Metalanguage, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and The Misogyny Debate

In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are often critiqued in relation to their use of language and are often perceived as lacking integrity on the floor of parliament and in their policy behaviours. Consequently, they have both been subjected to scrutiny of their use of language by fellow politicians, comedians, media personalities and social commentators as well as in the private domain of members of the public.

In the very early days of Julia Gillard’s political rise as Deputy Prime Minister, her strident Australian accent was commented on and criticised– even mocked – by many, especially the educated and upper classes. (Yes, Australia The Lucky Country of The Fair Go does have class stratification.) Consequently, she appears to have undergone enunciation and speech delivery training to modify this, possibly to make it more universally acceptable across ‘class’ accents.

As a female leader, some would argue, she has also been subjected to commentary on her appearance, in both visually evocative words and in visual images (quite tame compared to some) which would not be applied to a male. This coverage involves the metalanguage of visual communication. Whether or not it is truly biased is for you to research, consider and come to your own informed interpretation.

After the famous or infamous Misogyny Debate sparked by Julia Gillards’ short but impassioned speech in Parliament – aimed directly at Tony Abbott’s criticism of her for not taking a stand against disreputable behaviour by The Speaker, Peter Slipper – public debate has raged about whether or not she accurately addressed the term ‘misogyny’ to Abbott. This has become a world wide phenomenon, possibly with significant longevity. See the New Yorker article response here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/10/julia-gillards-misogyny-speech.html

Recently, the editorial team of Macquarie Dictionary, a dictionary for Australian and New Zealand English, weighed into the deep waters of this debate by deciding to revise the current  common and public usage of the word ‘misogyny’  and consequently to broaden the definition. Some people have considered this akin to moving goal posts at a football game — mid game. Others consider it a valid reassessment and record of how language use evolves. What do you think?  Please read the Australian Financial Review’s informative article here: http://www.afr.com/p/national/macquarie_dictionary_has_last_word_NzrQFdWcPJG6G8qLRRiZtK

Also peruse the ABC news article; and the Comments section which sometimes includes commentary from the public about the underlying feminist discourse and gender/identity politics as people struggle to clarify definitions and differences between term such as ‘sexism’, ‘chauvinism’ and ‘misogyny’ with varying degrees of insight. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-17/misogyny-redefined-after-gillard-speech/4317468

Oh and weighing into the women-living-in-poverty aspect of the misogyny speech debate and politician Jenny Macklin’s ill-thought through comment, here’s a link to an article on The Vine website: http://www.thevine.com.au/life/news/the-35-dollar-a-day-challenge

Image

Because of the nature of this particular debate, this is a wonderful and fascinating opportunity to observe both the extraordinary use of language in the halls of power and arenas of media as well as metalanguage being consciously applied to parliamentary and public debate.

What you make of all this, dear reader, is now up to you. Cheers again,

Julie

METALANGUAGE

Metalanguage is a term which some students try to avoid approaching because it sounds too intimidating and mysterious.

Initially, I explain it to my students this way:

“Metalanguage is simply the language you use to think, talk and write about how others use language.”

Image

You may engage in using metalanguage for a number of reasons: for example, to describe, to analyse, to endorse, to critique, to educate, to entertain, to manipulate. As a VCE English or English Language student, you will put the first two into practice.

English students use metalanguage to describe and analyse how language is used to persuade in relation to current media issues as well as how writers use language to construct fiction and non-fiction texts. Important aspects of language studied in this way include vocabulary and glossaries, grammar, tone, language devices, accent and dialect and structural, style and genre conventions. For further discussion of metalanguage and course expectations about it, please access the following link and read this informative post by VCE Study Guides.  http://www.vcestudyguides.com/what-is-metalanguage

Parents modelling and overtly teaching their young children the  ‘mother tongue’ are using  metalanguage daily to educate, as do educators teaching first and subsequent languages.

Comedians and social commentators use metalanguage to entertain and/or to evaluate the way in which people use language and the implications of this. When well known public figures have their use of language subjected to such treatment, it is often satiric and often politically motivated. One example is the ridicule attending the tendency of past US president, George Bush, to the language faux-pas. A highly intelligent and educated person can lose credibility if their command of language in the immediacy of impromptu speaking is less than their more considered and reflective written or rehearsed formats. Combined with losing political favour, it is a minefield for a politician thus afflicted.

By contrast, current US President, Barak Obama, showed enormous statesman-like promise in his inaugural speech. However, with the Global Financial Crisis repercussions and an extreme right wing driven backlash, he has come under fire not only for unpopular reforms promised but for being perceived by those wanting reform to be unable to back his promising speech with adequate policy and action. A double whammy.

When it comes to words within a public ‘performance’, appearance means much even if not representative of the content. Metalanguage can be used to discuss aspects of the delivery of the spoken word as well as the written word, to compare and contrast them and to analyse the interaction between them and the implications of how they enhance or detract from each other.

I acknowledge much of this content has a political bent. The ability to apply understanding of metalanguage is an important aspect of critical thinking in any field of human endeavour. In understanding socio-political events, issues and public debate, I consider awareness of language use and how it can influence our thinking and position our perspective as a cornerstone of being a good citizen.

I hope this gives a broader context which helps you to understand the rather pompous term, ‘metalanguage’.

Cheers,

Julie

Here’s an example of a poetry glossary or terminology resource; and also a resource for poetry types: http://www.poeticterminology.net/

VCE Literature students and others studying poetry may find this alphabetical resource more detailed and extensive in its content:

http://www.poetrysoup.com/poetry_terms/

Of course there are other relevant links you can find in your research.

You are invited to share links with others in the comments section along with other observations.

THE ART OF PERSUASION: PART ONE


Emotional Appeals and Persuasion

Pics from Samsung 142

Emotional appeals may activate deep seated beliefs through appeals to values such as:

  1. Sense of family (Eg. ‘This is family-friendly’, ‘Our families are under fire!’)
  2. Sense of justice and fair play (Eg. Language such as ‘rights’, ‘fair go’, ‘Aussie Battlers’)
  3. Sense of pride, identity and belonging (Eg. National pride, Gay Pride, pride in one’s team etc)
  4. Sense of tradition and the familiar (Eg. Anzac Day Parade; ‘We mustn’t change’)
  5. Sense of decency, etiquette, manners and decorum (Eg. Language like, ‘Imagine behaving like that!’ ‘It’s the decent thing to do!’)
  6. Sense of duty and obligation (Eg. Language like, ‘We owe it to our children to…’)
  7. Sense of entitlement and privilege (Eg. Language like, ‘We’ve worked hard for…’)
  8. Sense of respect and honour (Eg. ‘The young ones have no respect!’ ‘What a hero!’)
  9. Sense of security and safety (Eg. ‘If this goes ahead, nobody will be secure!’)
  10. Sense of compassion and mercy (Eg. ‘What terrible suffering!’ ‘I forgive…’)
  11. Sense of the common bond of humanity, Brotherhood and Sisterhood (Eg. ‘Together, we shall rebuild!’ ‘We women/men must ensure that…’ )

Persuasive and evocative language can access primal emotions such as:

  1. Fear and anxiety (Warning people of reasonable, potential threats can motivate action but fear mongering is deliberate, unreasonable and extreme playing on fear to manipulate or to sensationalise.)
  2. Guilt and shame
  3. Anger
  4. Desire for power

Social change can threaten values held by individuals and groups, generating powerful feelings of fear or outrage. This response may be subtly manipulated by writers using language with connotations or cultural allusions or more blatantly stirred up by inflammatory or emotive language. Personal attacks of people opposed to the writer’s position are known as attacking the opposition and may include mockery, sarcasm, pejorative statements, name calling or mudslinging (comments or narratives which bring up someone’s alleged negative personal history). Commentary which is critical of those resisting change may include phrases like ‘sacred cow’.

When such powerful emotions are evoked, they can generate irrational responses from members of the public and ‘knee jerk’ reactions by policy makers. This may be just the outcome a writer desires. On the other hand, it may be an unintended result.

Consider this adage: *“The pen is mightier than the sword.”*

Words are powerful and should be governed well.

*This version of the adage originated from Cardinal Richelieu’s speech in Act II, Scene II of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1839 play script, Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.*

A Short Talk on Antisocial Phone Tricks

Today I found this short 3 1/2 minute speech, ‘Antisocial Phone Tricks’, by Renny Gleeson on TED.com from 2009.

From the title, what do you anticipate hearing?

Before you click the link, I will give a language alert. The speech is clear but there is one image containing a word which may offend. I apologise for this; However, I consider the message to be very important.

OK, now the teacher in me steps forward, without apology.

Below are some questions to exercise your critical thinking skills:

Were you surprised by what he spoke about or was this what you expected?

What did you think of his speaking style? Did he speak clearly and with variation in delivery? Were the graphics always matched to his spoken word for clarity and impact? Were there too few, the right balance or too many? Why do you think so?

What is the main point of his speech? What key ideas did he raise?

Did Gleeson use new vocabulary to you or use known words in different and surprising ways? How did this add to or detract from your listening experience?

How did he use humour to challenge attitudes? Did it work for you? Why or why not?

When do you think he made his intended purpose clear to you?

Is this a wake up call in 2013? Is it any less or more relevant today?

Do you agree with Renny Gleeson’s parting request? Would you view or word it differently?

For those of you studying the VCE Context Exploring Identity and Belonging, there are a couple of interesting images towards the end of the speech. Try a screen capture of them and place a copy in your folio of materials to consider. In fact those studying any of the other three Year 12 Contexts – Encountering Conflict, Imaginative Landscape, Whose Reality? – or Year 11 Contexts  – Eg. Technology and Society, Future Worlds, Migrant Experience & Growing Up – are sure to find material in this talk and presentation of interest.

Wishing you happy and satisfying thinking,

Julie