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 Contribution to a Volume on Language and Power
Posted by: Hanna Pishwa
Title/Position: Professor
School/Organization: Technical University Berlin
Sent to listserv of: SPSP, SESP, SPSSI
Date posted: April 1st, 2012

Call for papers: “Expression of Inequality in Interaction: Power, Dominance, and Status”
Editors: H. Pishwa and R. Schulze


The goal of the present volume is to promote our understanding of power and dominance in language, its use and effect. Linguistically, this yields two questions. One of these is whether there are linguistic elements with inherent functions of power, i.e. whether they can be considered to intermediate power in all contexts as has been shown in some fields of research, e.g. studies on politeness and gender language as well as in experiments by social psychologists. The second question is which more flexible linguistic structures there are that can convey power in certain constellations without an inherent notion of power, i.e. the way conceptual and schematic information about dominance, power, and status is expressed in authentic communication. This means that the reading of power in these structures is dependent on the context, an important and complex target of investigation with the issue of variable factors. On the one hand, our goal is, then, to aspire towards a systematic account of linguistic resources carrying power – either inherently or due to context – in authentic communication, whereby the urgent question is: What are the factors that help to identify dominance, power, and status? On the other hand, we aim at revealing more about the relationship between language, contextual factors and compliance.

Power and Inequality

We define the concept of dominance as something being established, asserted and maintained by a single interactant or a group of interactants vis à vis other individual interactants or a group of interactants, with the implicit or explicit aim to make the other individual interactants or groups of interactants perform some desired behaviour they might otherwise not perform (Wilson 2002: 4) and thus to establish, assert and maintain structural and/or cultural inequalities (thus constituting a more or less stable rank order or hierarchy) within a particular encounter, speech community or between different speech communities through particular linguistic displays.

Participants and Methodology

The manifold issues of empirical and non-empirical research work in linguistics, social psychology, sociology, communication studies and psychology are the target of the proposed volume which, in addition, provokes a question central to all the contributions to this enterprise: How are aspects of linguistic and/or behavioural inequality conveyed by linguistic expressions, or how does English or any other language develop specific devices for the expression of conceptual and/or schematic aspects of dominance, power and status? Which constellations of language and contextual factors make the addressee comply?

Methodology and Theoretical Issues

Qualitative and Quantitative Studies in:
Cognitive linguistics
Mental spaces & blending
Markedness theory/prototype theory
Critical discourse analysis
Gender linguistics
Politeness vs. assertiveness
Issues and experiments in social psychology
Communication studies


Authentic discourse in different contexts
Media discourse
Persuasive discourse
Tests and experiments

Please submit your abstract by May 31 to and

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