In todays world, with the dawn of the new information explosion era, it is important to critically view any information, and form an independent opinion of it. The media through broadcasting, telecasting, web and newspaper publishing, is capable of controlling the thinking and behaviour of people. With the advent of the social media and networking, it is possible for almost everyone to publish online and reach astounding numbers of audience worldwide. It is capable of raising and diffusing tensions between countries, destabilizing countries, causing revolutions and toppling governments. Hence, the media no longer serves the purpose of just informing them, it uses cleaver language tricks to manipulate them. Propaganda is a cleaver mix of language and emotions that is subtly used by governments world over to influence the voter's behaviour. The world of advertising can use catchy, crispy language in the form of slogans to create a need for a certain good in the consumer's mind, and make him spend happily. These are only few of the examples that illustrate the role of language in communication.
According to the Oxford School Dictionary, language is defined as any system of formalized symbols, signs, sounds, gestures, or the like, conceived as a means of communicating thoughts and emotion. The values and beliefs of the writer therefore, determine the writing technique that he uses. In other words, the style, vocabulary, and structure adopted by the writer, his judgement on what information to present, and to what depth and detail, what to skip or conceal, are all determined by this motives behind the writing and the values that he upholds in life. The relationship between language and values is one that can be quite startling sometimes! Besides revealing the purpose of writing, a thorough analysis of the text reveals the background, character and values of the writer. This is illustrated in the first piece of text provided in this assignment, which is a modern version of the age old fairy-tale of "Red riding hood". The language used leads the reader to think of Red Riding Hood as a very head strong, arrogant, sexist, who does not like anyone invading her privacy, nor does she like taking help from anyone, especially men. She is unafraid of the dangers of the wood, and certainly feministic as she talks high of her grandmother and favours the grandmother even when she kills the man who came to rescue her.
The reader is lead to believe that the writer (anonymous) is a woman with a very strong feministic view point who tries to impose her values on her readers through her writings. The style of writing indicates the writer to be a contemporary writer as she uses words such as "sodium free snack" and "log-fuel technician". Her personality does not accommodate men, or likes being obliged to them. She is a very insecure person who pretends to be very strong. Her sexist nature makes her short sighted, incapable of viewing things for what they really are. She lives in a secluded world that is far from reality. These values of the writer have clearly influenced the writing of "Red Riding Hood". With this text she tries to manipulate the mind of the reader and leads them to think like her.
Writing can be manipulative; the writer can use language in a way that it makes the reader respond in a way desired by the writer. A Man of His Words - on framing by George Lakoff and AlterNet, describes how certain words and phrases as deliberately coined and used by people can influence the reader/listener's perception of something quite unrelated. An example from this writing is "tax relief". The reader is familiar with the word "tax"as well as "relief". Putting them together helps to develop a very rosy picture of the offered tax system in the readers mind. One that might might not be true. Certain words used, such as "conservative", influence the perception of a group of words which are linked with one another in peoples mind. A person's view on one word somehow influences his view on the other words in this group as well. This again is an unfavourable effect of using word frames that draw images in the readers mind. The use of metaphors is especially meant to obtain this effect. For example, words such as "Founding Fathers", "Daughters of the American Revolution" all link a word to a part of society, touching the reader in some personal way. Another clever writing trick is to use words that everybody can relate to, for drawing an image of a word that is actually quite unrelated. A good example provided in this text is to use the word "family" to draw an image of a government or a political party. Somehow the reader associates the values of a "family" to that of the campaigning party. Such subtle propaganda that is commonly followed in politics makes the voters behave in a favoured way.
Then there is the over cautious writing that replaces commonly used English words which might have a racist or sexist sound to it, for politically correct words. This is clearly illustrated in "The Word Police" by Michiko Kakutani. Here the writer explains the harmful effects of being always politically correct. Replacing "lion" with "monarch of the jungle" and "superman" with "super person" might serve the purpose of keeping the reading neutral to all readers, but it unfortunately robs the reader off the pleasure of reading. Sometimes such actions throw the focus off the real issue that is being discussed in the text. For example contemplating over whether the word "nigger" is rightly used by Mark Twain in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" completely side-lines the fact that it is a story that describes the bonding between a white boy and a black slave. Another good example provided in the text is replacing the word "homeless" with "the underhoused", or calling the poor "economically marginalized". Doing so actually acts against the affected by diminishing the seriousness of their situation! Replacing the existent word with a jargon does not make the problem disappear!
It is important that writers are well balanced individuals and provide a balanced analysis of topics. It is the moral and social responsibility of the writer to only inform the reader and allow him to form an unbiased opinion and not to manipulate his decision making. As readers we should critically analyse textual matter and extract the hidden message they deliver. It is important to examine the language used to avoid being influenced by the writer's personal experiences, circumstances and values. It is crucial to see all sides of a topic, rather than blindly following the reader into seeing only what he wants you to see. This will help in reading the text in the right perspective, and in developing an independent unbiased opinion of it.
Word count: 140 words