Last Updated 03 Jul 2021

If Thought Corrupts Language, Language Can Also Corrupt Thought

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I am going to conduct an experiment by comparing and contrasting the linguistic choices between two newspaper articles with different views on the same event but different representations of the event and other aspects strategically placed to determine whether words have the power to manipulate or persuade ones thoughts through the ideologies of their own. Article 1’s headline is more elaborated and uses much more animated lexical choices, which paint more of a picture in the readers mind.

Article 2 is more simplified and straight to the point, summarising bluntly. A1 is in the present tense to give a more dramatic effect and add impact. A2’s lexical choice “evicted” is in a past tense as if to say, the decision has already been made. The rest of the sentence is in a future tense, emphasising the certainty of the eviction. A2 is in a passive voice drawing attention away from the doers. A1’s in an active voice, drawing focus to the positive actions. A1s lead focuses the subject on the confrontation using lexical choices to create an effect of epicenes, representing the travellers like freedom fighters.

A2’s lead focuses on the matter in hand and the Councils demands. Both leads reflect the ideologies of the writers. Both articles were selective on the choice of quotes ensuring they reflected the ideologies of the articles. A1 mainly uses sources considered with good credentials because people usually listen to and respect points from authority figures and therefore are more likely to agree or be persuaded by them, also because ‘elite sources are considered newsworthy by the media. The articles use unidentified sources to disclaim ideological responsibilities.

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The specific sources they use really reflect their overall ideological message. Both use representatives i. e. ”Council spokesman “and “a source” instead of specifying the actor, which indicates writers “doubts or contention over the facts’” (Bell. A 1991) or it may not suit the articles representation. A1 uses a human interest figure to put the matter into perspective because the travellers views may still be rather bias and propagandarish. A1 avoids labelling council sources with professional titles to devalue their quote, in one case they use a marital title instead in-order to derogate their authority.

A2 uses qualifier determiner + noun phrase (the Dale Farm) to label travellers to subtly disclaim allegations of prejudice, emphasising dispute with that specific community. Both use a first name basis source to indicate their support. A1 qualifying labels represent the authorities negatively to demean them. A2s qualifiers were quite neutral, maybe because the writer was more focused on justifying their actions rather than belittling the travellers. A1 mentions support of respected public figures i. e. celebs, Bishop and UN worker.

A2 mentions political figures as support, readers respect ‘elite’ views and might think ‘if they believe it’s right or wrong then it must be’. A1’s sequence of information is in an anachronical order, throwing the reader into the scene before elaborating and adding further cohesion. They lay down the ground work and build suspense before reaching the climax

  1. Sets scene of confrontation to grab audience’s attention.
  2. Celebration pictures.
  3. Reasons for celebrating (injunction).
  4. Pictures of traveller’s defence strategies.
  5. Council’s response to injunction.
  6. Issues – politics.
  7. Opposing army pictures.
  8. Preparations for war.
  9. Supporter pictures.
  10. Architecture eviction plans.
  11. Finale – battle.

A2s sequence is more structured in the sense of ‘opening’, ‘body’ and ‘conclusion’, sought of an open and shut case.

  1. Verdict – outline decision.
  2. Dispute.
  3. Support.
  4. Negotiations.
  5. Threats.
  6. Remorse.
  7. Selective traveller sources.
  8. Resistance.
  9. Plea.
  10. Denied.

What is mentioned and not mentioned is a clear indication of the writer’s intentions on the representation of the article. Each article is coming from n ideological view point with every linguistic choice made. A2 makes excessive use of modal verb “will”, to reinforce the Councils authority as in to say the travellers will comply and nobody is above the law, this gives inkling that the writer is more conservative. A1 uses a lot of modal verbs expressing probability, therefore devaluing the Council’s authority revealing a more liberal attitude. A2 is tactful when using pronouns, i. e. personal pronoun “we” is used frequently to give the readers a feeling of inclusivity, so that the Council can align themselves with the reader.

Both discourses make use of the 3rd person pronouns i. e. “they”, “them” and “their” but A2 uses it in the context to distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them’ further aligning themselves with the reader. A1 uses it to avoid repetition. Both articles use rhetorical questions, which forces the reader to agree with the question and provokes them to think about the question. i. e. “is there not equality under the law of this country? ” and “what are we doing throwing these people into destitution? Do we want more poverty in the country? A1 uses antithesis i. e. “aren’t complicated larmingly simple” and “Is there, or is there not”. A2 uses “human rights for minorities, but  majority have human rights too” this is used to make the argument stronger and by contrasting the two opposites it forces the reader to compare the two ideas and therefore puts emphasis on the intended idea adding impact. A1s extraposition “take a stand if we don’t this will just carry on with other traveller communities” adds weight to their point by enlarging the proportion of the statement and adding more conviction to their argument. Both use three part lists i. e. Police, council and bailiffs”, “orange, yellow and blue”, “their homes, their land, the money they’ve spent” etc. because people are comfortable with things that come in three and it gives the sentence rhythm making it more memorable.

A1 uses plenty of metaphors ‘small platoon’, ‘opposing forces’ etc. This paints a more elaborate picture in the reader’s minds and stimulates their imagination. Also it adds colour to the text and can have powerful emotional connotations, therefore being a powerful persuasive tool. A2 uses very few metaphors but for the purpose of figurative speech i. e. go on the table” and “weight behind” this is to express a complex idea through the comparison of two ideas, which has the effect of simplifying the idea intended to be expressed. A1 uses copious amounts of collocations dominantly in metaphoric models i. e. ‘stand-off’, hard-standing’ etc. to add a degree of epicenes. The lack of collocations used by A2 suggests that they want to de-dramatize the confrontation and keep the matter in perspective. A1 uses lots of epithets i. e. ‘long-awaited’, ‘last-stand’, ‘latest twist’ etc. this adds flavor to the lexemes provoking a degree of suspense.

A2’s lack of epithets suggest that they want to present the information bluntly. Both use many presuppositions, for example the sketch saying “leave the site or the LibDem conference will be transmitted  the implicature is that the authorities cannot do anything except talk. or “the court will find in the Councils”, presuming that the court will agree with them or “we are doing the right thing because it is a breach in criminal law”, the presumption is that they know what is right but what may be legal in one country may be illegal in another, so doesn’t really determine what is right and what is wrong.

An implicature of “if you are human beings imply that to have morals is to be human, which is a strong statement because it pries on the readers moral values. Presuppositions reveal the ideologies of the writer and manipulates or persuades the reader towards their perspective of the matter. A2 uses the sound bites “the time for talking in almost over” Sound bites capture the overall message of the writers intentions and are attention grabbers, making the statement much more memorable.

Both Articles are in a declarative mood because they both have the primary purpose to inform and both choose different lexis to represent the articles differently. A1 uses a theatrical approach in their lexical choices, painting a more elaborate picture and dramatizes the discourse. They use lots of emotive language, with strong connotations i. e. “dangerous”, “joy” etc. This draws on the readers emotions and therefore persuades them to agree with their point of view. A2 uses less emotive language and uses more of a descripted approach, this is a registry tactic, choosing a more political register.

As a broadsheet The Guardian in general is more aimed at professionals and may consider their readers as intelligent and therefore presume that they want a more descriptive and informative discourse. The discourse is formal and they use more complex lexis and Standard English to reflect their stereotypical audience of upper middle class readers. The Mail is a tabloid aimed generally at the working class and has a secondary purpose to entertain, thus why the language is more informal. They use imple and frequently colloquial and non-standard lexis because if you use the language of your readers it strengthens your persuasion because they can identify with the linguistics and so the writer can manipulate the readers thoughts through language they’re familiar with. A1 makes good use of pre-modifiers i. e. last gasp, tense etc. to add suspense and climax. The lexis chosen by the papers have been specially chosen to have a certain amount of impact/effect on the reader in-order to manipulate the reader’s perspective to homogenize with their ideologies.

The angle of facts from A2 represents the travellers as a burden to society, whereas A1 angle of facts represents the travellers as fighting for their human rights Both use the euphemism ‘travellers’ A1 uses “ethnic minority” and A2 “minority”, “physical support” and “physical solidarity” this is so that they are politically correct in some cases and to not cause offence to the reader and to turn a negative into a positive to a degree. ‘note the repetition to emphasize “physical”. A1 and A2 dominantly use passive sentences in their discourses but for different effects.

A1 plays on the passiveness of the process transitivity in order to victimize the travellers and draw attention to the ‘doers’ bad actions. A2s passive sentences draw attention away from the ‘doers’. A1 uses nominalisation i. e. “joy”, “happy”, “dangerous process” etc. This is to emphasize their good properties/actions(A. mooney 2011 p70)” and maintain the positive aspects by disregarding the doer. The writers use over-wording, this is to reinforce the overall massage of that representation. A1 uses the equivalence of “homeless into destitution? more poverty? ” And A2 uses “racist, as it is now politically correct ethnic minority. ” This adds lexical cohesion and emphasizes the statements points adding impact. A2 uses contrastive pair “if they can’t live in a scrapyard, where can they live? ” By contrasting these two pairs they put emphasis on the pair which has priority for the function of the statement, adding extra impact. A1 makes intentional use of alliteration i. e. Battle of Basildon, Death of Danger etc. Alliteration makes the phrase catchy and memorable adding impact.

A1s copious amounts of pictures entices the readers almost placing them at the scene. The pictures have been strategically selected to represent the travellers in a positive light. They use symbolism in some pictures using arms aloft gesture which is associated with revolutionists and somewhat represents them as freedom fighters. The pictures were predominantly women and also use gender labels i. e. female, woman, maybe this was because women are perceived as less threatening than men therefore less aggressive, which will have more of a positive representation.

Both articles use the superlative ‘largest’ but for slightly different effect. A1 uses it to increase the scale of the scene, which escalates the picture. But A2 adds the post-modifier Irish to draw attention to the members and size of the community which people might negatively stereotype as gypsies. This experiment reinforces the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativism being that “language has a bearing on the way we think” It also adds collateral to the theory of ‘newspeak’ in that by “controlling language you can also control thought”(A.

Mooney 2011 p32, p41). So to conclude I agree with Orwell (1998) that language can corrupt thought because as we’ve discovered using particular linguistic choices can have a particular persuasive effect on the readers and therefore can be used to manipulate or change ones perspective towards the writers ideological view but at the same time everybody is an individual with their own ideologies and perspectives, so yes language ‘can’ corrupt thought but may not necessarily do so.


  1. Mooney. A 2011 Language, Society and Power: introduction, Routledge: London * Bell. A 1991 The Language of New Media, Blackwell: Oxford
  2. Fowler. R 1991 Language in the News: discourse and ideology in the press, Routledge: London
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