Valence and Violence: How Language Shapes Political Acts
By Laurel L. Laura
Published 2005. Hardcover, 1704 pages. Price: $598.99
This volume illustrates the intimate connection between language and political action.
An extensive cross-linguistic database of voice and valence systems is examined in relation to the political events which have occurred in the history of each language community. Unmistakable correlations point to the primacy of voice and valence as predictors of political choices made at the societal level.
Knowledge of linguistic theory is lamentably absent from every historical study that this author has ever read; indeed, most histories of the world make no mention of the languages spoken by the societies they describe. This is unforgivable, because (as this study conclusively demonstrates) it is the nature of a language community’s voice and valence systems which determine how that community will act toward its neighbors.
Part I of the book presents the correlations that have been identified between linguistic structures and political action. These can be summarized in two major types:
1. Cultures whose languages emphasize inherently violent valence-changing processes tend to treat their neighbors with similar violence: object-incorporating language groups tend to try to incorporate other groups; speech communities which rely heavily on passivization or demotion are prone to impose analogous restrictions on other neighboring groups.
2. Conversely, communities whose speech strongly emphasizes passive constructions tend to be regional doormats, never standing up for themselves in the face of aggression.
Part II of the book applies the insights discovered in Part I to a thorough-going reanalysis of world history, in terms of valence-changing processes and voice systems. Surprising conclusions are offered about long-disputed historical events, such as who was really at fault for starting World War I.
The most innovative and thoughtful book of our generation, Valence and Violence is destined to become a classic in both linguistics and political science.
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