Language as a Political Power

Topics: English language, United Kingdom, Dialect Pages: 2 (475 words) Published: March 18, 2014
Language as a Political Power

It goes without saying, that language is a political instrument, means, and proof of power.” (132,2). This quote is the main passage of Baldwin’s essay “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is”. Baldwin was a Harlem-born writer and experienced the time of racism. To him, language is power as he discusses how it defines the person you are. George Orwell, writer of “Politics and the English Language” also agrees that language is everything. Together they see English as a Political power.

To start, both agree that it’s not the language itself but it’s how you use it which gives you power. As Baldwin states, “The argument has nothing to with the language itself but with the role of language.” (131,1). This point is completely supported by Orwell. Orwell exclaims that “in our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible” (320,2) Orwell discusses things like the “continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, and how they all be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face.” (320,). Orwell uses the example of an English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” (320,2). Instead he must change the way he says his sentence so it is suitable for his audience. This supports the theory on how you can’t just say the language to get your point across, but instead you must decide on how you say it which will make the difference.

Next, they both agree on how you can never understand what someone is really trying to say. For example, Baldwin states, “One may speak the same language , but in such a way that one’s antecedents are revealed, or (one hopes) hidden.” (132,2). Just because they are saying something one way doesn’t mean that’s the way they are meaning to say it. Meanwhile,...
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