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The Power of Words.

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The Power of Words Language has an irreplaceable role in our lives as mankind has grown to depend on it as an important way of acquiring Knowledge. But how valid is language as a way of knowing? French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre answered this question with the quote: "Words are more treacherous and powerful than we think." Words do indeed lie. It is precisely because of its role as an indispensable tool of communication and thoughts that words have the power to mold our values, emotions and perception. We encounter large amounts of hidden implications and deceptions embedded in words on a daily basis, from the books we read to the news we hear. Language can be a powerful instrument of expression when effectively applied or that of deceits when abused. Thus, the objective of this essay is to evaluate the impact of language on our perception and illustrate its "treacherous and powerful" nature using examples from Areas of Knowledge including human science, ethics, history and mathematics. Linguist Edward Sapir's theory holds the view that language has the power to shape people's views. Peggy Rosenthal in her book Words and Values concurs with Sapir's philosophy that words have the power to lead people's behaviour and thoughts. ...read more.


When I tell gossip to a friend, I use large amounts of expressions that appeal to emotions such as "horrific" or "unbelievable" in an assertive tone without consideration of their affects on my listener. As the friend passes the story along, personal improvisation and emotional words proliferate from her mouth at an even greater level. Consequently, it would result in exaggeration and divergence from reality. Synonyms work side by side with words appealing to emotion. Many words have similar denotations but different connotations. When they are interchanged freely, alteration of perception may occur. A British priest wrote a letter to home in 1881 that the some of the First Nations People have "successfully adopted the British lifestyle" (Davison 24). Here the priest's bias that the British have an advanced lifestyle over the First Nations and beneficial to the natives is implied. The reader would hail the British for bringing convenience to the natives. But if another historian observes and records that some of the First Nations People have been "assimilated by the British", we are suddenly faced with a harsher connotation of forced conversion and a loss of cultural identity. ...read more.


It is not subject to the flexibility and subjectivity of language, because mathematics is independent of experience (Liu, Emily 2003). Mathematics, unlike words, has precise values to its symbols such as pi and other constants. The objective and logical nature of mathematics means that a theory can be tested and proven for validity. A list of deductive reasoning can be provided to prove that angles of equal sides of any isosceles triangle are always equal. Yet the exact meaning of a statement made by an art critic about a painting may obscure people's opinion towards the art piece and remain subject to permanent debates. In short, our reliance and trust in words lead to positive but also frequently negative consequences as demonstrated in human science, history and ethics. I've only touched upon the influences language holds over us at a superficial level. The relation between words and power is one of reciprocal influence. Powerful words have the ability to lead people's thoughts and behaviour while tainted minds control words and insert deceits to corrupt the naive and innocent. Upon scrutiny, it's the flexible and subjective nature of words that contributes to its treacherous and powerful reputation. However, words are indispensable to humankind. Thus we need to keep a cautious mind towards the words we use and encounter, including those of this essay. ...read more.

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