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Places And Forms Of Power: Language As A Power

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In what extend can we say that « pen is mighter than the word » ? (Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu ) Can we consider language as a place and a form of power ?

It is impossible to express with accuracy our thought. We can aproximately describe them, get close to. According to the French philospher Rousseau, language has been created because men felt the need to express their feelings. That's why, he said that our first words were screams and groans. Words are letters put together to help us to describe what we have in mind, and language encompass all the way to communicate or to express.

Besides, expressing what you have in mind is a way to be considered by the others.

Let's take for exemple a genius who can't express. Nobody can know he has great capacaities, and he can ever been considerated as a stupid person, since we have no sign of what he has in mind.

The Word Child, Iris Murdoch : The account of a young boy that used to be a bully. He said himself “I liked hitting people, I liked breaking things”.

He was celver, “I had a mind though I had never wanted to use it”. So he was considered as a stupid and mean boy. “whose who regarded me as a thoroughly bad lot were in no way unreasonable”.

Saying that means he has an external point of view of what he was. Because he is not the same person anymore: a teacher, Mr.Omand, saved him by making him love learning, while other teachers gave up.

“Latin prose began to offer me an escape from the prison house”. He laso learns his own language, and he concludes by saying “I discovered word and words were my salvation. I was not a love child. I was a word child”. The author wants to show us that words saved him, they gave him the power to show to the others and to himself, what he was able to be.

More than being understood and conveying a message, you can strike people with words.

On one hand, words are strong and they have power because we gave them power.

We have chosen to qualify words, to make them part from a type of language: polite or not. We give them values, for exemple swear words or words from the familiar register... We put conventions on these words, they are not just letters anymore. And they can shock, or even hurt.

But, in my opinion, using that kind of words to feel powerful, like insult someone and have the power to make him feel ruined, is actually a proove of weakness, since the word is already given some power by conventions.

To get power, you have to play with words in order to make emerge the power of words.

Théodore Rossevelt's speech, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

This speech has been delivered in 1933, that is to say during the economical crisis. Indeed, the message the president Franklin Delanoe Roosevelt wants to convey, is that “fear is the only thing we have to fear”. And to convey this message, he begins by saying that him, the president, will say the truth, implying/meaning it was not the case before his speech.

Then he plays with language, just as other politicians.

• To describe the situation he wants to free his country, he choses accentuated expressions, such as “Dark hours”, “critical days”, “desperate”, “terrifying”.

• To boost confidence and to appeal to natinoal solidarity: “we”, “our”, “my fellow Americans”, “WE face OUR COMMON difficulties”, etc.

• To show his determination:

What Roosevelt was saying here was that the US economy could get better if people would only have confidence in it.  He was saying that the only reason the Depression was happening was because people were afraid.  So the only thing to be afraid of was their fear--fear was the only problem.

This makes sense if you think about the way economics works.  If people are worried that the economy is going to do badly, they might worry that they will lose their job.  If they worry about that, they won't spend so much money.  If they don't spend money, someone else loses a job because there is not so much demand for products anymore

The way you organize the message you want to convey contributes to power of words.


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