thousands, even millions, of people and bind them together in search of one common cause. In modern society it is more and more visible what can be called a specific culture promotion. (Wernick, A.1991) Today in our life there are very few areas left, which have not been affected by all sorts of advertising images, slogans, stories and rhetoric – all which is produced in such abundance by symbols’ experts. (Jackall, R. (1994). But the question is – what is the relationship between the media and the power in a modern society? Classical liberal theory stands on the fact that the media provide some public space in which people exchange information and society, therefore, in this way learns itself. Eventually, this leads to the fact that in the media there are always many voices heard speaking on behalf of many different groups. (Gans, H. 1980) In the United Kingdom between 1979 -1998 PR activity structures increased in 11 times. (Miller, D. and Dinan, W. (2000)). Now with the expansion of PR and media it has become easier to persuade people and influence their minds. This tactic of persuasion is also called propaganda.  It is the spreading of information in order to influence public opinion and to manipulate other people’s beliefs. The message of propaganda is primarily intended to serve the interests of the messenger, thereby increasing his power. All kinds of propaganda are a systematic effort to persuade. The propagandist gives a one- sided message, accentuating the good points of one side and the bad points of the other position. It is most widely distributed through public speaking and use of the mass media. The propagandist speaks in an attempt to persuade the audience to believe his way. With the support of the audience, the speaker gains power. In other words, their work is the dissemination of ideas, doctrines, beliefs, ideological influence on the masses. Propaganda as elements can already be found in the ancient society. In the Middle Ages the term «propaganda», despite the complete secular character, was closely associated with the activities of the Catholic Church. Medieval Catholics called it proselytizing. That is why the first Roman Christian missionaries were called propagandists. Taking into account all the above mentioned facts it is fair to say that from the earliest years until modern days people used language as a means of persuasion and influence. Thus, propaganda became an enormous source of power.

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Oratory is the one of the most important elements of propaganda and persuasion through language. It consists of monologues widely-used in a situation where the speaker refers to a large audience in order to convince or instil. The tradition of modern oratory goes back to oratory of Ancient Greece and Rome (Demosthenes, Cicero).  Rhetoric studies feature oratory.  Rhetoric is the art of persuasion (Kornilova E.N. 2002). S.E. Radtsig defines rhetoric as a theory of oratory. “An expert of persuasion’ calls rhetoric the Greek philosopher Plato. The ancient Greeks believed that art of using speech is the gift from the Gods. In their pagan pantheon there was goddess of art of conviction and eloquence – Peyto, the daughter of Ocean and Tethys. By the middle of the fifth century B.C. the art of proficiency from elitist knowledge has become a commonly used in Athens and then in other Greek cities. Outstanding representatives of the speakers were teachers of rhetoric and eloquence. They were called sophists. In Greek this word «sophist» means sage.  They were traveling from town to town and spread their knowledge.  By way of life sophists were figures of communication and they knew entire depth and power of language. They had a very deep and clear understanding of language and of all its aspects. Sophists believed that absolute truth does not exist and truth is what can be conclusively proved. Skilful command of the language, brightness and imaginative of thought, persuasion skills all of this form an unmatched power of language. (Kule K. 2004)

Oratory and propaganda have always had a great influence on people´s mind. Each epoch had its own great speakers who used the power of language to influence and persuade people in different ways.  All the individuals who were great speakers pursued different goals though language. For example, oratory of such religious figures as Moses, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist had an enormous impact on the whole society. Their speeches changed philosophy and way of life of the humanity. Language proficiency means a lot. For example, the great speech of Martin Luther King «I have a dream», which is considered to be a masterpiece (chef-d’oeuvre) of oratory. In his speech he combined all his ideas and wishes and crowned in all with one very powerful and deep phrase of four words «I have a dream». This phrase has become part of the American history and in future will change a lot of minds in a good way. However any statement or phrase can have not only constructive but destructive forces. From history we know that dictators like Hitler and Franco were amazing orators. But their influence on people was extremely negative. They imposed violent and radical ideas through language. In the end it made a terribly negative impact on societies which resulted in destruction, deaths and War.

To conclude it all I would like to say that language is exceedingly powerful and important element to us. Through language we transmit our thoughts and feelings to other minds. Language is considered to be a mysterious contrivance of communication in our everyday life. Well-chosen words have the power to inform, influence, educate and entertain others. Words can evoke rich images of inner and outer emotions through different ways of communication. Their powers are expressed effectively and emotionally in stories, poems, speeches and essays. Words, punctuation and grammar form a language but it is not just that. Every language includes the philosophy, way of thinking and history of people who are speaking this language. Every language has a great force and power. Language is almost the only opportunity to communicate with each other. And each person needs to express his/herself. It would be impossible to imagine our life without any means of communication. An individual may be spurred into action by what one hears about events taking place around them. «Without our language we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?» (Melina Marchetta).

 

References

Blumler, J. and Gurevitch, M. The Crisis of Public Communication, London: Routeledge.

Gans, H. (1980) Deciding What’s News, London: Constable;

Great Soviet Encyclopedia

Jane Wager. The Search for signs of intelligent life in the universe.

Jackall, R. (ed)(1994) Propaganda, London: Macmillan, p.7.

Kornilova E.N. 2002, Originality of journalism in ancient times. M. (Своеобразие публицистики античной эпохи. М.,)

Kule K. Media in Ancient Greece, edition 2004, p.81-82 (К.Куле СМИ в Древней Греции 2004, c. 81-82)

Miller, D. and Dinan, W. (2000) «The rise of the PR industry in Britain 1979-98» European Journal of Communication 15(1),p5-35.

Melina Marchetta ‘’Finnikin of the Rock’’

Plato. Gorgias. 8 p.453A Collection of works. Edition 1900-1994.

Pruttskov G.V. (2012) «Introduction into the world of journalism: From Antiquity to the end of the 18th century» Aspect Press

Radtsig S.E.. “The history of ancient Greek literature.” M.1982, P. 218. (Радциг С. Е.. “История древнегреческой литературы”. M.1982, С. 218.)

What is language, Language Development

http://languagedevelopment.tripod.com/id2.html

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