Language is either written or spoken communication which human beings use to communicate between or among each other. Language varies among communities and is a distinguishing factor. In war, however, language can be used to exhort, offend, deceive, and mediate. In this paper I will show what the relationship between language and violence is.
In war, language can be used as a tactic to offend the other party. Offensive and demeaning language can be used to psychologically attack the other party and cause them to engage in open violence. When used to insult opponents, language ceases to become an offensive weapon of war and often is its side effect. According to Pratt, as an offensive weapon, language is used to manipulate the enemy’s language and symbolic codes in order to harm the enemy (1518).
Wars can only be sustained if they are meaningful to those who are sacrificing for them (Pratt, 1520). The object of war can be freedom, love, or hate. Language is then used to reestablish this object and assign a meaning to the violence. Poems, video feeds, and other media of communication are used to reinforce the fact that violence in the war is for a just course. Language in this case is used to fuel war and keep the soldiers in the battle field fighting for a ‘course’.
Language in war can be used in a manner that escalates violence during hostilities. Language can be used to offend the enemy. Language is also employed to encourage soldiers to continue fighting for a course exhortation. However, language can also be used to end violence through mediation where both parties communicate to come to an agreement and end the violence.
Pratt, Mary L. “Harm’s Way: Language and the Contemporary Arts of War.” PMLA, vol. 124, no. 5, 2009, pp. 1515-1531.