Rational Discourse, Language in the Mass Media

Introduction Words make up sentences, sentences form expressions, expressions in phonetics and phonology make up language. Language existed before man, meaning that without it, there could have been no existence. Language is a means of

Introduction


Words make up sentences, sentences form expressions, expressions in phonetics and phonology make up language. Language existed before man, meaning that without it, there could have been no existence. Language is a means of communication that consists a recognizable set of signs and written symbols.
Language, a system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves. The functions of language include communication the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression, and emotional release. Many definitions of language have been proposed. Henry Sweet, an English phonetician and language scholar, stated: “Language is the expression of ideas by means of speech-sounds combined into words. Words are combined into sentences, this combination answering to that of ideas into thoughts.” The American linguists Bernard Bloch and George L. Trager formulated the following definition: “A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates.” Any succinct definition of language makes a number of presuppositions and begs a number of questions. The first, for example, puts excessive weight on “thought,” and the second uses “arbitrary” in a specialized, though legitimate, way. Different systems of communication constitute different languages; the degree of difference needed to establish a different language cannot be stated exactly. No two people speak exactly alike; hence, one is able to recognize the voices of friends over the telephone and to keep distinct a number of unseen speakers in a radio broadcast. Yet, clearly, no one would say that they speak different languages.

  1. Generally, systems of communication are recognized as different languages if they cannot be understood without specific learning by both parties, though the precise limits of mutual intelligibility are hard to draw and belong on a scale rather than on either side of a definite dividing line. Substantially different systems of communication that may impede but do not prevent mutual comprehension are called dialects of a language. In order to describe in detail the actual different language patterns of individuals, the term idiolect, meaning, the habits of expression of a single person, has been coined (Robins, 2015).
    Santana (2016) states that social sciences take language as an object of study to be primarily a social entity of some sort.
    Through times and seasons, human beings have invented language to communicate thought that arises in their awareness. Also, thought is a very mysterious force that humans know very little about. There are certain thoughts that can be put into words and certain others that make it impossible to put into words. For instance, I can communicate to someone that I have pain in my stomach. But it is impossible to put into words the quality of pain. I cannot describe sadness or love in terms of quantities. Language is therefore limited in its capacity to communicate all thought. However, intuition helps us communicate that which is beyond the bounds of language. Language is the core of mass communication and any discourse.


Language in the Mass Media
In the mass media, language is a collection of specific words, idioms, sentence structures and style of language use, written or spoken to be discussed and set in context. It is in form of a specialised kind of sign system; a structure of words, images, effects governed by rules and conventions. It is also like a perception. Language often has to rely on a given medium in mass communication.
Language in the media, comes in varieties. For instance, the distinctive styles of newspapers headlines, strategic choices are made about which words to use and how they are combined in order to gratify the readers. In the audio sector, the concern shifts to how these words will be pronounced so as to release effect on the audience. The power of language is usually in the distinctiveness of choices because these choices are distinctive because of their contrast with choices that would have been made in a different context.
Language differ among different media and they differ between historical periods. For example, magazine and sports commentary have changed. They have become broader especially about how broadcast media discourse has undergone a process of ‘conversationalisation’.
Chronologically, media language has a trace of constant interaction between spoken and written styles. Centuries ago, communication took the form of speech before the advent of writing, although, some discourse continued to be produced as speech. Along came technology and the media became more close to speech again. Recently, the internet has moved media language towards multimodal kinds of textual organisation where images, texts, music and sound are merged to function together.
The different styles of language reflect the capabilities of media technology as well as necessary skills associated with them. Language in various forms of media varies also depending of social factors. Language in media discourse plays an important part in social and professional relationship such as access and participation are more important in how people’s personal and professional relationships are defined. Language is also of various levels depending on the context of the discourse.

 

Language in Society
Language is used by individuals and the media and these two entities are subsets of society. To present it more explicitly, the mass media is run by humans. This clearly corroborates the fact that language is affected by certain factors in society as much as the language of the media affects the society. The focus here is on how language causes change in society.
Language plays a crucial role in social interaction and is an all‐important agent in the transmission of cultural and social values. It is shaped by the same political, social, and cultural forces which produce the world’s diverse civilizations and cultures. For example, the spread of the Roman empire throughout Europe between around B.C. 750 and 200 A.D. resulted in the birth of the Romance languages (Daoust, 2017).
Language is the primary tool for communication purposes, for establishing peace and order in our society, for showing authority and power, and for attaining goals and objectives. But, it can also destruct the society if it is deployed inappropriately. It must follow the conventionality governing the society to avoid conflict s and to meet the periphery of individual differences. Society gives the guidelines of what is acceptable and not in language, because everyone has his or her own perception of it. What is acceptable by one group of people might be a kind of offence or insult to the other. We must therefore know to what context to apply an element of language. A change in social life lead to changes in language. this can be due to the fact that language is dynamic and productive. Language incorporates social values. However, social values are only the same as linguistic values when the society is a stable and unchanging one.

Once society starts changing, then language change produces special effects.
Language is something that sets us apart from other animals. Had humans never been gifted with the ability to communicate using a structured set of ordered sounds and noises, we might still be living a primitive existence. Language is everything. It gave humans the opportunity to develop as a species.
Language is a universal medium of understanding. Understanding therefore is essentially linguistic, but to be properly so, it must transcend the limits of any particular language. There is therefore mediation between the familiar and the alien. It is a fact that no language is a world in itself. That means that language should not close itself against what is foreign to it, rather every language ought to be porous, and open to absorption of new ideas and contents. In this regard, the understanding of man’s linguistic community and his use of language ought to promote the relationship between him and others from other linguistic communities. No linguistic community is a world in itself. No linguistic culture is superior to another. It is only through openness to the other that every linguistic community can develops the dynamism that is inevitable in human development. Such openness contributes to authentic development of man who belongs to such linguistic communities. We must submit that the universality and meditative power of language can help promote proper understanding among the various cultures of the world. Admittedly, this type of understanding though radical is inevitable for peace, harmony and tranquility(Salvador, 2014).
The power and function of language is rooted in the understanding and use of suffixes and prefixes. Both can be described as major form of oral and written communication. Also Syntax is a philosophical and linguistic rule system governing the order and combination of words to form sentence (Cropper, 2003).
Often, thoughts are packaged in words that have covert but significant meaning. It should be clear that language is not simply an instrument or a tool. Rather, language has its true being in conversation in the exercise and promotion and understanding between peoples. The process of communication should not be understood as a mere action, a purposeful activity, a setting-up of signs. Language should not be a means to impose or transmit my will to another. Above all, language is a living process in which a community of life is lived out. It should be thought that human language as a special and unique living process, in that in linguistic communication, word and human worldview is disclosed. This disclosure, this function of language means that language does not draw attention to itself but transparent to the realities that are manifested through it. Invented systems of artificial technological inventions of communication are not considered to be languages. They have no basis in the community of language or social life. Technological medium of language and expression contradicts the neo-functionalist movement in sociology that was adopted as tradition rather than as method (Alexander, 1985). The essential function of language is in its lessons/messages. To speak means to say what some other person understands. If this is the case, whoever speaks a language that no one else understands does not speak. To speak means to speak to someone who understands. To that extent, speaking does not belong in the sphere of the “I” but in the sphere of the “We.”(Gadamar, 1976)
Teacher in a 2000 article asserted that a linguist called Whorf claimed language actually affects the way you see the world (so language is like a pair of glasses through which we see everything). This led to the Sapir-Whorf theory, also called the “Whorfian hypothesis”. It was based originally on studies of the Hopi Indians. Whorf wrote that Hopi and European had different ways of talking about the world, so it influenced the way they saw the world. The Hopi language treats the world as full of things that are “non-discrete” and “flowing” whereas European languages see them as discrete and countable. European languages treat time as something that can be divided up into separate seconds, minutes and days. Trees and plates can be counted, but water and hope cannot and the language makes distinctions here. The Hopi language treats time as indivisible so that Hopi will not talk about minutes and weeks. Trees and water are simply treated linguistically as non-discrete items. The result of Whorf was that the Hopi genuinely see the world differently from Europeans.Their language structure makes them see the world differently. Orwell was making a dig at the Whorfian hypothesis when he wrote about Newspeak. The point about the story is that this sort of control does not really work, and cannot work because if we do not have words for our thoughts, we just create them anyway. Still, some politicians and businesses do like to believe that the language we use will affect the way we think about something. In 1976, the British government replaced “The Official Secrets Act” with “The Official Information Act”. The name had gone from “secret” to “information” but the laws were unchanged. After the Second World War, Britain’s Ministry of War became the Ministry of Defence. It is also worth noting that a “defence procurement contract” is still an “arms deal” by another name. So, language doesn’t affect what we can see in the world, but it is still possible that language affects people and society because maybe language still affects the way we can think. A linguist called Basil Bernstein found that middle class children used an “elaborated” code of English in school. This meant they used more abstract words, less context dependent words and more complicated sentences. Working class children seemed to use a more “restricted” code. This meant using more concrete words, more context-dependent and less complicated sentences. So some people (but NOT Bernstein) said this means working class children can’t think in abstract ways because their language doesn’t allow them to. This, of course, is nonsense. Just as with deaf people. All it means is that the children used different ways of expressing the same thing. One example of the way that language is said to affect society is in sexist language. The theory is that language affects the way we view men and women because it treats men and women differently. If you use words like chairman or fireman it implies only men can do the jobs, so women feel left out. It is worth noting, though, that the form of the words can influence our view of things. If you see the word “farmer” you probably picture a man, although there is no reason why it shouldn’t be a woman. If you see the word “actress”, though, you immediately picture a woman because of the form of the word. Another feature of English that might exclude women is the use of “him” to mean “him and her”. English has to assign a gender to a pronoun so God has “become” male, and again women can feel left out. In fact the use of “he” to refer to God has caused us to treat God as in some way masculine to such an extent that if we use “she”, people are pulled up sharply by the implication. This way the language may create sexism in a society. But really, it’s more likely that the society made the language sexist, eg using words to put women down like chick, bird etc. (Bird used to refer to men and women, but now it is just derogatory to women). BSL does not have gender pronouns to correspond to he and she, but does this make the deaf community any more or less sexist? Does it mean that Deaf Christians are less likely to perceive God as “masculine” or male in some way? It is possible that signers look at the world differently from speakers, because sign languages are visual and spatial. If you think in a language that concentrates on order and space, then you are more likely to look at the world like that. One of the biggest blocks to hearing people learning signed languages (rather than signed versions of spoken languages) is learning to think about the world so that it is spatially organised. Note, though, that hearing people are fully capable of seeing the world spatially – it’s just that they aren’t used to building space into their language. We have seen, then, that to some extent, language can have an effect on the way we think.

Language and Social Reformation
Social reformation means social change or transformation. It begins within individuals but precedes individual transformation and development.
Perry(2009) stated that in man’s cultural phases, that of language is perhaps the most intimately felt and tenaciously defended. Even chauvinists who are prepared to concede under pressure that language, race, and culture are not the same thing—that their national ethnicity may be mixed, their religion imported, their culture synthetic to a degree—will still cling to the national language as the last bastion of irrational totemic pride. Hence, one of the most controversial features of the programs of westernization and modernization fostered by Kemal Atatürk in Turkey and Reza Shah in Iran was that of state-sponsored language reform, characterized chiefly by attempts to “purify” Turkish and Persian of their centuries-old accretion of Arabic loanwords. This process also affords some insight into the differing attitudes to national social reforms in Turkey and in Iran, and among the respective regimes, intelligentsia, and masses, which might help to explain why on balance one “succeeded” while the other “failed.”
In the period 1935-1940, the Iranian Language Academy (Farhangestān) proposed over 1,600 indigenous terms to replace words of Arabic or European origin. After the foundation of the modern state of Turkey and the script reform, the Turkish Language Association(TDK) was established in 1932 under the patronage of Mustafa Kemal, with the aim of conducting research on Turkish. One of the tasks of the newly established association was to initiate a language reform to replace loan words of Arabic and Persian origin with Turkish equivalents. By banning the usage of imported words in the press, the association succeeded in removing several hundred foreign words from the language. While most of the words introduced to the language by the TDK were newly derived from Turkic roots, it also opted for reviving Old Turkish words which had not been used for centuries It was a case of language politics, as a part of modernization projects, in both countries deal with separate norms.
Language issues are frequently debated as language is an area that people feel strongly about. Issues commonly found in newspapers include: New words and phrases, especially dictionary additions, changes in meanings of words or people using words ‘wrongly’, political correctness and words that people ‘should’ or ‘should not’ now use, electronic varieties and codes, e.g. explaining to parents what their children may be saying in texts/online chats, celebrities’ accents or usage of particular varieties or lexis, young people’s language usage, especially linking it to behaviour and attitude, the dying out of traditional dialects.

 


In communications that must lead to positive changes in society, language must be rational. The word ‘rational’ and its cognates, like ‘reason’, have multiple contexts and connotations. The rationality of calculation (as in ‘rational man’) can be contrasted with the rationality of interpretation (a ‘reasonable interpretation’). There is the rationality of proof (demonstration) and the rationality of persuasion (which may be rhetorical as well as logical). There is rationality in tradition and rational criticism of tradition. Rationalism (and rationalists) can be reasonable or unreasonable. Reason is distinguished from revelation, superstition, convention, prejudice, emotion, and chance, but these are also aspects of reasoning and – if Descartes’ error is indeed an error (Damasio, 1994) – some at least may be essential to it. Being clear about these meanings must be part of the agenda of anyone who talks about rationality.
For social reformation to be achieved, the media language should reveal hidden power structures, inequality and discrimination have to be fought, the analyst has to reflect on a transparent position or standpoint as in Discourse-Historic Analysis or Critical Discourse Analysis.
Discourse-historic analysis explicitly tries to transform the current state of affairs via direct engagement by referring to guiding principles such as human rights or the rejection of suffering. Such a kind of critique cannot be text-based alone but must refer to society and its reproduction as a whole. The DHA is, thus, concerned with language in use and perceives discourse as „a form of „social practice‟ [which] implies a dialectical relationship between a particular discursive event and the situation(s), institutions and social structures which frame it‟ (Fairclough and Wodak 1997: 258). The pragmatic meaning of utterances, what is done with them within particular contexts, therefore, has to be critically investigated. In order to critically identify what can be done with words and how they (re)produce exclusion and suffering the DHA refers to the Frankfurt School. Its first generation tried to ground their judgements by pointing to compassion (Horkheimer 1933), contemplative aestheticism (Adorno 1997) or a biological foundation of reason(Marcuse 1992)but ultimately failed to validate their critical standards (Habermas 1984: 374). However, a convincing foundation is necessary for the DHA which explicitly links its efforts to „prognostic critique‟ and emancipation. Thus, it carries a higher burden of proof compared to (crypto-)normative or descriptive approaches. In other words: as the DHA claims a particular standpoint and goal of its criticism, it has to prove why its criticism is justified in order to make such strong claims. Critique, therefore, has to be grounded in order to justify its interventions. It is Habermas who suggests a theory of communication which provides a foundation of critique by outlining immanent standards of language in use which reject discrimination and suffering. In line with this, Wodak quotes Habermas saying that „language is also a medium of domination and social force. It serves to legitimize relations of organized power (Wodak 2001: 2,). Language is alsoa medium of domination but Habermas does not reduce language to a tool of domination. Rather, he grounds his critical perspective in communicative interaction as „distorted communication is not ultimate; it has its basis in the logic of undistorted language communication‟ (1974: 17). Language should be a tool of national unity and development.


Conclusion
The media has an undeniable effects on the public through structured language, hence, there must be a social responsibility stance in their contents to communicate in such a way that human development will not cease beginning from individuals. However, this is contrary to what most media organisations execute. Most media houses tend to disseminate contents as though they are exempted from the eventual effects of a corrupt society.
Language becomes a weak tie to social reformation when its users engage in public manipulations, propaganda and derogatory cliches. This happens most in developing countries where transparency and accountability is replaced by vain and the act of saying nothing. A critical look at the media reveals that in mass communication, what is not said is more important than what is said, simply because truth is submerged in ambiguity and overused sentences.
It is clear that language is powerful enough to instigate change and rationality, hence, it shouldn’t used by the mass media as a sacred bond that binds the power-that-be in one circle of social derogation instead of the masses towards development.

 

References
Adorno, T. W. (1997). Negative Dialectics. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Fairclough, N. and Wodak R. (1997).Critical Discourse Analysis. In T.A. van Dijk (ed.),Discourse as Social Interaction. London: Sage. pp. 258-284
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Habermas, J. (1974).Reflections on communicative pathology. In J. Habermas (ed.) (2001),On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction: Preliminary Studies in the Theory of Communicative Action. Cambridge: Polity Press. pp. 131-170
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Daoust, D. (2017). “Language Planning and Language Reform.” In ed. Florian Coulmas.
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Cropper, C. (2003). “Preparation Manual for the Texas Examination of Educator Standards.” Retrieved November 2 2019 from www.texasstudy.com
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Gadamar, H.G (1976), the philosophical Hermeneutics, Trans & Ed by David. F. Lange, Berkley University of Californian Press.
Teacher. (2000). “The relationship between language and society.” Retrieved November 2 2019 from teacher@your.school.edu
Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: G. P. Putnam.

 

 

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