Making the Incompatible Come Together: On Language, Power and Identity

Because of the versatility of human culture, the issues seemingly different may have a lot in common. Thus, the issue of language can be closely interconnected with the idea of power, while the latter can be intertwined with the concept of identity. Tracing the way people build their relationships and become a part of the society, one will find the explanation of such interrelation between the concepts which could seem so distanced from each other.

Language, Power and Identity: The Links That Make a Man

According to Lakoff’s ideas, there is a certain connection between the concepts of language, identity and power. Explaining it with the examples of how a human nature works, Lakoff demonstrates that the three notions make the core of human’s existence and its essence. It is quite obvious that language is closely connected with a man’s identity.

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Possessing the knowledge of a language means belonging to a particular ethnic group, which, in its turn, means that a man belongs to a certain nationality. Thus, the links between the language and the culture cannot be doubted. It is worth noticing that the links between the language and the power are much more entangled than one could have thought.

Making the explorers of the phenomenon plunge into the depth of human’s psychology and people’s instincts inherited from ancestors, people use their language as the power tool for them to control the situation. As Lakoff notices, this is the phenomenon of the so-called “political use of language”. Driving the example, of lawyers’ dependence on the language which (s)he uses, Lakoff comes to the sudden yet logical conclusion which says that power is physical, and language is power; thus, it can be suggested that language is quite a physical tool.

Applying the Theory to the Reality

To demonstrate the efficiency of Lakoff’s theory in practice, it could be a good idea to take certain institution as an example. One of the most obvious cases is the example of mass-media institution.

Enjoying rather great influence, they make an efficient use of language. Tracing the way the mass-media impacts the people, it becomes obvious that the theory of Lakoff is completely true. With such influential tools as the famous “magical thinking” at hand, the modern mass-media shapes people’s ideas of a certain event, situation or phenomenon. Thus, it can be suggested that the mass media as an institution possesses certain power over people’s minds, making them think in certain way. Because of its hierarchy which allows to influence all ranks of society, mass media possesses great power over people. Gripping the television, magazines and even pictures (photojournalism), it confirms the idea of Lakoff completely. It could be argued though that people are not always subjected to the outer influence, since they can produce a judgement of their own; however, in this case the authority of the source of information must be taken into account. It is quite doubtful that one would try to make his/her own vision of the situation if the plausible explanation has already been suggested to him/her.

Not to follow the blazed trail of the commonplace opinion, one has to consider the other possibilities, which is rather tiresome. In addition, mass media forms people’s idea of identity; this is especially topical for the political editions. Thus, Lakoff’s theories can be easily proved taking any institution as an example. Because of the peculiarities of human’s nature, the language-politics-power sequence cannot be changed.

Whatever happens, it will always work as the most efficient tool of gaining power and authority.


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