Working On A Political Language (Strategies In Digital Epoch)


Modern digital society is undergoing a fundamental transformation of all aspects of socio-political life. When studying them, new interdisciplinary concepts arise, one of which is “political-linguistic work on the public language”. The interpretation of this concept has various foundations in modern political discourses and depends on the accepted theoretical and political settings. Political-linguistic work on the public language is described as the work of a binary strategy of differentiation and codification of the meaning of concepts, which was skillfully used in Platonism and Augustinism, but also used by German fighters for the true meaning of the political language in the second half of the 20th century. Here we will attempt to interpret the “struggle for words and concepts” that took place during the indicated period of German history as a certain technology for maintaining and strengthening political power by maintaining and strengthening power over the public language. In this connection, it is not criticism of political linguistics that is important to us, but the disclosure of its political and practical functions in modern society, which insistently invites to language management in politically necessary disputes in the media and, at the same time, also forces the necessary debate about this public language and, accordingly, its key political concepts. The analysis of the “struggle for words and concepts” details and deepens our understanding of the political and pragmatic functions of the language, reveals the mechanisms of modern political manipulations in the digital age.

Keywords: Modern rhetoricpolitical and linguistic work on the public languagepolitical linguisticsthe struggle for words and concepts


In the digital age, political discourse acquires new mechanisms of formation and dissemination, and in the sphere of attention of political linguistics and rhetoric both traditional areas of research, which were previously not characteristic of it, are found. Among the latter, it is worth noting the analyzing of the problems of digitalization of legislation and the parliamentary language and its impact on the implementation of politics (Williams, 2018), the expansion of cognitive linguistics in the field of political discourse theory (Browse, 2018) and practical politics (Lakoff, 2018) to satisfy the audience’s demands for adequate political language. It should be noted that there is a particular rhetorical approach to the analysis of political debate (Shibata, 2020), and related changes in the focus of research on the personality of a politician. So in modern political rhetoric they talk about its syncretism and “Double thinking” (Zolyan, 2018), while “the leading model strategy for speech activity of a politician is a persuasive strategy aimed at achieving the main goal of political communication - victory in the struggle for power” (Zolyan, 2015, p. 131).

If we talk about the traditional approach to the study of political speech, then, first of all, it is worth pointing out the new rhetoric and its analysis of politics, since classical Aristotelian ideas about persuasion and the search for consent in political practice prevail there. It is in new rhetoric that we find the most significant studies of the phenomenon, which is usually called language policy, and which is carried out at the state level, and this is our research interest. It is important to show how the preservation and strengthening of political power is associated with the preservation and strengthening of power over the public language in the modern digital age, since it categorically describes reality and means to gain access to certain joint activities. Describing these specific forms of language policy management, Kopperschmidt (1991) prefers to talk about political-linguistic work on the public language.

Moreover, the reconstruction of modern models of socio-political practice undertaken from the perspective of modern rhetoric will be the decisive for us here. The object of consideration is not attempts to save the rhetoric and politics of Plato, Augustine with new rhetorical means, but an analysis of the modern political dispute over the possession of words and concepts in the information society. This will become the object of our close attention, we will try to interpret the “struggle for words and concepts” that characterized Germany in the second half of the 20th century and it is displayed in books edited by Greiffenhagen (1980) and Kaltenbrunner (1975). , as well as their analysis in the article by J. Kopperschmidt (Kopperschmidt, 1991), in addition, Dieckmann's (2005) position on the indicated problem is presented.

Problem Statement

The nature of the indicated problem of the present work determines its task. It is necessary to analyze rhetoric as an object of controversy and the subject of struggle in modern politics in the context of the digital era that generates publicity, to consider the political debate around language issues as the struggle of various political forces for public presence and recognition.

This interest can be called new rhetorical, in order to accomplish the task, we connect political science and rhetoric with each other, thereby this work can be defined as a new rhetorical view of the concept of political and linguistic work on a public language, firstly, and as a political science view of theory and practice of rhetoric secondly.

Research Questions

This research problem finds a solution in the answers to the following questions:

3.1. Is the strategy of the search for political reason capable of healing political vocabulary, and is the struggle for political domination capable of turning neutral words into political slogan words?

3.2. What lies behind W. Dieckmann’s attempt to investigate the extra- and intralinguistic reasons for the various uses of political vocabulary and how can it protect against manipulation of nominations?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to actualize the concept of “political-linguistic work on the public language” in the context of the mediation of political practices and the formation of a new rhetorical culture. In general, it is associated with the increasing role and demand of the digital space, which has become a new public platform for political struggle and game. Achieving the intended goal will not only allow to deepen knowledge about the mechanisms and principles of the functioning of speech in modern politics, but also to clarify the place of rhetoric in this policy.

Research Methods

The general methodological basis of our research on rhetoric and politics is the new rhetoric of Kopperschmidt (1997), as a theory of persuasion and argumentation. Within the framework of the indicated methodology, the consideration of this topic consists in the analysis of political speech as the basis of reasonable agreement, which provides opportunities for building up for social contractors. This leads to observation of two methodological requirements.

First, language is not only a means of politics, but also a condition of its possibility and a means of information of its structure. Since politics is projected through language, prepared, accompanied, etc., the political world is the way as it is constituted in our descriptions and changes in the same way as its descriptions, so you can see a political crisis in a political language crisis, or at least suggest and analyze it.

Secondly, digital society and pluralism lead to the intensification of social consciousness and dependence on it; it is necessary to ensure not only a diversity of opinions on joint goals, at the same time it is also necessary to ensure mechanisms of integration and coordination of political activities. Political rhetoric and political discourse are the strategies of this implementation, since they are the basis of the ideological support of integration and legitimation, the argumentative process of persuading and seeking agreement. Because, as some recent studies of political discourse in the fake news era show, “claims for validity” (Montgomery, 2017, p. 619) give rise to “constructions and distortions in representing political facts” (Temmerman et al., 2019, p. 6).


Before proceeding to the presentation of modern strategies of political-linguistic work on the public language, we briefly describe the underlying binary differentiation and codification of the meaning of concepts. Concepts, including value, are neither innate nor automatically acquired in experience; they are the result of human construction, special mental activity. For the first time, we encounter this kind of construction in Platonic dialogs. The forms of paradigmatic connections between the elements of the language are binary opposition, which allows conventionalizing usage (password) like good / evil, beautiful / ugly, being / non-being, truth / opinion, etc. In such a binary codification scheme, the world is structured as a language, in the sense that its complexity, thanks to code selection, is typified and stabilized in principle language accessibility. True, everyone in the same Platonism considers such wisdom and knowledge not only as a pure abstract theory, outside its socio-political context; they appear related to the transformation of the policy by educating the citizen. Otherwise, the communication space can turn into a kind of analogy of the Platonic cave, in its modern embodiment as a cave big data (Garadja, 2019; Mironov, 2019).

The current stage of development of political linguistic culture is characterized not only with a certain picture of understanding political discourse, but also with the struggle for political vocabulary, which follows from the political interests of ideological opponents. The approach of H. Lübbe is important in this context. In his article “The dispute about words” (as cited in Kaltenbrunner, 1975, p. 108), based on the principles of neoaristotelism, he protects linguistic political normality, otherwise the language will lose its fundamental impact and language in politics will become blurry. With decisiveness, G. Lübbe defends the necessary political controversy about the meaning of words: we must not concede here, since we “give the political opponent the opportunity to claim exclusive representation of higher political goals whose password is (conquered) words” (as cited in Kaltenbrunner, 1975, p. 108). In this work, Lübbe describes the methodology of any political controversy and bickering, which although it may appear as a “struggle to save words from enemies,” it should “always take place so that the words retain their true meaning” (as cited in Kaltenbrunner, 1975, p. 108). This strategy can be called a strategy of searching for political reason, since the struggle will then be successful when for political concepts the political program acts as an adequate interpreter of their identical meaning.

Political linguistics should see the debate about words not only as a discussion imposed on it by politicians, and which language criticism should oppose in order to protect against tendentious “linguistic domination”, according to H. Schelsky, “the last form of (linguistic) enslavement one man by the other man ” (as cited in Kaltenbrunner, 1975, p. 176). This discussion is much more than a political altercation imposed by politicians, into which the latter are drawn into to defend their political vocabulary from the dominance of the terminology of a political adversary. The basis of this domination is not physical, but semantic and symbolic violence: “the defining means of domination are obtained by those who are able to find key concepts and exploit in them all the great shocks of time and the passions of generations” (Kaltenbrunner, 1975, p. 176). The dominance of a political language is not just a way of linguistic regulation of modern totalitarian societies; it is always an ideologically motivated device, using a language policy, to gain a linguistic advantage in any society in the struggle for power with politically appropriating a public language. The left fought successfully and won. When protesting they successfully challenged the political and linguistic custody of the social reality of the parties in power in the Marxist right. The meaning of this strategy is as follows: turn neutral words into political slogan words (Kampf begriffe in German).

It is also worth noting the position of Dieckmann (1981) on the issue under consideration, which is attempting to investigate the external and internal causes of the linguistic nature of the various uses of political words. The main reason is the so-called truth criterion, which is little and limited in its quality as an assessment of political conclusions. As you know, this criterion is applicable to certain grammatical constructions, to well-known narrative sentences, with the help of which a person intends to speak about a particular reality.

The search for truth in a political dispute is extremely difficult and hardly possible, and not only because the subject of a political dispute is overwhelmingly the result of irreconcilable interests. The main thing here is that controversy about the assessment is a political debate and it cannot be resolved by means of linguistics, since we have dealing with the problem is not linguistic, but political. We always argue about words and their meanings when different opinions are present; especially when words are loaded with political expectations, significant for party ideology, and political self-interest makes us justify our point of view to the detriment of the truth. This leads to the absolutization of our own position, and the other the interpretation of the controversial term seems inappropriate.

Among the reasons for the struggle for political words, according to Dieckmann (1981), it is worth noting their “vagueness as intentional underdeterminedness” (p. 27); this vagueness acts as a guarantee of the presence of multiple interpretations. The meaning of political concepts is abstract and broad, and does not intentionally correlate clearly with its meaning: the voter can put in each such word the meaning that is closer to him and understandable, and as practice shows, this is what happens. Political vocabulary is characterized with a high frequency of using a huge mass of abstract value concepts. As an unbiased analysis suggests, voters perceive them very automatically and arbitrarily, because they have a wide field of meanings. The most problematic with such an understanding is the language of ideology, which is always famous for its vagueness, polysemy, and even emasculation of meaning, complexity in the meaning and understanding of ideological postulates. V. Dieckmann eliminates the ambiguity of the words of the political vocabulary through clarification of its semantics; this kind of strategy is directed against manipulating nominations.


Familiarity with the strategies for working on the public language shows that we are talking about the fact that society, in the interpretation of itself, is trying to purposefully change its own foundations and, accordingly, appropriate social reality. As rightly noted by Kopperschmidt (1991), the fact of political work on the public language itself does not cause the problems. The problem is how we should evaluate this work. Then how we should understand the reality of these interpretations of reality: either in the sense of Lübe as a search for a political reason, or in the sense of Schelsky as “dynamization” of neutral words in the words of a political struggle, or in the Dieckmann sense as a struggle against manipulating nominations. Political vocabulary is considered as possible empty forms of semantic occupation, which also acts as an indicator of the necessary social and political change, independent factors of linguistic political management and the formation of consciousness. The ever-increasing degree of abstractness of the political vocabulary, because of the departure from serving the needs of real politics, shows as a semantic-linguistic consequence the need for competition for their true interpretation.

On the other hand, we can agree with Dieckmann that competition should not lead to manipulation of nominations. The meaning of them is not to find the necessary meaning of the word, but to choose such a word to denote a thing or object that guarantees the shift of the object itself on the scale of values ​​to the right side for user language. This manipulation is most common in the practice of political rhetoric, either through changing the meaning of political words, or by selecting the necessary words to denote a politically significant reality. There are the known characteristics of the language: dynamism of the semantic structure of a word, close connection of connotations and basic meanings; as well as there are opposite characteristics: emphasis on synonymous and associative interconnections of words, the evaluative nature of meaning and others. Various political forces deliberately and purposefully exploit all of them. That becomes the basis for various kinds of political abuse.


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Kalyagina, I., Kashchey, N., Shipulin, V., & Trufanova, O. (2021). Working On A Political Language (Strategies In Digital Epoch). In E. V. Toropova, E. F. Zhukova, S. A. Malenko, T. L. Kaminskaya, N. V. Salonikov, V. I. Makarov, A. V. Batulina, M. V. Zvyaglova, O. A. Fikhtner, & A. M. Grinev (Eds.), Man, Society, Communication, vol 108. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 681-686). European Publisher.