Language, Mind, and Power : Why We Need Linguistic Equality book cover
1st Edition

Language, Mind, and Power
Why We Need Linguistic Equality

ISBN 9780367224400
Published June 10, 2020 by Routledge
202 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Language is a natural resource: Power and vulnerability are associated with access to language, just as to food and water. In this new book, a linguist and philosopher elucidate why language is so powerful, illuminate its very real social and political implications, and make the case for linguistic equality—equality among languages and equality in access to/knowledge of language and its use—as a human right and tool to prevent violence and oppression. Students and instructors will find this accessible, interdisciplinary text invaluable for courses that explore how language reflects power structures in linguistics, philosophy/ethics, and cognitive science/psychology.

Table of Contents


List of Figures

List of Tables




A World without Words? Language and linguistic equality

Language, Mind, and Power

Language as a Natural Resource

Depletion and Preservation


Language and Mind

1 Profile of an Alpha(bet) Predator

Entropy and Cooperation

DNA and Philosophy: Unambiguous Information?

Interpreting Single-signal Communication Systems: Cooperation and co-option

The Cognitive Arms Race: Combinatorial communication systems

Creative Cooperation and Violence: Human language

In a class by itself: A hierarchical combinatorial system

The Neural Architecture of Universal Grammar

Language Between Brains

2 Thinking Animals

Rich Concepts

Brain-states and Reflexes

Concepts of Objects and Events

More Complex Capacities

Remembering and Analyzing

Comparing and Synthesizing

Imagining and Planning

Social Cognition

Conventionalizing and Imitating

Joint Attention and Theory of Mind

Collective Intentionality

3 The Narrating Brain

Cognitive Control through Language

Language-imposed Telic Apperception: Schemata and scripts

The Predictive Power of Narrative Computing

Setting the Parameters of Narrative Computing: Framing

Narrative Cooperative Computing: Story time


Language and Power

4 Doing Things with Words

Speech Acts

Distinction 1: Types of speech acts

Distinction 2: Types of linguistic purpose

Distinction 3: Performing illocutions directly or indirectly

The Three Distinctions in Action

Conversational Implicature

Sentence Meaning vs. Speaker Meaning

Conventional vs. Conversational Implicature

Contemporary Pragmatics

5 The Language of Cooperation

Three Levels of Linguistic Processing and Cooperation

Level 1: Negotiating syntactic structures and functions

Level 2: Literal interpretation: Negotiated sentence meaning

Level 3: Extended interpretation: Negotiated implicatures

Coming Together: Harnessing the cooperative nature of language

6 The Language of Violence

Genocide and Politicide

Ten Stages of Genocide


Content and Context of Genocidal Language

Sexual Assault

Linguistic Dispositions, Content, and Context


7 Clarity from Managed Confusion

Cooperation Towards Understanding

The Need for Managed Confusion

Linguistic Information Management Strategies

Keeping Track of Proforms

Ordering Constituents

Information Management: Chaining Given and New

Clarity as Alignment with Audience Needs: The Example of Definitions

Masters of Managed Confusion: Famous Authors

Language, Logic, Predictability, and Event Model

‘Hills Like White Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway

‘The International Eisteddfod’ by Dylan Thomas

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Oh Say Can You Say by Dr. Seuss

A Collaborative Dance, but the Author Leads


Standards and Shibboleths

Illiteracy and Aliteracy

Contaminated Language

Uncooperative Language


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Daniel R. Boisvert is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His main areas of research are philosophy of language and ethics, especially their intersections and relations to broader issues in philosophy of mind and logic. He has authored or co-authored articles that have appeared in outlets such as Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, The Philosophical Quarterly, and The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language.

Ralf Thiede is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His research interests include interfacing formal linguistics and cognition, including brain development. His book Children’s Literature, Brain Development, and Language Acquisition appeared with Routledge (2019).