Honors | Language & Politics (LING)
L112 | 22087 | Samuel Obeng


Lecture MW 2:30-3:20pm
Discussion Th 2:30-3:20pm
This class also meets with COAS E104

There is often talk by non-politicians about issues such as: how
untruthful politicians are; how they evade questions by providing
answers unrelated to questions they are asked, how they refuse to
answer questions, use divisive language especially inclusive and
exclusive pronouns like "we" and "them", to signal polarization of
in-groups and out-groups, how they use negative advertisements to
attack their political opponents, how they avoid the obvious and how
they speak indirectly by using metaphors and other stylistic devices.
There is also talk about how politicians systematically establish a
contrast between their party's properties (usually good
characteristics or actions) and the ostensibly bad actions of others,
how they compare what their opponents do (usually negative actions)
and what their party does (usually positive acts), as well as how
hedging, ambiguity, or vagueness is employed to save and maintain a
politicians face. Regarding political campaigning, in the minds of
some people, politicians often mention the aggressive acts such as
invasions, sexual practices, bad policies, ban on free speech, etc.
of their opponents and play down the opponents positive
characteristics while emphasizing their negative characteristics on
sensitive issues like immigration and the death penalty.

This course explores the language of politics. In particular, it
examines how politicians or political actors and political
commentators use language to talk about politics and how politics
also influences language. The language to be studied includes that
used in the domain of politics such as speeches of politicians, party
propaganda, slogans, the language used in communicative events like
congressional or parliamentary sessions, cabinet meetings, state of
the union address, and so forth. The political actors whose language
will be examined include presidents and vice-presidents, members of
Congress, parliamentarians, senators, governors, and action group
members.

The course aims at engaging students in a critical examination of the
various ways in which language and politics influence each other. We
will try to understand why politicians refer to their opponents the
way they do, why they answer questions the way they do, and why/how
the general public speaks about political actors the way they do.
This course will address these strategies by providing students with
the analytical tools to critically synthesize and analyze political
discourse.

Important course topics include: Political Speech Making (answering
questions) (evasive answers, propaganda, slogans, truth in politics);
Some Basic Speaking Strategies (imitation & influence, vagueness,
pronoun usage, rhetoric, and evasion); Speaking the unspeakable
(metaphor, analogy, innuendo, circumlocution/spin, and exaggeration);
Symbolism in politics (posters, props, and costumes); Political
campaigning (manifestoes, stroking, and name-calling); reporting
election results; political correctness; censorship and free speech;
the Language labeling; and the politics about Languages.