How language and politics are related

Language is not just some instrument of politics, but rather the condition of its possibility in the first place. What functions does language play in politics? Which linguistic means do politicians use? And why are there always communication problems?

Politics as a linguistic action

Spelling reform, nuclear energy, climate change: Ultimately, anything that is of public interest can become political. Politics encompasses the most varied of factual and action areas and can therefore permeate all areas of social life. The relationship between language and politics can also be viewed under this broad political term.

Language in politics means above all linguistic action. It is the ability of language to act that is constitutive for politics.

Persuasion and information

A central, if not the only function of political language is ‘persuasion’. It refers to all attempts with the help of linguistic means to influence the opinions and attitudes of the addressees and to create trust in the correctness of what has been said and the political actors.  Since political communication in democratic states aims to make politics public, to legitimize political action and to obtain consent, it is essential for political actors to persuade their linguistic actions. Ideally, persuasion uses convincing argumentation. The central role of the informative-persuasive function makes it clear that language action in politics is closely linked to the question of power.

Framework conditions and characteristics of political communication

The public and mass media

With the reference to the politics of representation, two central framework conditions or characteristics of political communication are addressed that are mutually dependent: the public and mass media.

Group orientation and representation

In addition to the public and mass media, group orientation and representation are important features of public-political communication. Political communication is characterized by competition and the confrontation of opinions. The political actors compete with their political opponents, usually acting as representatives of certain groups, parties or associations.

Institutional bond

Institutional ties are another important feature of political communication. This is always linked to specific institutional conditions that the parliamentary-democratic system specifies, for example in the form of parliamentary rules of procedure. But the media also have certain rules. This can also be shown using the example of the political talk show.

Linguistic means of political communication: word, speech act, text

The political actors use specific linguistic means to achieve their goals. The words, in particular, the so-called ‘ideology vocabulary’, are of particular importance in the field of politics.

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