Language and its power

Muhammad Shahab

Over the last fifty millenniums, humans have developed a complicated system of expression which we know today by speaking, listening, reading and writing—that is language. It is peculiar only to humans for it can serve a multitude of functions. The chief among them is communication, through which an exchange of feelings, emotions and ideas has become facile. To narrow our context, the next is power. However, power, here is the savoir faire of influencing the behavior of others. Concealed in the cognitive paragon of human species, is the exploitation of the language.

From eons, men have exploited this competence to have an influence on others which further leads to getting authority and power. Moreover, this exploitation is still observable either in minor scale which is an influence in one’s near vibe or larger scale in which they can influence masses. For further understanding this psychological competence, we need something more.

Logically, I would prefer the classification of language as literal and emotive. Literal use of language is concerned with the literal or real meaning of words, its personal meaning, neither more nor less. This is no more than “how are you?” and “I am fine” kind of language. On the other hand, emotive language is its provocative use. It has become the weapon through which many politicians and statesmen have achieved power. What they do is use words in a sense that provoke action. The words they utter are no less than bullets.

There are triggers of happiness and discomfort for all of us through which our feelings of joy and worry arise instinctively the moment we hear them. For instance, when we were children, we used to hear stories of djinns from our grandmothers. And as soon as the story would finish, we could not go to our room, afraid. A conscious stream of thought would not let us sleep because of the fear that the djinn might come and get us. This emotive use of language that often appeals to our hearts, arise our emotions and as a consequence, we act.

I do not mean to influence on you the logic and its jargon. What I want is to make you think of these triggers and find out who in the history has used them to gain authority and power.

Of the many examples from history is the extraordinary story of Demosthenes, one of the most praised orators of ancient Athens who united all Grecians against Philip, (the father of Alexander the Great) in 354 BC. Demosthenes had an inarticulate and stammering pronunciation but his resilience and persistence was so enormous that he overcame it through placing pebbles under his tongue. He exploited the art of language and achieved great height. However, he was exiled later on because of his rivals.

To sum up, language becomes very powerful for if we understand how to exploit it. Language is the beauty and the beast. For if we exploit it optimistically it is the beauty, however, the opposite implies the latter. Further, we can and we must use language to foment positivity. We ought to understand this topsy-turvy nature of ourselves and of others to avoid intolerance and make this world a happy place.

The writer is a poet and a linguist. He can be contacted at:

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