Seminars 2018

Date Title Speaker(s) Venue
3 Dec Ideology: its history in language and in the social sciences Dr. Annabelle Lukin CityU
4 Dec Linguistic patterning in the legitimation of war Dr. Annabelle Lukin CityU

Dr Annabelle Lukin (Macquarie University)

Ideology: its history in language and in the social sciences

Date : 3 December 2018
Time : 2:30pm -- 3:45 pm
Venue : B7603, 7/F, Lift 3, Blue Zone, Yeung Kin Man Academic Building, City University of Hong Kong


In this paper, I want to discuss both the history of ideology as a semiotic phenomenon, and its history as a concept in the social sciences. In the first part of my talk, I will argue, following Vološinov (1929), that language is always ideological, and that, following Halliday (e.g. 2003), the ideological efficacy of language is a function of its architecture, ie, of its metafunctional, realizational and stratificational complexity. These features of language emerge as part of the extended moment in our evolutionary history which can be considered the "semiotic big-bang" (Lukin, in press). I will also consider the reasons why it has been argued that the modern period has witnessed a rise in the proliferation and power of ideology (Malešević 2010, 2017).

In the second half, I turn to a history of the study of ideology, which turns out to be tied up with the history of linguistic relativity. Though this idea is typically associated with Whorf and linguistic debates in the 20th century, its lineage goes back to Condillac's Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge, which presents the first coherent account of the sign-mediated nature of sensory experience (Aarslef, 1982). From Condillac, Enlightenment philosopher Destutt de Tracy took his concept of the study of ideas, for which he coined the term "idéologie". I conclude with a brief overview of how different linguistic schools approach the study of ideology.

Linguistic patterning in the legitimation of war

Date : 4 December 2018
Time : 10:30pm -- 11:45 am
Venue : B7603, 7/F, Lift 3, Blue Zone, Yeung Kin Man Academic Building, City University of Hong Kong


War emerged as a consequence of the agricultural revolution, as humans settled into farming and herding in villages, around 5000 years ago (Eckhardt 1992). But war in the modern (ie post-Enlightenment period) has become more and more lethal, and as such, requires more and more semiotic energy for its legitimation (Malešević 2010). This paper examines the lexical item war, to show how its centrality to modern society is reflected in its linguistic characteristics. I consider the lexical item with respect to its dictionary definition and thesaurus location, its absolute and relative frequencies (relative to related concepts, such as violence) in both multi- and mono-generic corpora, its typical collocations, and some of its colligational affordances (for instance, its preference for an intransitive semantics). The findings (set out in Lukin, in press) confirm the ideological saturation of lexis (as argued for by e.g. Vološinov, Firth, Halliday), and the coercive nature of microgrammar. In other words, when speakers “choose” the lexical item war, they invite into their discourse a host of semantic tendencies, which largely affirm our ongoing commitment to war as a legitimate form of human action, despite the evidence of its brutal, inhuman consequences.


Annabelle Lukin is Associate Professor in Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney. Her research interests include ideology, the text-in-context relation, political and media discourse, and stylistics. She is author of a new book about to be released, titled War and its Ideologies: A Social-Semiotic Theory and Description (with Springer).

Seminars 2016

Date Title Speaker(s) Venue
12 Feb Literary Creativity in World Englishes: A Singapore Experience Professor Edwin Thumboo CityU

Professor Edwin Thumboo (National University of Singapore)

Literary Creativity in World Englishes: A Singapore Experience

Date : 21 April 2016
Time : 4:30pm -- 5:30pm
Venue : B7603, 7/F Lift 3, Blue Zone, Academic 1, City University of Hong Kong


Literary Creativity in World Englishes continues to expand rapidly. Unfortunately the complimenting criticism has not kept up enough, much as it is needed. Every literature, especially emergent ones, best benefit from the criticism and other exegetical attention generated from within. The case with Singapore WE is no exception. I will look into some of the issues involved, using my own experience (reflected in the selection of poems) starting from the early 50s. These issues range from the challenges of creating in what is an adopted - but now main - language, some dominant themes, the function of the poet, and other related matters. There will be time for Comments and Q&A.


Professor Edwin Thumboo has been involved in Singapore's literary developments since 1951. With a group of young poets and critics, he set up Singapore National Poetry Festival, which had its first edition in July 2015. He has published six volumes of poetry, most recently Word-Gate (privately printed; 2013). Translations of his poems into Chinese and Tamil are due for publication. He is working a volume of poems devoted to biblical themes, and co-editing Christian poems by Singaporeans. His most recent award is the Sunthorn Phu Award (2013).