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Language and Power

1. Language and Power

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the relationship between language and power, focusing in particular on: (i) what the word 'power' connotes; (ii) J. L. Austin and the concept of 'speech acts', including locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts, and felicity conditions; and (iii) Jakobson's six functions of language.

Reading list:
– J. L. Austin, How to do Things with Words (1962)
– J. M. E. Blommaert and P. K. Varis, Conviviality and Collectives on Social Media: Virality, Memes and New Social Structures (2014)
– Phillip Chong Ho Shon “‘I'd grab the S-O-B by his hair and yank him out the window’: The fraternal order of warnings and threats in police–citizen encounters” Discourse and Society 16.6 (2005), pp. 829-45


In this course, Professor Annabelle Mooney (University of Roehampton) explores the relationship between language in power. In the first module, we explore the concept of speech acts and Jakobson's six functions of language. After that, we introduce three frameworks for analysing language and power, including Saussere's concept of the (bilateral) sign, Jakobson's concept of the axes of selection and combination, and the concept of constraints and affordances. In the third module, we think about the relationship between language and class and social capital, before turning in the fourth module to the relationship between language and power in the context of the law. In the fifth module, we think about the use of language – especially signs – in transforming spaces into places, before turning in the sixth module to consider some aspects of language and power in relation to money and economics, including the concept of cognitive metaphors and the reason that conspiracy theorists are so wedded to their ideas. Each module comes with a few suggestions for wider reading.


Annabelle Mooney is Professor of Language and Society at the University of Roehampton. Her research focuses on the language of waste and the language used by 'ordinary' people in order to better understand human culture, communication and relationships with the world. Her recent publications include The Language of Money: Proverbs and Practices (2018) and (as co-author) Language, Society and Power: An Introduction (2018).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Mooney, A. (2022, April 11). Language and Power - Language and Power [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Mooney, A. "Language and Power – Language and Power." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Apr 2022,