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Chapter Six


(Sirma Wilamov)

6.1 Introduction

I wish I had some way to make a bridge from man to man
Cross Daman in Richard Wrights Outsider

Interpersonal communication through the medium of language is humanitys greatest
accomplishment. Yet it is ironic that no matter how much means of communication
have been developed and are still developing, we do not communicate well.
This study is based on an analysis of a corpus of data consisting of
contemporary Czech and British radio discussions, which was extended to include
North American data gathered during a research visit (2008-2009), providing a point
of triangulation by adding data from a major culture belonging to a different
Having subjected the data to a contrastive analysis, it is clear that no matter
what the cultural or social context is, no matter what topic is being discussed
(education, health, life, culture, politics), no matter who the participants are in terms of
their institutional role, status, age or sex, the nature and pattern of disagreement and
conflict is universal. And no matter what linguistic strategies are used to express the
message on the micro-level, i.e. the level of language, the determining role is played
by the basic frame of human thinking which is manifested into reality through the
words we choose to use.
Analysis of the radio discussions showed that in the prevalent number of
instances of disagreement and conflict observed in the data, the standard modus
operandi is reacting to the opponents opinion; this represents the the main
communication strategy. This means to disagree, to protest, to try to overpower the
other, to interrupt him/her; all of this behaviour is based on conscious or subconscious
unwillingness to listen. Often the cause of a disagreement or conflict is just hearing
the words, while lacking a willingness to understand the meaning behind the words
being communicated by the speaker. Viewing the data from this perspective, it became
clear that the underlying problem in communication goes far beyond language to
the fields of sociology, psychology and neurology because language is a social
construct and the main means of human communication.
The aim of the study presented in this chapter is to look into the nature of
linguistic violence in media communication and, in the context of linguistic, social,
psychological and communication theories, to show how important is the role played
by the media in shaping the opinions of the public and therefore how crucial is the

role of language in the way the message is communicated. The second main aim is to
show why it is important to change the prevalent win-lose pattern of communication
to a holistic and democratic win-win alternative as a means of successful
communication, and how this can be done.
The approach to this study has been significantly influenced by a Fulbright
research stay spent in Hawaii, USA. Hawaii, as a melting pot of diverse cultures,
languages and religions, represents an example of how people from numerous and
quite distinct cultures co-exist and communicate in a spirit of tolerance whilst
preserving their unique traditions, their own culture and identity. Hawaii, with its high
level of ethics, morality and cultural values (reflecting its close connection to
spirituality as the highest guiding principle in the society), promotes sustainability,
tolerance and supportive community (ohana) as core social and cultural values. The
ancient Hawaiian tradition of peacemaking (Hooponopono) emphasizes cooperation
and problem-solving realized in the spirit of love, peace and harmony.
The research presented in this chapter is intended as a pilot study into a
relatively new field of research, which is not widely known or widely applied in the
Czech Republic and Central Europe unlike in the United States and East Asia. This
study aims to reveal the great complexity and potential of the topic of non-violence in
media language, opening up new directions and possibilities for further research which
interconnects and addresses important areas of our lives.

6.2 Data and methodology

An important outcome of the research carried out for this study is the Ostrava Corpus
of Czech and British Radio Debates from the years 2005-2007, which represents
authentic source material for the research. This corpus is available at the Department
of English and American Studies, University of Ostrava, Czech Republic.
The corpus data consists of 18 radio debates (lasting 15 45 minutes each)
making up approximately eight hours of spoken language (230 minutes and 238
minutes for each language), recorded and transcribed. The total is 80 457 words taken
from British and Czech radio programmes with comparable content broadcast by
public service stations (BBC, esk rozhlas). For practical reasons the corpus uses a
transcription convention that is compatible with both the DIALOG corpus of Czech
media talk and with common conventions used in conversation and discourse analysis
based on Jeffersons (2004) transcription system for the analysis of spoken language.
During a research stay in the United States (20082009) the corpus data was extended
to include a comparable corpus consisting of 208 minutes of North American radio
debates broadcast by National Public Radio (NPR). Creating a parallel and
comparable corpus of radio discussions in three different cultures enabled the
observation of differences and similarities as they occur in the three cultures.
The criteria for the selection of radio discussions were as follows:

1. a relatively high number of participants, i.e. interaction between one or two
presenters and two or more guests, which ensures a greater variability of
participant relationships;

2. varying content (political, social and cultural topics) in order to give the
corpus a wider thematic range. Some topics bring general consensus among
participants, while others bring disagreement and confrontation, resulting in the
use of different communication strategies;
3. varying levels of formality determined by the topic and the selection of guests
in the studio.

As for the broadcast content, the corpus data (with the exception of the North
American data) are taken from different radio programmes with usually two or more
discussions within a single type and different hosts, so that both conventional as well
as habitual language behaviour of the different hosts can be observed.
The corpus represents a wide range of topics. It contains not only discussions
about topics such as politics, technology, education or science aimed at a general
audience, but there are also radio programmes targeted at specific groups such as
women or the disabled, discussing their specific problems and issues. These represent
very specific types of programmes which has a significant impact on the
conversational structure as well as on the communication strategies used.
Finally, in order to give an opportunity to observe how media communication
works in different contexts, the corpus has been chosen to include programmes where
the atmosphere is cooperative and friendly, as well as argumentative or even
conflictive and confrontational. This is enabled due to the relatively wide range of
topics, the number of participants ranging from three to six as well as their roles and
personal characteristics influencing and co-creating typical patterns and strategies in
The last point to make concerns an issue that has been widely discussed in past
decades in relation to optimum methods of acquiring spoken data and also in relation
to the suitability of spoken data which is crucial mainly for research into authentic
conversation, but can also to a large extent be successfully applied to institutional
discourse (Roger, 1989; Taylor & Cameron, 1987; Cheng, 2003; Warren, 2006).
Although the size of the corpus designed for this study cannot be compared to the size
or range of discourse and text types of some other corpora such as the British National
Corpus, London-Lund, CANCODE, the Czech National Corpus (CNC) or the
DIALOG corpus, I am convinced that its main value lies in the fact that its parameters
are specific and narrow, and that it therefore represents a relatively homogenous
sample of discourse which can be used for further research as well as serving as a
valuable material basis for a cross-cultural analysis of contemporary language in
Czech, British and North American debates as a specific media genre.
The approach taken in this study is based on observations of data as a basis for
qualitative research and discussion of non-violence as a universal principle of both
discourse interaction and social action. The study draws on an interdisciplinary
approach, involving the overlap of language as a social construct with sociology,
psychology and neurology, and employing methods of discursive constructionism,
cognitive frame theory, critical discourse analysis, speech act theory, conversation
analysis, communication theories, and peace and war discourse.
In the initial stages of the research, the great diversity in instances of verbal
tension, disagreement and conflict varying across the radio discussions in Czech,

British and North American culture (as well as within each of the cultures) posed a
challenge with regard to the best way to arrive at valid contrastive conclusions.
Weighing up a number of options for approaching the research goal, the best direction
proved to be one that goes deeper into the core of miscommunication, above and
beyond relatively minor conventional and non-conventional linguistic strategies,
behavioural strategies, social and cultural patterns; a direction that leads us through
language directly into the meta-nature of conflict which results in the disharmony and
separation that any pattern of violence always creates.
Concrete extracts from the corpus data although interesting are not included
in the study presented in this chapter. The reason is that the angle of view taken in this
study focuses rather on the macro-frame and takes into consideration the
hierarchically highest and hence most influential and determining level the mind
frame. It is this level that primarily conditions the choice of all the other hierarchically
lower levels, going far beyond the immediate linguistic and situational context.
Moving in the analysis from the surface to the core, from the more overt to what is
covert, deeper and hence more powerful, reveals that conflicts and disagreements are
rooted in and traceable only against a much broader social, cultural and psychological
background which overlaps and originates in the context outside the radio studio, in
the mindset of the participants, their habitual behavioural patterns, their system of
beliefs, concepts and other factors.
Another reason for not including concrete fragments of corpus data here is the
fact that media discourse is dynamic and largely context-based. Utterances
constructed, positions taken by participants, voices heard and strategies used develop
and change dynamically in the course of the whole debate from its beginning to its
end. An understanding of the whole picture of the conflict, tracing the origins of the
tension that often builds up and escalates over the course of an entire radio broadcast,
cannot be demonstrated using mere fragments of discourse. It is necessary to follow all
of the threads leading to the situation as manifested in the reality in the studio and as
we hear it; due to space constraints, this would not be possible within this volume.
Using fragmentary data would not help to achieve the goals of this study; rather than
trying to systemize and contrast the huge diversity and variability of strategies in
programmes, topics and participants across the three cultures, the approach in this
study focuses on what goes beyond individual cultures and hence can be viewed as
The analyses carried out in the course of the second year of the research sought
contrastive observations from the three different cultures Czech, British and North
American and showed a huge degree of variation. This can be conceptualized into
three hierarchically arranged levels, which combine to create a pyramid-like structure.
The lowest level is the individual level, representing individual/habitual choices,
preferences and strategies used to approach a situation of (potential) conflict. This
level covers a range of strategies which speakers choose from the variety of linguistic
and non-linguistic means at their disposal. The next level, one step up in the hierarchy,
can be termed the cultural level. It includes social conventions, societal norms, rituals
and stereotypes that determine the choice of verbal and behavioural patterns that
speakers use and that can be the same or different depending on the culture. The third
level represents the hierarchically highest and most decisive macro-level a universal

frame of human thinking which overarches and conditions the selection of individual
choices and cultural patterns at the lower levels, influencing and shaping the words
and behaviour we choose to use.
In order to arrive at more objective valid and generalizing conclusions as to
contrastive aspects in the three cultures, the research would need to rely on a
considerably larger corpus and a larger spectrum of discussion topics and participants.
Together with the other reasons mentioned above, this precludes any attempt to draw
clear-cut boundaries and make simplified claims by saying that, for example, conflicts
in North American discussions are more abrupt, factual and conflict-based compared
to Czech debates. This appears to be true for the corpus data analyzed in this research;
however similar instances can be found within each of the cultures, differing in
relation to the type of programme, the topic(s) discussed and the individual
participants present in the studio. Such categorical claims would not stand on solid
research foundations. I am convinced that language as a social construct is similarly
to life too complex, too context-sensitive, too dynamic and too variable to be strictly
categorized on its higher planes.
Though this is not the primary focus of the study presented here, several
observations can be made on the basis of the analyses carried out. The widest
divergence can be seen on the level of the individual (habitual) choice of linguistic and
non-linguistic realizations of strategies to prevent a potential conflict or to approach an
already existing conflict. The speakers often use politeness as a key strategy for the
avoidance or mitigation of conflict avoidance, using diverse linguistic and behavioural
politeness strategies as discussed e.g. in Wilamov (2005).
Typically and frequently, speakers use various grammatical and lexical means
such as discourse markers to mitigate face-threatening acts such as refusal to give a
direct answer, criticism of the opponent, or expressing a higher or lower degree of
indirectness relating to the weight of imposition of a face-threatening act.
Also non-linguistic strategies are present and used intentionally in media
discourse, such as expressing deference, pessimism, regret, complimenting in order to
soften the utterance and/or to help to achieve the communicative goal where a bold-on
record formulation might sound offensive and could give grounds for a potential
conflict. Numerous strategies used in handling conflict also build upon Grices
Cooperative Principle and its maxims used by speakers for the effective resolution of
conflicts, such as clarifying opinions, summarizing the point the opponent has just
made, presenting a counter-argument where it is felt the previous speaker does not
present truthful statements, and so on. Some strategies, by contrast, breach one or
more maxims by creating intentional vagueness, avoidance, lies etc.; these are used as
indirect and arguably effective strategies to approach conflict or tension in
The results of the contrastive analysis of these communication strategies
revealed a high degree of diversity and variation in the usage of strategies, differing
from speaker to speaker, from culture to culture, from topic to topic depending on the
unique constellation in the studio. It is not possible on the basis of these observations
to arrive at viable generalizations. The enormous amount of variation that manifests
itself on hierarchically lower levels cannot be strictly identified as belonging
exclusively to a particular culture. In order to find a viable solution, to generate a

concept that would unify all three cultures investigated, it was necessary to search for
a different and perhaps less conventional approach that would stand above and
embrace all of the observed variations, differences and subtleties that are manifested
on the lower levels in all three cultures, and that would represent the top of the
pyramid, unifying all various micro-strategies into one simple and universal concept.

6.3 Discourse, power and strategy

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet
you there.
Jalal ad-Din Rumi

The French sociologist Foucault argued that power and knowledge are concepts that
are closely interconnected; in his concept every human relationship is a struggle and
negotiation of power. Discourse according to Foucault (1969) is related to power as it
operates by rules of exclusion.
There are many approaches to language which view discourse from a variety of
different angles. In this section I want to present two perhaps less widespread
approaches that have significantly influenced this studys perspective on language and
its approach to linguistic research.
The first approach is Laclau and Mouffes Discourse Theory, which overlaps
with language and sociology; the second is Discursive Constructionism, introduced in
the 1990s, which inter-relates the fields of language and psychology.
Both theories are closely related to the study presented in this chapter, mainly
because they view discourse through its relation to society and psychology in a
different way than some other well-known approaches such as conversational analysis
(CA), discourse analysis (DA), critical discourse analysis (CDA), and sociolinguistic
analysis (SA) and hence give a different perspective upon how discourse can be
viewed and approached. The following sections provide a more detailed outline of the
two above-mentioned approaches and show the way in which discursive
constructionism approaches language as compared with to the other approaches
mentioned, especially CA.

6.3.1 Laclau and Mouffes Discourse Theory
In their principal work Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985), Laclau and Mouffe
outline the basic principles of their theory of discourse. It builds upon the
understanding of the social as a discursive construction, and represents a theoretical
approach to language as well as a theoretical foundation for other social constructionist
approaches to discourse analysis. Laclau and Mouffes theory draws on two major
theoretical traditions, namely Marxism and structuralism. The influence of Marxism is
seen in thinking about the social, whilst structuralism provides a theory of meaning.
Laclau and Mouffe combine the two traditions creating a poststructuralist
theory in which they understand the social field as a web of processes in which
meaning is created. Poststructuralists agree with the Saussurian structuralist approach

in the respect that by positioning the signs in different relations they may create new
meanings which, however, cannot be seen as definite and unambiguous.

[] language use is a social phenomenon: it is through conventions,
negotiations and conflicts in social contexts that structures of meaning are fixed
and challenged. (Phillips & Jorgensen, 2001: 25)

In Laclau and Mouffes approach, the conception of power is similar to that
advanced by Foucault. The authors do not understand power in a traditional sense as
something that people possess and exercise over others in order to control them, but as
something that produces the social. In their view power as a social phenomenon
creates knowledge and identity and forms our relations in the society. At the same time
all three elements knowledge, identity and relations are viewed as contingent, i.e.
[] at a given time, they all take a particular form, but they could have been and
can become different. (Phillips & Jorgensen, 2001: 37) In Laclau and Mouffes
conception, human society is dependent on living in the social order, and power is
viewed as the main constituent of the social order.

Group identity, permanence and contingence
In their critique of Marxism, Laclau and Mouffe claim that there are no objective
conditions that determine into which groups the social space is divided, and that due
to permanent dynamics in society individuals have several identities as well as
having the possibility to identify themselves differently in different situations.
The social space therefore often naturally collapses into a polar opposition
according to which only opposing identities are available, such as handicapped /
healthy, rich / poor, politicians / citizens, those that have power and control over a
particular area and those who do not.
Individual and collective identities present in any society are viewed by Laclau
and Mouffe as a means of exclusion which is not automatically accepted as civilized
and democratic, but rather as barbaric and coloured (Phillips & Jorgensen, 2001:
In the media as is also confirmed by the analysis of the radio debate corpus
data the concept of us, although often not overtly claimed, stands in opposition to
them. In the analyzed radio discussions this can be found for example in a
confrontational debate about a controversial documentary on deaf/blind parents and
their children as the carers of the family, which managed to divide guests, audience
and listeners into two antagonistic groups.
It is also interesting to observe how the analysis of us and them can give
some idea of what a given discourse actually says about participants themselves
taking a particular position, how it creates exclusion, and what social consequences
this exclusion has.
Another claim and the starting point of Laclau and Mouffes theory is that
everything is contingent, everything is in motion and hence all the possibilities for
potential change are open. This idea has been challenged and has stimulated
considerable criticism from other researchers (e.g. Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999;
Chouliaraki, 2002) claiming that Laclau and Mouffe overestimate the possibility of

change and that they do not pay attention to the structural constraints that are socially
created, but resistant to change.
Laclau and Mouffe understand actors (individuals or groups) as subject
positions determined by discourses. Everyone does not have equal access to all
subject positions, and in our society, constraints can, for instance, be a function of
categories such as class, ethnicity and gender. (Phillips & Jorgensen, 2001: 55)

6.3.2 Discursive constructionism
The other approach I would like to discuss here is discursive constructionism (DC).
Its major focus is descriptions, allegations, reports and claims, which are viewed as
parts of human practice. The main domain of DC is discourse practices, namely the
way in which speakers construct their utterances in order to achieve their
communicative intentions.
Ashmore (1989) claims that DC is radically constructionist in the sense that it
believes in the value of authentic data and empirical research. In this respect it can be
classified also as anti-foundationalist and poststructuralist. One of the significant
features of DC is methodological relativism, i.e. a conscious avoidance of basing
research on just one partys version of an event and/or on participants or structures that
would be taken as given.
The main topic of discursive constructionism is discourse through which mind,
social processes, organizations and events are studied. Discourse is defined as texts
and talk as parts of social practice, and its focus is on similar discourse types to
conversation analysis (CA): talk in work settings, different kinds of mediated
interaction or professional client interaction. It uses as its main data live talk, in which
stress, emphasis, overlaps and silence are important signals. In its approach towards
discourse, DC focuses on action and practice rather than linguistic structure: i.e. the
focus is primarily on the interpersonal component of language use.
As is obvious from the above, there are many aspects in which discursive
constructionism draws on conversation analysis, mainly in the area of methods and
findings (Woofit, 2005). In many respects it parallels CA, nevertheless what makes
DC different is the fact that prior attention is given to construction as the main issue.
Conversation analysis has also been influenced by DC, and has begun to place more
emphasis on epistemic issues, which are a central focus of discursive constructionism.
DC distinguishes between two types of construction. One is the understanding
that discourse is constructed in the narrower sense of using linguistic structures; in
the broader sense it works with categories, metaphors and rhetorical commonplaces.

People are extremely skilled builders of descriptions; they have spent a lifetime
learning how to do it. Part of the analytic art of DC is to reveal the complex and
delicate work that goes into this seemingly effortless building. (Potter &
Hepburn in Holstein & Gubrium, 2008: 279).

DC understands discourse as situated in three areas. Firstly, it is situated
sequentially, i.e. it builds upon the immediately preceding talk and at the same time it
provides the environment for the talk that follows. Secondly, it is situated
institutionally, which means that it originates from structures and practices of
institutional talk such as media talk etc. Thirdly, it is situated rhetorically.

CA, discursive psychology, discourse analysis and some areas of
ethnomethodology are disciplines that are constructionist in that they consider how
talk and texts are assembled and how those assemblages work to accomplish actions
(Potter & Hepburn in Holstein & Gubrium, 2008: 285). Potter (1996), outlining the
foundations of discursive constructionism, distinguishes between how discourse
accomplishes actions (the action orientation of talk) and how discourse is built as
factual (its epistemiological orientation).
Similarly to Laclau and Mouffes Theory of Discourse, discursive
constructionism also works with categories. In the broader sense categories are
normatively tied to a range of different psychological states and characteristics,
including knowledge. Some categories are explicit and tied institutionally, others are
more open and/or more temporary (e.g. the categories of doctor, witness, ordinary
person). Categories are always associated with particular kinds of knowledgeability.

The discursive psychology of the mind/world relationship
One of the important features of discourse that stands in the centre of discursive
psychology is the existence of complex reflexive relationships between descriptions
of the world and descriptions of mental states (Edwards, 2005); the main point
which is simple but fundamental is that the psychological construction works to
build the reality. (This is also the basis of Van Dijks concept of mental models or
Faircloughs mental representations, which form a foundation for the analysis
presented in Chapter 2 of this volume.)
Another area that is a major focus of discursive psychology is the area of
mundane epistemics, which includes the study of knowledge and understanding
that are viewed as practical and interactional. The concept of understanding in DC
is not something floating in phenomenological space, but something structurally
located with differential possibilities for checking and modifying. The notion of
shared knowledge has been reworked by Edwards (1999), and it implies agreement
in mental representations of some kind. Agreement can be either abstract, i.e.
achieved through a mental calculus, or procedural, which means that is something
open to reformulation and denial.

Social structure and context
Context is a very important phenomenon for correct pragmatic interpretation and for
decoding speaker meaning. Many disciplines such as discourse analysis, conversation
analysis, discursive psychology, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, ethnomethodology and
other interdisciplinary fields crossing traditional boundaries have attempted to delimit
or define the notion of context.
Potter & Hepburn (in Holstein & Gubrium, 2008) outline the three main angles
of view from which discursive constructionism perceives context. First, the context is
studied through participants own orientation. In Scheggloffs terms there exists a
wide range of potential contextual particulars, and the crucial issue is what contextual
particulars the participants themselves treat as relevant. The second approach
considers how social structure is an ongoing accomplishment of different parties.
It does not see the action as contextually determined by the institutional context
(media, school, court, etc.), but it views the context as a result of collaborative effort

between the participants in interaction who actively produce the relevant structures
(Drew & Heritage, 1992; Heritage, 2005; Clayman & Heritage, 2002). These
structures are normative and inferential, and they do not concern the context, but they
are responsible for the coherence of interaction. The third approach is complementary
to the previous two, and it studies how social structures are constructed through
talk and what those constructs are used to do. (Billig ,1992 on British Royal family
talk; Condor, 2006 on nationalism; Gubrium & Holstein, 2002 on family talk).
Discursive constructionism also includes some aspects with relevance to
psychology, such as non-verbal behaviour (gestures; see the analysis presented in
Chapter 5 of this volume), perception (looking, seeing etc. in professional settings),
and emotion. The last area emotion has been studied only recently, and there is
not much research literature on the topic of the social construction of emotion. For
instance, Edwards studies counselling talk, viewing emotions under focus (anger,
upset) as parts of accounts which work to construct actions as reactions. (1997).
Although it is not a tradition in the vast majority of linguistic research to
consider emotions as a part of analysis, DC as an interdisciplinary field brings them
into an analysis rather than viewing them as a boundary posing a limit to analysis (e.g.
in research by Edwards or Buttney). (In relation to emotions, see also Chapters 2 and
3 of this volume on the impact of communication strategies on the emotional
component of the producer-reader relationship.)
This aspect of DC is of particular relevance to the corpus analyzed for this
chapter, because the emotions reflected in the participants choice of words and
manifested in their intonation are very important carriers of communicative meaning,
not only in those parts of media discourse which handle disagreement and conflict,
but in general. Together with the content, i.e. information provided, they co-create
the communicated meaning.
DC represents a particularly potent direction of research because it steps
outside the field of linguistics, combining it with the fields of psychology and
sociology. Offering a multi-dimensional approach to the analysis of language, DC
opens up a new space and new potential for further, more holistic research into
language as a means of communication.

6.3.3 Intentionality, rationality and strategy in talk
Since the study presented in this chapter deals with the concept of the communication
strategy, in this section I will discuss different definitions of the term as well as its
relation to action, intention and choice.
The analysis of social action and interaction is derived from sociological and
anthropological traditions. In the context of these traditions the notions of meaning
and intention are associated with subjectivity, consciousness, goals, strategies and
Along with these terms, traditional social science distinguishes between
behaviour and action. The American sociologist Parsons, who developed a general
theoretical system for the analysis of society (Action Theory, 1937), claims that
actions are implemented by agents who consciously entertain and pursue goals,
selecting means to achieve these goals by reference to standards of appropriateness
which may be more or less consciously entertained. (Heritage, 1991: 312).

Weber (1947) gives a more brief definition, claiming that action is viewed as
behaviour to which subjective meaning is attached. Searle (1979) develops an
intentionalist view of meaning and action to support his theory based on Grices
Cooperative Principle and more specifically conversational implicature. Searle draws
on a long tradition of philosophical argument, mainly in the sense that for a correct
interpretation of the meaning of action it is crucial to understand the intention that lies
behind it.
The key to the correct pragmatic interpretation of meaning is contextual
knowledge, i.e. knowledge of real-world objects, cultural context, social knowledge of
statuses, roles and other relevant sociological factors is important (Levinson, 1979) as
well as so-called procedural knowledge, which involves the normative organization
of action.

The concept of strategy
Social science theory offers two concepts of the term strategy. The first concept
emphasizes the aspect of choice and rationality and has largely been developed from
these. This concept views a strategy as a set of actions of a rational agent who has a
conscious goal and who has preferences that can be factored into the decision
procedure (Luce & Raiffa, 1957 in Heritage, 1991: 314).
The other concept of strategy arises from cognitive psychology and has been
increasingly used by researchers of interactional data. The link shared by these
researchers is the belief by cognitive linguists that human behaviour is thought of as
The rationality concept represents one of the core values in Brown and
Levinsons politeness theory, where politeness strategies are viewed as outcomes of
rational and conscious planning of speakers (1987). Also Miller et al. (1960) see
strategies as small actions that are coordinated as sub-plans with the respect to
the achievement of some overall goal, however they do not attribute these strategies
to the conscious awareness of the agent.
Nevertheless, an important element of the concept of strategy as it is viewed in
this chapter is the distinction between a cognitive strategy, which fits behaviour and is
not a property of an agent (hence the agent cannot consciously control it), and a
conscious strategy, which guides behaviour (Heritage, 1991: 315; see the discussion
in the Introduction to this volume).
Another point that needs to be mentioned in this connection is the observation
that creating a theoretical typology of strategy types is somewhat easier than the actual
work with the data. What is particularly problematic is deciding under what
circumstances the participant intended to use a particular conversational procedure or
employed it strategically and when it was merely unintentional.
As Heritage (1991: 316) states, strategic contexts often involve a conscious
choice of two or more actions aiming to achieve the same goal (especially after the
first one has failed) moving from off-record to on-record and sometimes involving
a kind of manipulation in order to achieve a desired outcome.
Generally, as Heritage (1991: 326) states in his article based on sociological
literature, there are three main areas in attributing conscious strategy when interpreting
data and assigning intent to the speaker of the utterance. The first area concerns the

problem of recognizing intent in contexts where such intent may be ambiguous or
invisible, especially when the invisibility of a strategic move is often a feature of the
success of a strategic procedure. Only in institutional settings, where the participants
have clearly defined and delimited social roles and goals, can the intentional strategies
be identified with a higher degree of certainty (Levinson, 1979; Atkinson & Drew,
1979; Moerman, 1988). Secondly, it can be difficult to determine the point at which
such an intention was formed. Thirdly, there is often a contingently fluctuating line
between activities that are strategic (cognitive strategies) and those moments that reach
the threshold of conscious strategy (Sacks, 1967; Heritage & Atkinson, 1984;
Jefferson, 1989 in Heritage, 1991: 328).

6.4 Media language, power, asymmetry and institutionality

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
George Orwell

The mass media in our contemporary world have a significant influence on many areas
of our lives. This is possible due to the medias creative and flexible use of
communication and rhetorical strategies as well as their far-reaching influence on
millions of people around the world.
The media represent a powerful and effective force not only in politics
where they modify power dynamics and shape the outcomes of political events such
as elections but they also have an impact literally on all areas of life, such as
education, health, sports, culture and leisure. One of the reasons why the media are so
powerful is that they shape the opinions of almost all age categories.
There are, however, two sides of the coin. The media can be both
manipulating and manipulated. The fact that the information they transmit can be
and often is ideologically loaded by those involved makes the media vulnerable to
manipulation from the outside. This is a very sensitive issue because the media have
enormous responsibility in terms of desirable objectivity that is required from them
by society because of their mass reach. Objectivity, nevertheless, is a very relative
concept, and it can be approximated by a willingness to present a particular problem
from as many different angles as possible, which enables an issue to be viewed in its
full complexity.
In relation to what has been discussed previously, the role and responsibility of
the media as I view it is not that of an institution which presents the audience with
ready-made solutions, or that intentionally selects only some opinions to be given
voice whilst excluding others, but as a democratic medium. After all, the function of
the media is encoded in the etymology of the word itself, defined as follows:

Media [] is a truncation of the term media of communication, referring to
those organized means of dissemination of fact, opinion, entertainment, and
other information.

http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/mass-media/etymology-and-usage.html. Retrieved August 20,

6.4.1 The centrality of language and the role of rhetoric in the media
One of the major means that gives the media power is language; the media make use
of languages expressiveness, the power of persuasion and a wide range of
communication strategies operating through language. As Norman Fairclough claims:

the exercise of power in modern society is increasingly achieved through
ideology, and more particularly through the ideological workings of language.
We live in a linguistic epoch, as major contemporary social theorists such as
Pierre Bourdieu, Michael Foulcault, and Jurgen Habermas have recognized in
the increasing importance they have given to language in their theories.
(1989: 3)

Although the power of the media is primarily determined by its linguistic power, it is
not only the language itself, nor the information that has the power, but it is primarily
the way in which information is communicated.
In relation to media communication, it belongs to the sphere of rhetoric how
language is managed, structured and conditioned in the presentation of information.
As Nwagbara argues, the skills of rhetoric are vital for the management of media
discourse, and the way utterances are constructed and managed significantly
determines either more objective and neutral or more biased ways of presenting an
utterance to the public. On the other hand the possibility of subjectivity is equally
significant. Therefore he claims it entails [] a serious need for the artful and
strategic management of language and discourse [] especially in media discourse
that has public appeal and mass reach. (2007: 122)

The influence of language on perception and behaviour
Ferdinand de Saussure claimed that language is one of the most conservative social
institutions. Language as a social construct involves institutional structures. If
knowledge is power, language is power too, and those who control language have an
enormous influence on how we perceive reality. Even more importantly, they set the
model for what behaviours are viewed as acceptable in a society.
Gay (1999) mentions two key ways in which language shapes both perception
and behaviour and more significantly, how it influences our thought and action.
First, lexis is always loaded, and as such it serves as a means of
interpretation. More specifically, as Gay puts it, Individuals think about their world
in the terms provided by their language. As a result of socialization individuals have a
predisposition to select those terms which coincide with the existing values in their
I would add that in any spoken or written communication the entire process of
decoding the meaning is very complex. The words are always loaded. On one hand
there is the speakers unique concept of the world as he perceives it, and hence the
unique meaning that a particular word carries for him; on the other hand the same
word may be loaded differently for the addressee, and so the actual meaning in the
immediate context needs to be negotiated. This, however, is possible only in spoken
discourse, and as communication, psychology, and neurolinguistic theories claim,
speakers often do not go through this phase, which is the main cause of

miscommunication. As Bolton (1986) claims, the main reason for semi-effective or
ineffective communication, which is a major social problem of our society, is that we
do not listen carefully to what the other conversational partner is saying. Successful
communication does not mean merely to hear the words, but above all it means to
understand what is the message being communicated behind the words.
The first of Gays claims is actually closely related to the cognitive linguistic
theory of frames. It reflects the power of the word to activate a frame of semantic
knowledge which relates to the specific concept it refers to. A relevant aspect of frame
semantics in relation to media discourse is outlined in section 6.6.3 of this chapter.
Secondly, the idea of the symbolic power of language has been elaborated by
the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Gay (1999) builds upon his claim, saying that
behavior is shaped by the linguistic perspective of an individual's thought. I consider
this to be a key idea. In other words, language gives a structure to consciousness
which guides action.

6.4.2 Radio discussions as a genre of media discourse
For the past three decades, institutional interaction (including media talk) has been a
focus of various discursive approaches to language, specifically Conversation Analysis
(Heritage & Clayman, 2002; Hutchby, 1996) and Critical Discourse Analysis (which
was established and further developed by Fowler, 1991; Hodge & Kress, 1992;
Fairclough, 1995, 2003; Weiss & Wodak, 2003). There will not be a detailed
discussion about these two approaches here, as it is not central to this study. The two
approaches share many aspects, with the major difference that CDA does not limit
itself to specific structures of talk, but systematically relates them to the socio-political
context, which is highly important for the analysis of media language.

Defining discussion
A discussion as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is viewed as a
consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate or as a formal
treatment of a topic in speech or writing.

As an object of the analysis of media discourse, however the term discussion
requires a more narrow definition. For this purpose I have adopted mejrkovs
(2003) definition, which has been slightly modified.
Discussion can be defined as a communicative event that is characterized by
particular features, namely (1) face-to-face communication, and (2) its public character
(it is addressed to a public that is or is not present in the studio, but the main target
audience are listeners outside the studio. Other characteristics are a fixed time of
broadcast, and a type of discussion (informative, entertaining, consensual,
confrontational) that corresponds with the radio stations intent. It is this intent that to
a large extent influences the preference for particular communication strategies that
both host(s) and guests in the studio use. The radio discussions in the studied corpus
are for the most part informative, however all of the above aspects can be found there.

http://mw1.meriam-webster.com/dictionary/discussion. Retrieved July 28, 2009.

Features of media talk as a type of institutional dialogue
As has already been mentioned, institutional dialogue of different kinds has been a
domain mainly (though not exclusively) of conversational analysis, which belongs
among the leading methods currently applied to media discourse. It observes the
interaction of people in natural settings and aims at identifying recurring patterns in
One of the fundamental assumptions of conversational analysts is that []
participants build the context of their talk in and through their talk. (Heritage in
Silverman, 1997: 163). Drew & Heritage (1992) outline three basic features of
institutional talk of any kind, which have been modified here according to the corpus
data of radio discussions:

1. Institutional interaction (including media talk) involves participants in specific
goal orientations which are tied to their institutionally relevant identities,
specifically host-guest, guest-guest, host-host, host-audience, and guest-

2. Institutional talk involves special constraints such as what topics will be

3. Institutional interaction is associated with inferential frameworks and
procedures that are particular to media interaction. The most characteristic
procedure indicating institutionality is the turn-taking mechanism which
establishes who is going to talk when, signals when a participant has the right to
speak, and manages the overall structural organization of the interview.

Interviews as a discourse of power and asymmetry
Gubrium & Holstein (2002) offer another view of interviews, which includes also
radio discussions as a format with multiple participants. They say interviewing of all
kinds mediates contemporary life and [it] is becoming the experiential conduit par
excellence of the electronic age. (Gubrium & Holstein, 2002: 9)
The discourse of a vast majority of contemporary interviews in its essence is
genuinely asymmetrical. As has been mentioned before and will be discussed in
greater detail later, participants have roles that are given within the institutional
framework; these roles are fixed and consequently determine the type and functions of
the utterances which they produce. The host asks questions, collects and summarizes
information, whilst the guest in the studio typically provides answers. In this type of
discourse the operating principle is control, which is focused mainly on keeping these
functions and roles separate so that the expected institutional framework is not
The interviewer is not expected to provide answers or give his/her opinion; the
interviewee is not expected to ask questions or take over the initiative. It can be said
that media discourse as well as institutional discourse in general locates knowledge
within the respondent, but control with the interviewer.

The subjects behind interview participants

The interview not only produces interview data, but also it simultaneously constructs
individual and public opinion. What does it mean in terms of communicative
practice to be an interviewer, and what does it mean to be an interviewee?
An interesting concept of viewing the subjects roles in an interview encounter
is offered by Gubrium & Holstein (2002), who perceive subjects participating in an
interview encounter as both active and passive at the same time.
Respondents are viewed as passive vessels of answers for experiential
questions put to them by interviewers (2002: 12). They passively possess the
information which the interviewer needs to obtain. This may sometimes be a sensitive
issue. Since the success of the interview is dependent on mutual cooperation between
the interviewer and the interviewee, it is of great importance that the interviewer is
careful about how s/he asks questions.
On the surface the interviewer can be seen as a purely active figure, however,
actually his/her passivity lies in the fact that s/he is detached from the actual data of
the field in the sense that s/he merely collects what is already there. The main
purpose of the interview is hence to tap into information without unduly disturbing
and, therefore, biasing or contaminating the respondents vessel of answers.
(Gubrium & Holstein, 2002: 13) The interviewer is expected to remain neutral and to
avoid shaping the information that is conveyed. This undoubtedly involves the
interviewers efforts to control him-/herself in order not to imprint his or her presence,
own experience or opinion onto what the respondent communicates.
The core of an interviewer as an active subject is actually the same as that of
the respondent interviewers are producers of knowledge. Gubrium and Holstein call
the interview a concerted interactional project, in which the interviewer is engaged
in the interactional co-construction of the interviews content (2002: 15).
Another important aspect of media discourse is the notion of voice. Voice
refers to the subject position that is taken for granted behind speech. (Gubrium, 1993;
Holstein & Gubrium, 2000 in Gubrium-Holstein, 2002; see also Chapters 2 and 3 of
this volume for a discussion of voice). The concept of voice involves the question
of who actually speaks over the course of an interview and from what standpoint.
Sometimes participants shift their position, indicating these shifts by using verbal
prefaces such as This is what I would tell you as a doctor, but as a friend, sometimes
offering solutions from different points of view Well, from the point of view of a
politician , but from the point of view of a citizen and sometimes hiding behind
collective concepts of we This is how we see it. In the course of an interview,
voices mix and blur into each other, and it is sometimes difficult to identify who owns
the voice behind a particular opinion.

Interactional asymmetry as a feature of media talk: the case of Czech, British and
North American corpora of radio discussions
Asymmetry is one of the most central governing principles in media talk, and it is
closely related to sociological phenomena of power and control. Heritage (in
Silverman, 1997: 175) observes four types of institutional asymmetry, namely (1)
asymmetries of participation, (2) asymmetries of interactional and institutional
knowhow in which the interaction is embedded, (3) epistemological caution and
asymmetries of knowledge, and (4) rights of access to knowledge.

The most obvious feature of asymmetry in the analyzed radio discussions is the
direct relationship between the institutional roles, tasks, rights and obligations of the
participants. In a previous study (Wilamov, 2008) dealing with the turn-taking
mechanism, I was interested in how both interviewers and interviewees depart from
the established norm that is set in the institutional framework, how these departures are
addressed and potentially sanctioned, and how they reflect the asymmetric nature of
media discourse.
I looked more closely into the functions of hosts and guests turns as they
relate to Heritages typology of institutional asymmetries. The results of the analysis
showed quite a remarkable asymmetry, which is reflected in the unequal number of
diverse functions performed by hosts and guests turns, an asymmetry that is reflected
in the communicative force that lies beyond the literal meaning of the utterance.
Guests in the corpus data either answer or react to the hosts questions, or react
to his/her request for the clarification of a particular term or concept s/he has used or
to his/her request to expand on their answer, or the guests contribute their opinions on
another guests answer. However, the power behind the hosts turns is much
stronger. Hosts typically outline the structure of the discussion and the topic discussed;
they decide when one topic will be closed and another opened; they open a discussion
with the knowledge about the topic that guests and audience outside the studio are
presented with; they choose which guest will answer the question; they require the
guests to explain, add or specify their answer. The hosts evaluate to what extent the
answer provided is satisfactory, and determine whether or not the length of the reply is
appropriate; they may ask the guest to further elaborate on the reply or they may
interrupt the guest if the utterance is too long. It is the host who evaluates whether or
not the guests answer is relevant to what is expected, and the host has the authority to
decide. The host has the right to complement a guests answer any time, and
sometimes s/he even provides his/her own answer, although this is not within the
expected norm of the institutional framework.
The last case is actually an example of departure from the norm. However, even
in cases when participants rights ensuing from an expected institutional framework
are overstepped (whether such a departure from the norm is sanctioned or not), we can
see the true nature of power and asymmetry that lies at the core of media interaction
as a type of institutional discourse. The analysis of the radio debate corpus data
identified several types of departures from the norm both by the hosts and by the
guests, and showed that it is only the host that has the right to exercise sanctions if a
guest oversteps the given framework, not vice versa.
Relating language and power to the context of Austins speech act theory
(1962), which is discussed in relation to the power of the word in a greater detail in
section 6.6.1 of this chapter, it is obvious that whereas guests use language to say
things, a large number of the hosts turns are used to do things. In Austins terms, the
hosts utterances perform actions as they make guests do what the host requires.
This reflects the nature of power issuing from the institutional framework and enabling
the host to perform these actions.


6.5 The nature of violence and non-violence in communication

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is
Mahatma Gandhi

Communication technologies today allow us to communicate and cooperate instantly
almost with the whole world. In this sense our planet has become a global village.
An ongoing process of globalization in which regional economies, societies, cultures,
languages and ideas have become integrated through global networks of exchange is
at least in the developed world considered to be given.
Violence is any act of aggression and similarly to language it is a social
construct. What is considered as violent is context-sensitive, and acts that are
labelled as violent in a certain social and cultural context are not necessarily
considered violent in another.

6.5.1 Defining violence and non-violence: a dualistic concept of todays world
Dictionaries define violence as a physical force exerted for the purpose of violating,
damaging (in the sense of meaning, content or intent), or abusing (unjust exercise of
The Violence Preventive Aliance (VPA) in its World Report on Violence and
Health defines violence as:

the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against
oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or
has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm,
maldevelopment, or deprivation.

Violence that can be defined as a physical or psychological degradation of something
or somebody represents only one of many alternative responses to conflict. However it
represents a conscious and intentionally chosen way to achieve a goal, and as such it
can be classified as a strategy.

Typology of violence
Violence manifests itself in many forms physical, psychological, behavioural and
verbal. The World Health Organization (WHO) divides the general definition of
violence into three subtypes according to the victim-perpetrator relationship. Violence
can be (1) self-directed, (2) interpersonal (in the family and community) or (3)
collective (social, political and economic violence committed by larger groups).

Violence and non-violence is a complex and multi-level concept that manifests
itself on both concrete and abstract levels, and it can be verbal as well as non-
verbal. One of the most cogent attempts to grasp the complexity of the polar nature of
this concept is the one presented by Allen (2005 in Allen, 2008):

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/violence. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
http://www.who.int/violenceprevention/approach/definition/en/index.html. Retrieved August 5,
http://www.who.int/violenceprevention/approach/definition/en/index.html. Retrieved August 8,

Violence is individual and institutional, personal and political. It might be
silence, bullying, harassment, physical assault, suicide; oppression, exploitation,
war Violence is injustice that results in dysfunctional, imbalanced
relationships among people, groups, nations, people and our environment,
even within one body and mind. Non-violence in this context means moving
toward dynamic balance justice, health, peace by devising creative
interventions into the dysfunctional systems ideally, before a crisis occurs; but
with conflict resolution, direct action, and other creative, non-violent methods,
afterwards. Non-violent action generates win-win outcome for inevitable
conflict and change; it moves toward better balance in relationships with the
goals of wholeness, fairness, and sustainability. (Allen, 2005: 292)

6.5.2 The Nature of Conflict
There is a large amount of conflict and disharmony in our society and media talk. All
sorts of conflicts in the world enter our reality via the media. Racial issues, minorities
fighting for their rights against majorities, labour disputes, abortion versus pro-life
movements, environmentalists against city councils, journalists against politicians,
politicians against politicians, anarchists against the whole society. Military conflicts,
terrorism, arms races, breakdowns in negotiation.
Focusing on a problem rather than on a solution creates negative energy and has
an influence over the way in which information is communicated. Moreover, the
problem is often not even a part of our immediate reality, but it is channelled via the
media (radio, television and newspapers) in a dramatic and conflictive way, which has
direct or indirect effects on our conscious and subconscious mind.
Conflict has a dual nature. As Bolton (1986) claims, conflict is both
constructive as well as disruptive and/or destructive. Conflict is constructive because
it allows for honest expression of feelings. Research in psychology and social science
confirms that open disagreement enables a person to achieve clarity and to
communicate their needs, values and opinions, which as a result enhances their self-
confidence and self-esteem. Another positive impact of conflict is its dynamic nature,
which prevents stagnation and fosters creativity as it allows for the exchange of often
conflicting or at least opposing views. It may increase motivation for change and
innovativeness because of the greater diversity of the viewpoints. Consequently, this
may enhance ones awareness of ones identity as well as increasing understanding for
the others position. (Bolton, 1986: 208).
On the negative side, conflict in its essence is disruptive, and in worse cases it
may be destructive. When it starts, its destructive effect has a tendency to expand.
Often conflict becomes detached from the original cause and whilst escalating, it
absorbs and emotionally exhausts those who are involved.

Emotional, value and substantive aspects of conflict
Social psychology and communication theory generally distinguish between three
kinds of conflict, namely:

1. a conflict of emotions (i.e. antagonistic feelings between participants);


2. a conflict of needs (i.e. substantive issues that are objective and tangible and
can be approached rationally and therefore solved); and

3. a conflict of values (principles, standards, and qualities ranked high and
considered desirable), which rarely has any solution. The reason is that in this
type of conflict nothing is tangible or concrete, because the conflict is a matter
of attitudes to life, of the expectations, opinions and beliefs we hold; these
differ from individual to individual or from company to company.

All three aspects of conflict mentioned above can be observed in the radio
debate corpus data from the three cultures under investigation. The most frequent
types of conflict observed in the corpus are those of needs as well as those of values.
Radio discussions are in fact meant to cast light on particular issues, to clarify them for
the audience as a target addressee, and to offer a range of potential solutions.
Unfortunately, these discussions are often blurred by the imposition of one persons
values and opinions on others, or with the use of overt or covert manipulation that
involves the rhetorical skills of the speaker hiding the manipulations more or less
successfully behind pseudo-rational justifications and objective reasons. Emotions
often come into play and the original disagreement turns into a heated conflict ending
up dramatically and as a rule without any solution.
Within the set frame of the institutional discourse it is the hosts responsibility
to prevent such conflict or to manage it if it is already in progress. The ways in which
interview hosts handle conflict are diverse, and depend on their experience, their
ability, and the use of power which issues from their institutional role and their right to
stop violent discourse. There are, however, cases in the corpus data when the host
forgets about the rule of neutrality, departs from the expected normative institutional
framework and joins the conflict. For example: in the case of a discussion about a
documentary portraying a handicapped family, it is the host who (being blind himself)
actually initiates the conflict and stirs it up. Instead of being aligned with his role as a
host and ensuring an equal right for each participant to express their opinion in a
discussion, he steps out of his role, takes sides and positions himself not as a host, but
as an aggrieved blind person.

6.5.3 The two dimensions of non-violence
Robert J. Burrows (1996), in his book The Strategy of Non-Violent Defense, classifies
four categories of non-violence based on two sets of continua, namely

1. principled pragmatics as an approach whose core aspect is full commitment to
non-violence, and

2. reformist revolution, which focuses on and reflects the way the conflict is

Burrows draws a demarcating line between these two approaches to non-
violence. Whilst the first views non-violence as a way of life, the second applies it as a
technique or a pragmatic strategy to achieve a communicative goal.

Burrows claims that in order to practice non-violence as a way of life, three
principles have to be followed, namely:

1. Non-violent action is chosen because of its ethical superiority.

2. Only non-violent means will be conducive to the creation of a society free of

3. The purpose of the fight is not to defeat the so-called other side because they
are partners and not opponents. To see the so-called others as partners is a
crucial step toward the notion of the unity of humankind. (Satha-Anand, 2002)

However, Satha-Anand, in a paper presented at the International Peace
Research Association Conference (2002), argues that the dividing line between the
above-mentioned approaches is illusory because a pragmatic non-violent strategist
cannot claim to be non-violent if his use of non-violent language or non-violent action
is not consistent.

Non-violence: Going beyond the absolute
Violence of any kind, including violence in human communication, is by its nature
dividing, separating and in its essence fear-based. Violence is exclusive because it is
based on the either-or polarity scale. It draws on the concept of Ego as the centre of
the world, who is the owner of the only truth. Life, however, is far more complex
than this, and every person creates and represents the world for him-/herself. Through
the state of our inner world, we create a unique perspective for the way in which we
perceive and understand the world outside us. Perception reflecting mental patterns
and coloured through the filter of emotions, as well as the system of our beliefs and
concepts, is based on individual experience often rooted in cultural and societal norms.
As long as we consider our truth to be the only truth, there will not be peace.
Everything needs to be considered in the larger context and seen from various angles,
because only such an approach can lead to awareness of the complexity which is
denied by violent strategies (which by contrast enhance polarization). This is the kind
of complexity which McAlister (1988) says is to be seen in:

feminists who rail against the system of male supremacy, but at the same
time love their fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, and male friends. That kind of
complexity that sees an underpaid working man who beats his wife both as
someone who is oppressed as well as an oppressor. Violent tactics and strategies
rely on polarization and dualistic thinking and require us to divide ourselves into
the good and bad [and] assume neat, rigid little categories easily answered from
the barrel of a gun, ... Non-violence allows for the complexity inherent in our
struggles and requires a reasonable acceptance of diversity and appreciation for
our common ground. (McAlister, 1988: 56)

As Allen states, the main benefit of a non-violent approach is that it is an
organizational paradigm which avoids unnecessary confrontation, does not ignore
abuses of power and injustice, and prioritizes a principle that reaches beyond the

progressive community, hence gaining hence recognition and support from people
outside that community (96). In Allens view, the concept of non-violence, which is
ranked hierarchically above individuals, institutions, communities and cultures,
represents the core value for the sustainable development of the world:

we humans need to consciously change from a culture and world organized
around violence (which came to us by way of the theory of survival of the
fittest) to species that has learned enough about sustainability to begin
organizing ourselves around non-violence. (2008: 96)

6.6 Non-violence as a communication strategy and category of force

Non-violence is a weapon of the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi

Non-violence in communication can be viewed as a strategy of managing good
conflict. And because its main goal is to build harmonious and equal relationships, it
should be the preferred strategy in any culture.
Non-violence is often mistakenly understood as weakness, when confronted
with the violation of the human right to freedom, dignity and respect. However,
although peaceful and calm on the surface, it is a powerful and effective strategy in
dealing with conflict and represents an alternative option to both inaction and
Non-violence is often confused with other non-violent alternatives for
handling conflict, such as denial, avoidance, compliance, indifference or capitulation,
which issue from learned behavioural patterns, or with other non-violent alternatives in
managing conflict, such as civil disobedience, mediating, peacemaking or pacifism. It
is, however, not the purpose of this study to deal with the differences between these
alternatives in greater detail.
Netzer (2007) defines non-violence as a field that [] refers to behaviour in
conflict and is a strategy for using ones Power. It demands making a conscious
decision to regard the opponents as human beings, the same as we are, and actively
confront them with moral Power without causing them physical or psychological
damage (humiliation).
Both violence and non-violence are types of force. However whilst non-
violence is force by virtue of being based on respect for oneself and others, resulting in
harmony, the true mechanism of violence is based on an unequal distribution of power
which results in pressure.

6.6.1 On the power of the word in the context of Austins and Searles speech act
Shakespeare was not the only nor the first person to have considered the power of the
word when in 1600 he had Rosencrantz in Hamlet say that ... many wearing rapiers
are afraid of goosequills. The Greek poet Euripides, who died in about 406 B.C. said,
The tongue is mightier than the blade.

By the term behaviour as it is used in this study I understand not only
behaviour traditionally perceived as action, but language behaviour too. Austins
speech act theory (1962), further developed by Searle (1969), represents one of the
central concepts in the branch of pragmatics that represents unlike conversational or
discourse analysis a rationalist approach to language. The main idea of speech act
theory is based on the Austins observation that utterances perform actions.
For the present discussion, however, of greater importance is Austins belief
that there is a lot more to language than the meaning of its words and phrases. Austin
was convinced that we do not just use language to say things (to make statements) but
we use it to do things (perform actions). It was this conviction that eventually led him
to a theory of what he called illocutionary acts, which examines what kinds of things
we do when we speak, how we do them and how our acts may succeed or fail.
Any speech event consists of three related acts. First there is the locutionary
act, which is the basic act of utterance, or producing a meaningful linguistic
expression. Although it may sometimes not seem so on the surface, what we say we
say with a certain intention. This is another dimension, or the so-called illocutionary
act. The illocutionary act is performed via the communicative force of the utterance.
In other words, there is power behind the words. The power that is behind the words
is called the illocutionary force of the utterance.
We do not create an utterance that has a particular function (e.g. an explanation,
request, apology, etc.) without intending it to have an effect which we want to see in
reality. This phase is the third dimension in speech act theory, the perlocutionary act.
Depending whether the hearer decodes our intention correctly and the speaker gets the
message across as s/he intends, the act leads consequently to a concrete action.
For pragmaticians, the most important aspect of speech act theory is the
illocutionary force, i.e. the speakers intention, because it is this power that enables
that the same locutionary act to have different illocutionary forces. For example the
force behind the speech act of thanking can be that of refusal, whilst an explanation
can actually be an apology. (See Wilamov, 2004.)
Austins Speech Act Theory, based primarily on a lexical classification of
illocutionary acts, was further developed and modified in Searles A Taxonomy of
Illocutionary Acts (1975); Searle classified the five types of general functions that are
performed by SAs according to how the acts fit the world and vice versa.

Speech act type Direction of fit S = speaker
X = situation
Declarations make words change the world S causes X

make words fit the world S believes X

make words fit the world S feels X

make the world fit words S wants X
Commissives make the world fit words S intends X


Table 1 Searles taxonomy of speech acts in Thomas (1995)

Declarations are speech acts that from a position of authority have the power to
change the world via the utterance. This is a feature typical of institutions or specific
contexts; in radio discussions or interviews, a host may say And this is where we stop
our discussion for now.
Representatives, by contrast, are speech acts connected to our belief system,
i.e. to what the speaker believes to be the case or not. Here belong statements of fact,
assertions, conclusions, descriptions that we have accepted from our parents, teachers,
friends, authorities and have made a part of our belief system which creates our reality.
Here there belong many beliefs issuing from what Carl Gustav Jung calls the
collective consciousness, i.e. shared beliefs and moral values rooted and operating as
a unifying force in the society. This is how children should be raised. This is how we
do things here.
Expressives are speech acts that state what the speaker feels. They express our
emotional states (anger, fear, defensiveness, pleasure, pain, joy, sadness). In many
cultures feelings are treated as something that it is not appropriate to display publicly
because it is mainly the mind, information, knowledge and mental energy that the
society values. Nevertheless, research into psychology, quantum physics and
bioenergetics confirms that emotions represent a strong driving force, a powerful
energy and a key for the correct interpretation of the message, containing more
substantial and unique information compared to a message which is communicated
merely by words.
Whilst expressives reflect our inner world, directives are speech acts in which
speakers use their power through words to get someone else to do something. Thus the
host of a radio discussion says: Norman Filkenstein, your assessment of why Israel
attacked now?
The last type of speech act as classified by Searle is the category of
commissives. By performing commissives, speakers commit themselves to some
future action and hence use the power of the word to create a potential reality for the
future (e.g. promises, threats, refusals, etc.)

6.6.2 Linguistic violence
From what has been outlined above, it is obvious that language is a powerful tool in
the respect that it co-creates our reality.
Language is a social construct and as such it can do violence: violence against
either individuals or groups that is psychological rather than physical. Physical
violence causes pain and often it is connected to the immediate survival reaction,
based on our instincts. Physical pain brings us to the present moment in which it is
happening and makes us more alert and conscious about what is going wrong.
Unfortunately we seem to be far less aware, less sensitive and more tolerant of
linguistic violence just because it happens on a more subtle level. Linguistic violence
uses psychological force, not physical force, which however does not mean that it is
less dangerous. It is as dangerous as physical violence and its most dangerous aspect is
that it is more abstract and hence less tangible and therefore more covert, which
makes its perception less obvious.

Linguistic violence occurs when we are hurt psychologically and/or socially
by words. Gay (1998) draws attention to a very important aspect of linguistic
violence. While most people are conscious of the pain that words can cause, many
social groups are often unconscious of injustices that language helps to create and
sustain. (545)
Gay (1998) views linguistic violence as a continuum that ranges from subtle
through abusive to grievous forms. By subtle forms he generally means linguistic
forms that cause harm and hurt that is minimal and unintentional, like for example the
case of childrens jokes or lighter forms of irony. Abusive forms can be traced
especially in racist, sexist, and classist discourse. These uses of language hurt
psychologically, and unlike subtle forms, participants are more aware of their
degrading intent. The third type grievous forms are the strongest in their force
and they intend to silence or even eliminate individuals or a social group.
Another important distinction that Gay (1999) suggests is a distinction between
oppressive and offensive language; this distinction is found on all levels of the
continuum of linguistic violence which includes subtle, abusive, and grievous forms.
Whist offensive language relates to language forms that hurt the individual against
whom they are directed, oppressive language represents more intense forms that
cause psychological harm:

Within moral philosophy Joel Feinberg has distinguished hurt and harm, and this
distinction has been applied to language by Stephanie Ross and others.
Sometimes, when we are conscious of the negative effects of terms, words hurt
us. Such hurt is equally real in individual verbal insults and institutionally
sanctioned demeaning terminology. It usually hurts a child when someone yells
You're ugly! [] Language that hurts us is termed offensive. On other
occasions, when we are not conscious of the negative effects, words can still
harm us. Such harm also occurs on both individual and institutional levels.
[] Inhabitants of Africa may accept their nations as underdeveloped and
less civilized until they learn about the imposition of colonial rule and
Eurocentric values. Language that harms us is termed oppressive. (Gay, 1999:

I agree with Gay in the respect that linguistic violence and its perception is
much better classifiable in terms of a continuum because the actual boundaries
between hurt and harm are based on the subjective perception of an individual
and/or collective values. As has been said before, every person lives in his/her own
world created by the system of beliefs, concepts and expectations. Every person views
the reality through the filter of their own mental patterns, which create the frames in
which we organize our perception of the world, as well as through our emotions,
which are closely connected to our thoughts, creating in every individual a unique
perception of reality. Therefore what one person may feel or consider as hurt or harm
may hardly be noticed by another.


6.6.3 Discourses and frames

Galtungs peace and security discourses
Discourses and frames are mental mechanisms by which we organize our thoughts,
ideas and the concepts of the world. New information is integrated into pre-existing
frames or discourses which constitute the existing system of our perception about how
the world works. Our use of these mechanisms is generally unconscious, however they
represent the filter through which we perceive the outside world. Therefore for the
mass media such as radio or television that directly work with information, it is
inevitable to bring discourses and frames to the level of awareness, because they have
an enormous influence and a wide-reaching effect.
Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist and a founder of the discipline of Peace
and Conflict Studies, originated the concept of so-called Peace Journalism, which is
becoming increasingly influential in the area of communication and media studies.
Galtung (2004) identifies two opposing types of discourse, namely peace
discourse and security discourse. Security discourse is in its essence fear-based, i.e.
it focuses on the clear and present danger of violence either real or potential, and its
main strategy to achieve peace is security, in order to weaken evil/strong parties
through defeat or deterrence or to convert them into good parties.
Peace discourse, by contrast, is based on conflict transformation, which is
empathetic, creative and non-violent in turn producing. It takes the opposite direction
to security discourse, and its best approach to security is peace. The key words for
this approach are acceptability and sustainability.
Galtungs concept of peace embraces a wide range of relationships as well as
groups and nations, and also distinguishes between Negative and Positive Peace.
Negative peace in Galtungs conception refers to the mere absence of overt violent
conflict, whilst positive peace includes an added value of collaborative and
supportive relationships.

Lakoffs cognitive linguistic frames
The basic concept of frame semantics draws on the claim that a word activates a frame
of semantic knowledge that relates to the specific concept to which it refers. In this
way a word unlocks access to particular knowledge. Frames are based on recurring
experiences and words specify a certain perspective in which the frame is viewed.
Lakoff (2004) presents his cognitive linguistic approach of two competing
frames which dominate the current American political scene and that can be also
observed in the corpus data from British, Czech and North American radio
discussions. They are related to the two general perceptions of the family model in the
society, namely (1) the nurturant parent frame, which Lakoff links to the progressive
stream of American society, and (2) the strict father frame, which he relates to the
conservative stream. The main points to compare the two frames as Lakoff
characterizes them are summarized below:

The nurturant parent frame
The world is basically good and can be made even better. It is our responsibility
to work towards that.

Both parents share responsibility for raising children.
Nurturing equals empathy (feeling and caring how others feel) plus
responsibility (for taking care of oneself and others for whom we are
Political values based on empathy, protection from harm, fulfilment in life,
fairness, freedom and open communication.
Political values based on responsibility: competence, trust, commitment,
community building.
Role of government: provide infrastructure and services to enact these values.
Foreign policy: Promote cooperation and extend these values to the world.

The strict father frame
The world is dangerous and difficult; children are born bad and must be made
The father is the moral authority; he has to support and defend the family, tell
his wife what to do and teach children right from wrong.
This is achieved through painful punishment: physical discipline leading to
internal (self-) discipline and resulting in morality and survival. We must
pursue our self-interest to become self-reliant.
Social programmes spoil people, giving them what they have not earned and
keeping them dependent.
Role of government: protect the nation, maintain order, administer justice (i.e.
punishment), provide for orderly conduct and promotion of business.
Foreign policy: maintain sovereignty and impose moral authority while seeking
Trigger: fear.

How framing actually works as a mechanism in the mind and as a tool used by
the mind for thinking is demonstrated by Lakoff (2004) using the example of a
directive: Dont think of an elephant. It is impossible to realize this directive, because
of the basic nature of the mind. If the mind is purposely asked not to think about
something, it will focus precisely on that thing. Lakoff suggests that there are four
cognitive morals issuing from this observation:

1. Every word evokes a frame. A frame can be viewed as a conceptual structure in
thinking. The word elephant evokes a particular knowledge we associate with it
(a large animal, with floppy ears and a trunk that it uses to pick up things with as
with a hand etc.).

2. Words defined within a frame evoke a frame. The word trunk in the Elephant
frame evokes the part of an animal and not for example the stem of a tree or a
luggage compartment.

3. Negating a frame evokes the frame. (Dont think of an elephant.)


4. Evoking a frame reinforces that frame. Lakoff (2005) claims that every frame
is realized in the brain by neural circuitry and all language is defined in relation
to our frames. Words activate that frame-circuitry, and every time we hear the
words, the frame is activated and gets stronger. But if our language does not fit
our frame circuitry, it will not be understood, or will be misunderstood.

Reframing rather than reacting as a successful communication strategy
The media, especially radio and television but also newspapers, offer excellent
examples of the reactionary treatment of differing opinions that are being presented.
Bolton (1986) distinguishes three basic types of communication behaviour
which people use in relating to each other, namely aggressive, submissive and
assertive. Some communication theories add one more avoidance. These types of
behaviour are based on a persons relation to authority and are instilled in us by
parents, schools and hierarchical organizations. The first three relate to terms
established in psychology, namely win-lose, lose-win, win-win according to the result
of an argument depending on the distribution of power.
Allen (2008) argues that the win-lose game a term known from counselling
psychology is associated with aggressive behaviour. It is a theory-based pattern set
up in way that allows those who hold power to establish the rules of the debate (rarely
a dialogue), and they win every time because they own the game. When we react we
prevent ourselves from learning to articulate the value of our ideas and actually we are
never able to see problems as they truly are. Reducing discussion to a win-lose pattern
or black-and-white extremes prevents us from seeing holistically, from seeing a more
complex picture that offers alternatives. This inevitably leads to absolutist positions,
which are unfortunately so often present in communication in the media, politics and
The change from a win-lose pattern (aggressive behaviour) or a lose-win
pattern (relating to victim behaviour) to a win-win pattern (assertive behaviour based
on maintaining respect for oneself as well as the other) requires the change of our
mental patterns from a mechanistic, dualistic and exclusive organizing principle to an
organic, holistic and inclusive organizing principle. This requires an awareness that
we do not need to communicate from the very limited either-or position, but instead
we recognize the interconnectedness of the world as a system and hence we become
aware of a great number of options that lie in between:

We need to update from a system that of privilege where a few apply power
over many to a system of (at least more) equal opportunity []. We need to
update from a people that addresses change and conflict violently to a people
that organizes its action around the concepts of non-violence. (Allen, 2008: 94)

6.6.4 Towards a discourse of non-violence
As is obvious from the existence of competing frames and discourses presented above,
linguistic violence due to an unequal distribution of power issuing into the win-lose
pattern is by its nature authoritarian, aggressive and largely monologic. By contrast,
non-violent discourse is typically democratic, dialogical and mediative in its nature,
aiming at a win-win result as the outcome.

As can be seen, language is far more powerful than we are actually aware of. A
discourse of non-violence should therefore include human communication as its first
and most important means of exercising power.
Acquiring skills of non-violent communication (non-violent communication
strategies) is crucial, because it makes a significant contribution not only for
individuals being provided with an efficient tool to solve their personal conflicts in a
harmonious way, but it will also make a major contribution to society, political and
media culture. People learning and using non-violent skills in communication with
each other on any level and in any environment represent a very powerful alternative
to the prevailing fight-or-run pattern that is so common today, and not only in media
discourse. In Satha-Anands (2002) words:

Existing discursive practices turn violence into appropriate human behaviours.
The way in which violence is used and normalized at the interpersonal and
international level suggests the hegemony of the discourse of violence. () a
step towards a peaceful, non-violent society is to begin with serious questioning
of the dominant discourse of violence to create a counter-discourse of non-

The role of the media in reframing our concept of the world
In relation to everything that has been said above, if we want to change society for the
better, we need to change the frame we use. This view is fully in accordance with
Lakoff, who stresses how crucial is the role of language in changing the way we think
and act.

Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world. It is changing what
counts as a common sense. Because language activates frames, new language is
required for new frames. Thinking differently requires speaking differently.
(Lakoff, 2004)

From my teaching experience and research into media discourse, I am
convinced that the most effective way to transform discourses and frames is through
the area of education and the media. Our world relies to a huge extent on the mass
media such as radio, television, and print (newspapers, journals, billboards etc.) and in
recent years also on the increasing importance of the internet as a communication
As has been already mentioned in section 6.4 of this chapter, a salient
characteristic of the mass media is that it spreads information rapidly to millions of
people at a time. Messages and information are conveyed and repeated to the public
via the media, and therefore both the content and the form (i.e. both what is conveyed
as well as the way it is conveyed) are crucially important. In that respect the media,
similarly to schools, hugely influence the public in shaping their opinions. That is why
it is a duty of reporters, hosts, and also interview guests to be fully aware of the
responsibility they have in taking part in a media event.


Interviews as interactional co-construction: Towards symmetry, empowerment
and cooperation
The idea of an interview as a co-construction of content as outlined above draws
on the work of Mishler (1986). More than 20 years ago Mishler envisioned an
alternative concept of the interview, which is quite unique and progressive. He argues
for a more equalized relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee,
suggesting that rather than considering the interview as a form of stimulus and
response and an asymmetrical division of power and labour, it is better to see it as an
interactional accomplishment:

Defining interviews as speech events or speech activities, as I do, marks the
fundamental contrast between the standard antilinguistic, stimulus-response
model and an alternative approach to interviewing as discourse between
speakers. Different definitions in and of themselves do not constitute different
practices. Nonetheless, this new definition alerts us to the features of interviews
that hitherto have been neglected. (35-36)

In Mishlers perspective, the respondent is empowered, i.e. recognized as an
equal in the process of co-creating the interview. The interviewer and interviewee are
termed interview participants and the interview is seen as a collective contribution
based on a shared task of collectively producing the meaning; in this way, the
interview manifests a much greater degree of symmetry.
Mishler outlines the main features of symmetry in media discourse that set the
tone of collaboration and sharing rather than that of division of labour and power. In
his conception, all participants in the interview can effectively ask questions related to
the topics, and the answers are not meant to be conclusive, but instead serve as a basis
for the further discussion.
This truly democratic concept creates a more positive atmosphere in which
participants become co-participants and the key word becomes collaboration.
Mishler envisions new potential perspectives in all areas of institutional talk. His
vision is important, because institutional talk, including the media, significantly
influences the public and the whole of society. By redefining the existing framework
of interviews and offering a new concept of the discourse of collaboration,
empowerment and collective contribution extending beyond the current roles of
participants in the interview, Mishler shifts the prefix co- (in co-construction or co-
creation) into a new territory that allows for new and more advantageous perspectives.

6.7 Conclusion

The results of the contrastive analysis of communication strategies in radio discussion
programmes revealed a high degree of diversity and variation in the usage of
strategies, differing from speaker to speaker, from culture to culture, from topic to
topic depending on the unique constellation in the studio. It is not possible on the basis
of these observations to arrive at viable generalizations. The enormous amount of
variation that manifests itself on hierarchically lower levels cannot be strictly
identified as belonging exclusively to a particular culture. In order to find a viable

solution, to generate a concept that would unify all three cultures investigated, it was
necessary to search for a different and perhaps less conventional approach that would
stand above and embrace all of the observed variations, differences and subtleties that
are manifested on the lower levels in all three cultures, and that would represent the
top of the pyramid, unifying all various micro-strategies into one simple and
universal concept.
The observations of the corpus data revealed three hierarchically arranged
levels, which combine to create a pyramidal structure. (This concept echoes my
previous work on politeness (2005).) The lowest level is the individual level,
representing individual/habitual choices, preferences and strategies used to approach a
situation of conflict. This level covers a range of strategies which speakers choose
from the variety of linguistic and non-linguistic means at their disposal. The next level,
one step up in the hierarchy, can be termed the cultural level. It includes social
conventions, societal norms, rituals and stereotypes that determine the choice of verbal
and behavioural patterns that speakers use and that can be the same or different
depending on the culture. The third level represents the hierarchically highest and most
decisive macro-level a universal frame of human thinking which overarches and
conditions the selection of individual choices and cultural patterns at the lower levels,
influencing and shaping the words and behaviour we choose to use.
Many modern approaches to language are aware of its connectedness to other
areas, such as sociology, psychology, neurology and other fields; this is reflected in
their interdisciplinary approach adopted within this chapter.
The first main section of the chapter (6.3) outlines two approaches towards
language, namely Laclau and Mouffes theory of discourse and discursive
constructionism, both of which embrace language from the perspective of sociology
and psychology and which have significantly influenced the perspective on media
language in this study as well as the view of language as a means of communication in
general. The first approach (Laclau and Mouffes theory of discourse) views language
as a social construct and power as the main constituent of the social order. The
permanent dynamics of power often divide social space into polar oppositions, which
as a result creates exclusion. The second approach (discursive constructionism)
focuses on how mind, perception and emotions, social processes and events can be
studied through discourse. At the centre of attention there are two questions, namely
how speakers construct social structures through talk, and what these constructs do.
The second main section (6.4) deals with the media as an institution for which
language and power are central concepts because they influence the way in which
information is communicated. Taking into consideration the crucial role played by the
media in society and the impact they have on shaping public opinions due to their
mass reach, it is important to understand the current framework of media discourse,
which is based on interactional asymmetry manifested in various forms.
The third main section of this chapter (6.5) looks into the nature of violence and
non-violence in communication. It discusses aspects of the dualistic concept of the
world and looks more closely at emotional, value-related and substantive aspects of
the nature of conflict. Non-violence can be seen as a pragmatic communication
strategy and/or ideally as a way of life leading to complexity and inclusiveness, and
thus peace and harmony in human relationships.

The final section of this chapter (6.6) presents different views of violent and
non-violent discourses and communication strategies in the context of linguistic
theories, namely Austins theory of speech acts (1962), Galtungs Peace and Security
discourses (2004) and Lakoffs theory of cognitive linguistic frames. It becomes
obvious that there is a great need for non-violent discourse in the media, to which the
solution is the communication strategy of reframing based on the win-win pattern
rather than reacting in the well-established win-lose/lose-win pattern that is
omnipresent in human communication, including the media. Whilst the win-lose/lose-
win pattern has aggressive/victim behaviour as its underlying frame and promotes a
concept of the world leading to polarization, exclusion and absolutism, the win-win
pattern is related to assertive behaviour based on taking full responsibility for how we
think, what we say and how we act. The win-win pattern is in its essence
compassionate communication that is organic, holistic, inclusive and dialogic and
therefore truly democratic.
In the context of what has been said in this chapter, it is apparent how important
is the role of the media in (re)framing our concept of the world. The notion of
sustainability does not involve only the environmental dimension with which it is often
associated. In the context of this study, it is understood as a standard of ethical
responsibility which institutions such as the media, governments, organizations and
communities should adopt as a guiding principle.
Wars, conflicts, disharmony in communication, self-centredness, individualism
and insensitivity of humans to the environment cause great damage and bring us and
our world to an ecological, emotional and communication crisis. If we want our and
future generations to live a healthy, harmonious and peaceful life, we must correct our
behaviours and policies and reframe the way we live. The easiest way to do this is to
start changing the way we think and the way we speak. Since human behaviour,
including the use of language, is viewed by social scientists as rational and based on
conscious choices between alternatives, it is not only our right to make a choice, but at
the same time we bear full responsibility for the choices we make.