The use of words that give different but related meaning to the actual one is regarded as an abuse of language. The meaning derived when language is manipulated can be vague at times, but for people with a common agenda, for instance, opponents to a particular cause, it may not. I do not approve Orwell’s statement that language should share the general decadency as a civilization, and that fighting against its abuse is mere sentimental archaism because manipulation of language does not automatically lead to language collapse (Orwell and Gessen 270).
However, this manipulation can result in distorted imagery and meaning that may be misperceived by the reader. Abuse of language has been conceived as a new development that is similar to electric light as opposed to candles. The fight against abuse of language should not be viewed as a fight against development; rather it is a fight that aims at maintaining and enhancing the structure and meaning of language. It has been shown that some instances of manipulation of language distort the meaning while others don’t. This paper aims at creating an understanding of the manipulation of language by discussing both positive and negative outcomes.
Language manipulation is very useful when a speaker does not wish to be held accountable for bad talk. In this case, language is manipulated to favor the speaker, who leaves the masses to guess what he or she actually intends to mean. Orwell has discussed a literal approach to language manipulation. He states that abuse of language is as a result of poor thoughts that further intensify the abuse of language resulting in ugly passages.
On another note, opposing thoughts can lead to language manipulation that further intensifies these thoughts, which finally result in change; but if this change is not attained, mental distress sets in. According to examples given by Orwell (Orwell and Gessen 271-272), abuse of language is the reason for the imprecise and stale passages. When metaphorical words or phrases are overused in a sentence, that sentence loses its meaning and becomes redundant.
The modern English prose is losing its concreteness as vagueness and sheer incompetence sets in (Orwell and Gessen 273). In addition, prose-construction has been dodged to result in meaningless tacked phrases that are a mere cliché. The saying that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” can be used to justify the importance of language manipulation to only some people but not to others.
It is because of language manipulation that the world changed in form from totalitarianism to communism and capitalism. People were able to communicate publicly without using direct and rude verbatim. Language manipulation in the form of cognitive interaction and semantic extension models, which have been discussed later on, is the means by which transformations of the social and political world took place.
Development in the English language is defined as a way of coming up with new phrases that evoke a new image instead of using the worn-out ones, whose vividness has been lost. The meaning of these worn-out phrases or metaphors is hardly understood by the writers themselves as manifested in their poor usage. These dumped phrases are merely used to avoid the daunting task of coming up with new ones. It is ironical how the abuse of language has been construed as new development. For example, writers use “tow the line” instead of “toe the line” in writing indicating that they either do not know the meaning or are frivolous.
Such abuse of language confuses the reader instead of enlightening him or her. Linguistically, this is not correct. On the other hand, playing with words and especially with not often used words is an appropriate approach for creating a semantic extension. Orwell is right in his views, but in instances where a certain group of people intend to push for change, such manipulation can be used to create vagueness and confusion among the opponents.
Linguistic errors should be differently understood by language manipulation. Whereas linguistic errors entail the wrong usage of words or wrong spelling, language manipulation is deriving various connotative meanings from words that have been systematically picked and combined to give a particular meaning. These meanings can be used metaphorically or contrastingly to give the intended message depending on the context.
The extended semantic to a word should have at least one similar feature with its core (Buchowski et al. 560). When a metaphorical claim is associated with a word, listeners will associate the core with the metaphor based on the one feature these two words at least share and the significance essence to the speaker. This can, however, be misconstrued as with Bush’s case described below.
It is important to note that not all words are subject to change in the case of dissonance. Language manipulation presupposes that language is a process but not merely assembled terms. It is very important that words are selected skilfully to derive their intended meaning. Particular words are used to refer to particular scenarios in certain contexts. Hence, the intersection of a communicative need determines the semantic of signifiers. Also, it can be determined by an intersection of the communicative function with opposing patterns of other signifiers. Thus, this shows that language manipulation aimed at giving a certain meaning is not a frivolous exercise.
The abuse of language in the case of operators as described by Orwell is deemed a means of dodging the use of simple verbs (Orwell and Gessen 274). Under such circumstances, the meaning of the phrases is vivid despite the fact that it involves a mixture of different forms of words. However, it is worth noting that in such situations, the combination of words to create a symmetrical appearance is cautiously done to bring out the intended meaning.
For example, the use of the phrase “render inoperative” instead of “cause inoperative”. In addition, the phrase “render inoperative” is a simplified version of saying that a thing or person is dysfunctional. In addition, the phrase “render inoperative” has a more polite tone compared with saying that a person or thing is not functional. This kind of language can be used by opponents to a particular cause to amicably assert their stand.
According to Buchowski et al. (557), the Czechs used the phrase “People open your eyes” which had an attached moral connotation as opposed to the denotation of seeing what everyone else could see. As stated by Orwell that thoughts trigger outcome in language use, so were the thoughts of communism intensified to achieve this cause. The mind is powerful enough and governs how humans behave, hence the reason for the cycle of language manipulation leading to change.
Manipulation of language to give a certain meaning should be articulate to avoid misconceptions. For example, as indicated by Buchowski et al. (560), when an opponent addressing a crowd on the Persian Gulf crisis refers to George Bush as “another Benedict Arnold”, the perceived meaning may be different from the intended meaning. People being addressed would assume that George Bush was being accused of treason while the speaker might have been talking in terms of shared wealth, origin, or the B’s in their names is an indication of what happens when language is manipulated, vagueness and imprecision arise.
Manipulation of language results in contrast due to the different cognitive perceptions that people have. People, who have grown up and endured a repressive regime compared with the founders and instigators of such a regime, would not be convinced that such a regime could have been benevolent. In the same way, people who have grown up associating a similar meaning to a certain word cannot change their perceptions all too suddenly by being forced to believe in a different meaning. For example, the word “free” can never mean anything apart from its meaning.
Manipulation of language was one reason why totalitarianism collapsed because the twisted language was used to misguide, manipulate, and delude the masses (Buchowski et al. 559). Cognitive dissonance is used to help the masses understand the ironies of a situation. There is no way someone can claim to be one’s best friend if all they do is to talk behind their backs.
When such a scenario is presented to the masses, they are able to see the connotative picture and, therefore, seek to have a change in accordance with Festinger’s ideology, which aimed at shedding light on the triggering factors of cognitive dissonance (Buchowski et al. 562). Festinger indicated that cognitive dissonance was a driver for the state of affairs. Hence, just the same way a hungry person is compelled to change his situation by looking for something to eat so does dissonance impels change of opinions or demeanor.
Long-term cognitive dissonance has been deemed to result in mental distress due to the resistance of language to long-term manipulation. When people in a repressive regime for a long time are using language manipulation to describe their plight and seek for change, the quest for change and improved life turns out to be a nightmare. Therefore, manipulation of language in such a case should take the shortest time possible which is achievable by taking action aimed at foreseeing change as per the semantic extension.
Manipulation of language is seen as the reason why revolutions of 1989 occurred because the people were not fixated on a particular meaning of constructs. Communism was previously a schema of brotherhood, freedom, and democracy (Buchowski et al. 556). Language manipulation resulted in perceiving freedom as freedom instead of the actual intended meaning of personal and political independence which resulted in further change and capitalism emergence.
It is apparent that the current use of language is based on what already exists. This paper shows that words are mixed or tacked together to create some new meaning that is usually vague. Manipulation of language is being passed from one person to another and is also being taught in areas where English is the second language. Language manipulation, however, is ideal in situations that call for mass action without seemingly doing so. When a particular phrase is vague, it is easy for one to meander around it without being accused of any offense.
Buchowski, Michał, David B. Kronefield, William Peterman, and Lynn Thomas. “Language, Nineteen eighty-four, and 1989.” Language in Society 23.4 (1994): 555-578. Print.
Orwell, George, and Keith Gessen. All art is propaganda. New York: Mariner Books, 2008. Print.