Language is a key component of how humans communicate and express their opinions. It is inexplicably intertwined with how we built our society and how it functions today. Most people do not take into consideration the words they choose to present themselves. As people age, speaking becomes second nature, and less work is required to vocalize their thoughts. However, language plays a crucial role in our politics and affects how issues are presented and rectified.
There are many different aspects of language: grammar, tense, gender, and the possibility of speaking more than one language. All these facets of language lend to how people speak, hear, and digest words. For instance, many languages use gender to designate objects. French, Spanish, and many more languages make it nearly impossible to craft a gender-neutral sentence. In France, citizens fought to introduce gender-neutral speaking and writing. However, the education ministry in France shot down the activists, saying that introducing a new way of learning the language would impede children’s ability to learn and lead to French becoming a language of the past.
Ignoring the issues in these languages’ structures perpetuates the problems they cause. Forcing terms to be gendered and making it impossible to have a sentence free of gender creates an imbalance. The feminine and masculine forms of words are in a constant battle and can create a gender bias in children learning these languages. Especially since the masculine form often precedes the feminine form in these languages.
However, language choice and usage also greatly affect how audiences understand politics and issues in our society. The words that politicians use can manipulate how ideas or problems are perceived, whether it be placing greater emphasis on a particular issue or diminishing its value.
Some believe that framing certain topics in a “scary” manner is not appropriate for audiences and is unhealthy for the general public. For instance, during the Bush administration, one of the pollsters, Frank Lutz, found that calling global warming ‘climate change’ was received better by audiences due to sounding less threatening. However, Yale’s 2014 study on climate change found that the populace tends to take more action against climate change when it is framed as “global warming.” Therefore, had politicians used different phrasing when referring to the climate crisis, the government could have taken preventative measures earlier on.
When politicians use aggressive and antagonistic words against their opponents or in describing a particular policy, it skews the public’s opinion. A 2011 study conducted by Amazon’s Mechanical Turk found that when politicians use negative language, the listener is more likely to feel threatened by them and view them and the topic they are discussing in a negative light. This harmful word choice endangers the functionality of a political atmosphere and may result in the public not grasping crucial information. It only builds hateful interpretations of people in the government and offers no real substance on policy or issues.
Also, the language one speaks impacts the role one plays in understanding policy and government releases. If a person does not speak the designated language in a specific country or they migrated before learning the new language, it often marginalizes them. Thus understanding health, safety, and legal issues can be a challenge. It also puts them at a disadvantage when finding jobs or settling into a new environment.
Therefore, language permeates into all aspects of politics. It affects how society hears and absorbs speeches or information on day-to-day issues. However, it also changes how society takes that information and the opinions that they form. If politicians cannot restructure how the current political discourse is run, then bias will pervade fact. Unfiltered truth is necessary for a democracy, or any society, to thrive effectively and support the spread of knowledge.