Language and Power

2021-05-10 19:51:52
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There is a determinant relationship between language and power. While discussing social, economical and political issues, a specific language would be used among the people engaged in the discussion. The relationship between power and language emerges when some of the people involved in the discussion are non-speakers of the language being used in the discussion. The non-speakers would have difficulty in expressing themselves throughout the discussion unlike the native speakers of the language. For instance, a political, economical or a social debate conducted in English that involves the non-English migrants who live and function within the culture of speaking English would show the relationship between language and power. The English speaking individuals would be more advantageous than the migrants who would struggle to express their views. Therefore, the essay below explores the relationship that exists between language and power in relation to the non-English immigrants who live and function within a culture that speaks English.

Certain languages like English are commonly used as a way of maintaining them by most speakers of the language. Some people also use languages to express their power. The habit is common within powerful organizations and among powerful persons. Language is therefore used in power maintenance. Power and the language consequences on the other hand depend on the individual power and institutional powers within themselves (Joseph, 2007). Hence language has been outlined to be a social exercise through which the relations in power could be realized and maintained. The non-English immigrants according to this definition might as well develop their English to become as powerful as the English speaking individuals. Consequently, by perfecting a language one could be powerful even when the specific language is not their native language.

Power can not only be created and maintained through force but also through the often use of a language. Apart from the power in institutions or that power practiced by certain entities that are popular within relevant authorities, power is also expressed through the members of a family. The non-English speaking immigrants therefore might not fully express their power since they do not belong to the English speaking family (Lakoff, & Bucholtz, 2014). Power furthermore expressed through the amount of education one has acquired. The non-English speaking immigrants have inadequate knowledge in English as compared to the English community amongst which they live. The English are hence considered powerful owing to the quality of the language they possess. Therefore, the more knowledge one acquires in a language the more they become common (Cameron, 2012). The language is further used by those who are considered powerful in the society to maintain their positions of being powerful in the society.

Based on the arguments of some researchers, power is not something that pre-exists but it could be established. In societies that practice democracy, a sense of belongingness such as language, race, sex, religion and other opinions that would identify someone as powerful are very important (Cameron, 2012). Therefore, the non-English speaking immigrants however perfect in the English language would not be considered powerful by the English speaking culture because of their origins. The dynamics of power often creates some unfairness among people of certain differences. The use of English language as a sign of power by the English speaking society, the authority and the seniority they display might cause pride among themselves to an extent that they ignore the opinions of the non-English speaking immigrants (Joseph, 2007). The assumption of other peoples opinions because they are considered powerless might cause certain problems within the society. Investigations have proved that some road accidents occurred in the UK because the driver ignored the opinions of the foreigners who were on board. The driver failed to make the right decision in time since he considered himself more powerful than the non-English speakers.

Every language has its rules and obligations. The obedience shown to certain languages makes and individual powerful within the societies they live in. The non-English speakers no matter how much knowledge they would have about English as a language would not be considered powerful because they would still speak their native languages that identifies them as foreigners (Fairclough, 2011). The perfection in a language creates confidence within the speakers of the language and as they practice the inhabitation and authority that makes them powerful. The kind of authority exercised by the native language speakers is vast and however much the non-English speakers perfect their English speaking it would still be hard for them to be considered powerful. In some rare cases, the non-speakers of a language might perfect their capability on the native language used in the area they live. It therefore becomes difficult to distinguish them from the native speakers of the language. Chances are that they might be considered powerful to prove that language perfection might lead to power.

On the other hand, the influence of the authority caused by the perfection or ownership of a language might lead to misjudgment or engagement into non-constructive activities within the society. The speakers of a language would imagine that the non-speakers do not fully understand their language hence their opinions might be regarded useless. The language speakers would deliberately make mistakes but because they assume to be powerful the fear that their authority may be disregarded forces them into making the mistake (Lakoff, & Bucholtz, 2014). Therefore, as much as language perfection signifies power, it has often been misused by the native speakers hence developing another sense that indicate that perfection in a language might not actually signify power. The required responses within the setting of a language make one powerful. There are certain recommended responses designed specifically for certain cultures. A non-speaker of the language might not respond appropriately as expected by the language hence deemed powerless (Cameron, 2012). For instance, the non-English speaking immigrants inferiority in the English language makes them powerless as they would not respond appropriately to certain questions and comments.

Alternatively, there are instances that the relationship between power and language becomes challenging. In case of global leaders such as the United Nations secretary general, language perfection is not of much consideration but the individuals perfection in leadership. In this case, the perfection in a language is of little concern (Fairclough, 2011). The non-English speaking immigrants have a chance to become powerful irrespective of their perfection in the relative language. There are situations when their leadership capabilities would be of much concern than their language perfection. The leadership qualities of the individuals might be attractive and effective to the foreign nation to which they live. In such cases, a translator may be hired to solve the problem of the language barrier. For this case, it is the power that determines the language perfection in an individual as the good leaders who are non-speakers of the specific language would be trained in the native language of the relevant society.

In conclusion, it is not easy to understand the relationship between language and power. Because the relationship is seemingly mutual, the speakers of a language assume power and consider the non-speakers inferior. But in some instances, the leadership qualities of an individual make them powerful irrespective of their perfection in any language. The mutual relationship between power and language is such that, when an individual is perfect n a language, chances are that he would be powerful or would assume power. Consequently, powerful individuals in the society would use their power to perfect the language spoken in the societies where they live. Therefore, the relationship existing between power and language is such that being powerful relies on the perfection of a language as much as perfecting a language depends on the power of an individual.


Cameron, D. (Ed.). (2012). Researching language: Issues of power and method. Taylor & Francis.

Fairclough, N. (2011). Language and power. Pearson Education.

Joseph, J. E. (2007). Eloquence and power: The rise of language standards and standard languages. Burns & Oates.

Lakoff, R. T., & Bucholtz, M. (2014). Language and woman's place: Text and commentaries (Vol. 3). Oxford University Press, USA.


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