How do people manipulate language


If you search for ‘manipulation through language’ on the Internet, you will first find books of this title that want to teach the reader how to manipulate others through language (or rather through speech; see below). The majority of these publications can be assigned to the area of ​​manager coaching. Because of my work, I find myself on the opposite side: I diagnose cases of manipulation through language, analyze them and determine how they work. Others can use these analyzes to detect manipulation through language and protect themselves from it.

At the outset, a distinction must be made between manipulation through speech and manipulation through language. This means the following: You can manipulate other people in a variety of ways, e.g. by giving them a gift or flirtatiously waving your hips in front of them. An important form of manipulation is that Manipulation through speech, that is, by speaking to the others. A relatively trivial example of this is a lie or a promise, the purpose of which is to induce the other to perform. In such cases the language itself can be left unchanged. The manipulation here does not consist in the fact that the language is used differently than the system established in the language community provides; rather, it consists in awakening ideas and intentions in the other for specific purposes of one's own through speech. But this is everyday use of language and so far nothing that requires a separate linguistic analysis. This is what psychology, sociology and the imparting of skills ("social engineering") for managers and insurance agents deal with.

The case is different when expressions of the language system are used differently than has been established in the community up to now, when existing expressions are reinterpreted or new expressions are introduced for known objects that are intended to arouse other associations. If, for example, the decades-old ticket is called a ticket, one obviously wants to elevate it to the status of an official document so that anyone who cannot produce it behaves illegally. In such cases one changes the language for the purpose of manipulation; and that should Manipulation through language be called.

Manipulation by language can be classified in different ways:

  1. according to the socio-interactive purpose they pursue
  2. according to the practical area in which they are used.
  3. according to the linguistic means that are used.

Here, the first-mentioned criterion is intended to be the primary reason for classification; the other two criteria are considered subordinate. The presentation follows an increase from harmless to more blatant cases of manipulation.

The goal of giving one's own message and thus indirectly more meaning to oneself is pursued to a certain extent by every speaker. Not to pursue it would be to be silent. A relatively harmless means of manipulation through language with this aim is the bombastic expression, the speech vapor.

The least tendency in this area is if you only use screwy expressions for what is discussed, i.e. without direct reference to yourself or the communication situation. Here are a few examples from Italian.

.... se le statue fossero esposte agli agenti atmosferici ... (Museo Archeologico di Reggio Calabria, 2007)
Ital"When the statues are the atmospheric agents [i.e. the weather] would be exposed ”
.L'approdo su Stromboli verrà effettuato solo in condizioni vulcaniche che lo consentano. (Escursioni Giavi 2007)
Ital"The landing in Stromboli will only be carried out under volcanic conditions that allow it." [i.e. we only land on Stromboli when it is not breaking out.]

This is basically a harmless form of showing off. In a certain area, however, it has already led to a regular change in the Italian lexicon: Since the end of the 20th century there has been a tendency to abandon the derivation -logia to use in place of their base. It is now quite common tipologia “Typology” instead tipo To say "type". E.g. on the website of a hotel where the rooms are presented, the following is offered:

Tipology: camere matrimoniali, camere triple, bilocali. (
Typologies [i.e. Types]: double room, three-bed room, two-room apartment ”

A form from the Università degli Studi Roma III, which an external contractor has to fill out, has the following heading:

.Natura dell'incarico
"Type of order"
a.collaborazione occasionale
"Occasional cooperation"
b.incarico professionale
"Professional assignment"
c.altre tipologie di incarico
“Other typologies [i.e. Types] of order ”

But, as I said, it is not about tipo - tipologia as an isolated case. Here are other examples:

.l'idea generica di sintagma ... finisce per oscurare una ricca fenomenologia (linguistic essay 2006)
“The general idea of ​​the syntagma ultimately obscures a rich phenomenology [i.e. various phenomena] "

A report by the Dipartimento di Linguistica di Roma Tre (July 2007) speaks of the languages

.a cui applica le metodologie della linguistica moderna più aggiornata
"Upon which the methodologies [i.e. applying the methods] of the latest modern linguistics ”

A Pisan pastry shop shoots the bird. It derives from the derivative on -logia turn on an adjective -logico and combines this as an attribute with a hyperonym. In this way, she also brings the popular prodotto “Product” below, which I come to below.

.Questo stabilimento dispone di un elenco degli ingredientsi dei prodotti merceologici. (Pasticceria Salza, Pisa, 2011)
“This établissement has a list of the ingredients in its merchandise [i.e. Were]."

A mock abstraction similar to the component -logia perform -istica. For example, one appears on the website of the Università Roma III, Area Affari Generali modulisticawhich is not a module teaching, but the list of modules.

It should be noted that this exaggeration of the significance of the discussed object in - an object applies in the sphere of the speaker, that is, it indirectly enhances it. In this respect, it is not just a matter of naïve foaming, but rather manipulation.2

The series of examples should not lead to the misunderstanding that the preference for rich words is an Italian specialty. In German, too, abstract nouns are not used to express abstract terms, but rather to express the bloating style:

.A separate author area with further functionalities [functions] is in preparation. (W. de Gruyter November 8th, 2008)
.Your professional partner for publishing your scientific publication (Cuvillier-Verlag 01.12.2008)
.To this end, LANQUA (Language Network for Quality Assurance) will present a reference document, several relevant case studies and recommendations on how quality assurance can be ensured and improved at institutional, national and European level.
(Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, Compendium 2007: 111)
[i.e. how ever better quality can be ensured at institutional, national and European level.]

Such language vapor is by no means only noticed by linguists. The following passage comes from a magazine that in turn quotes the sentence at issue here:

.The authority expresses itself vaguely: "Corresponding considerations are currently the subject of concepts by the users." (c't 20,2007:88)
[i.e. the consumers are still thinking about it]

(Consumer is by the way a legal term technicus for an authority that needs a public service.)

And also in Spanish there is the higher screwing with the suffixoid -logía. is an appealing variant of

.la visita saldrá siempre independientemente de la climatología (Visitas guiadas, León, 2018)
Chip“The visit always takes place regardless of climatology [i.e. from the weather] ”

Appreciation of speakers in the speaker's sphere

The sender of a message can want to add value to himself, his institution, his behavior or his products. Since the Deutsche Bundesbahn was privatized as Deutsche Bahn, there has been a lot of modernization in the linguistic area that falls under this heading. Here are a few examples:

Station DirectorateStation Management (2004)
conductorCustomer advisor (2004), train manager (2007), train attendant (2011)
Engine driverTrain driver (2004)
ToiletWC center (2004)
Disabled personmobility impaired people

In some cases it seems to be about upgrading job profiles. The last two examples show that our topic is closely related to a neighboring topic, namely the area of ​​tension between taboo and euphemism. I hide this topic here. The euphemism does not seem to serve primarily to manipulate, but to prevent disadvantages. These two goals are of course also related; and the examples show how close speech bombast and euphemism are to one another. One can certainly be of the opinion that the word Toilet is not (yet) taboo; but Toilet center In any case, turns a foul-smelling basement latrine into a central point of care with water flushing.

Bagging may play an even bigger role in the hotel industry than anywhere else. Hotels have been called in English since the end of the 20th century resort, literally “resort, summer retreat”, and apartments residence, literally “residence”. And of course this was immediately adopted in other European languages ​​(although in German it is by no means clear to everyone how to Resort should actually pronounce).

In an electrogram from an internet travel agency, it says:

.A message with your reservation details has been sent to the Tirreno accommodation structure. (, 09/26/2006)

What is meant is a simple hotel. It is obviously a question of a failed translation of Italian struttura ricettiva, which most likely means “hotel business”. Here, too, it is obviously a matter of pretending to have high values ​​on the part of the speaker.

An appreciation of what is important to the speaker is also given when the municipal waste disposal department has been calling the rubbish bins since 1999 recyclable waste containers. At the same time, the pedagogical intention is unmistakable here.

At Deutsche Post, cheap bulk mailings were known as somewhat neutral Infopost until 2015. From 2016 the shipping conditions were worsened, the prices increased and the procedure was renamed “Dialogpost”. A commercial has absolutely nothing to do with dialogue; it is a case of deliberate misleading of those affected.

The prospectus of a mail order company begins with the "lead story":

.Your free gift (Eurotops, 2006)

This is where the broad field of the opens up Pleonasm as a rhetorical strategy, known since antiquity, of giving more emphasis to what has been said by saying it twice.

A tried and tested means of enhancing yourself is to lie. While this is not dealt with here in accordance with what was said at the beginning, the assignment of a misleading name here has the same intention. The case of the “Frankfurt-Hahn” airport has long been known. According to its geographical location, it should be called Hahn Airport or Lautzenhausen Airport. He got his name obviously with the intention of simulating closeness to Frankfurt. The distance is 112 km, driving time 1 ¼ hours.

A more recent case is that of the “Erfurt-Weimar” airport. Erfurt Airport has been weak since it opened. In 2011 it was renamed Erfurt-Weimar Airport. The intention was obviously to increase the number of passengers on the basis of the assumption that more people want to fly to Weimar than to Erfurt. The fact is that the airport is on the precisely opposite side of Weimar from Erfurt. After Weimar, which is at least 30 km away (43 km by motorway), there is not even a feeder road. [And although there is no glee about the subsequent further decline of the airport, it is comforting to see that apparently no one fell for the attempt at manipulation.]

Glossing over one's own deficiency

Contributing companies have the floor Premium increase not at all in vocabulary; it's through Premium adjustment replaced. The meaning of this latter word is, however, changed. Because occasionally a company has to lower its prices. This is really an adjustment to the market development. However, this process is called never Price adjustment, but anyway Price drop (As in a circular from Stadtwerke Erfurt dated March 12, 2009).

An alternative to the Price adjustment offers the Price correction:

.The yield was extremely small. For you as a consumer, this means that there will be price corrections in the coming year. (Winzergenossenschaft Oberbergen, Nov. 2010)

(where, however, as you can see, no great stylist was at work). That correction accurate and exclusive Raising means, can be seen from the following passage by the same author:

.After the 2010 harvest, it was inevitable to adjust some prices slightly. This is especially true for the white wines. For the ... red wines, however, we were able to ... leave the prices unchanged, and for the red wine cuvées ... even lower them slightly. (Winzergenossenschaft Oberbergen March 2011)

The downside of the price increase is the decrease in product quality. There is also a linguistic solution for this. The following is again a quote from a magazine that noticed manipulation by language.

.Most manufacturers only add slightly filled cartridges to their devices [inkjet printers], which are somewhat euphemistically called "normal cartridges". If you want properly refueled containers, you have to buy the much more expensive "XL cartridges". (c't 21, 2010: 111)