The discourse of tolerance / intolerance: linguopragmatic approach

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №7 - 2015

Author: Yudko Liudmyla, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

The problems of defining global discursive values are becoming more important for modern linguistics. Their studies seek to find answers to the following questions: What is a value? For whom is this value? Is there a canon of universal values? Is there a canon of important and vital values for global culture (freedom, equality, dignity, human rights)? How do these values correlate with national values, such as homeland, patriotism, sovereignty, democracy and tolerance?

A number of linguistic studies have been devoted to the investigation of the indicated problems during the latest decade, in particular: ethno-cultural manifestation of tolerance (V. Bakalchuk, О. Bilyk, М. Kozlovets, V. Krysachenko); the phenomenon of political tolerance (М. Hordienko, А. Karas, О. Rudakevych); cross-cultural communication (Y. Vereshchagin, V. Kostomarov, S. Ter-Minasova, J. Sternin, N. Formanovskaya, D. Gudkov and others).

Tolerance VS Intolerance: Correlation of Concepts

The pragmatic approach to the study of the manipulative positive strategy is the principal one among problems of modern communicative linguistics. It is natural that a person seeks to model positive in everyday communication. The principles of communication as cooperation were proposed by H. Grice and the politeness principle (Tact maxim) was proposed by G. Leech design and secure the effectiveness of conflict-free interaction, regulate communications behavior of the two parties in the process of communication, and provide for realization of communicative goals and intentions of communication parties. On the level of cross-cultural communication, positive pragmatics should be based on the principles of tolerance. This means that illocutionary background assumption of all the parties (a person, a society, a nation) of any communication process are based on understanding of linguo-cultural singularity, which provides the global peace, democracy and development.

Realization of the crisis of tolerance is the result of idealization and hyperbolization of tolerance as a mechanism for settling interethnic contradictions and reconciliation. Some researchers (namely, V. Lohvynchuk, І. Kahanets, М. Kukartseva and others) took notice of a conundrum: high rate of tolerance towards racial, ethnical and cultural “strangers” inevitably results in an outbreak of xenophobia, i. e. in negative, improper manifestations of intolerance.

М. Kukartseva identifies this phenomenon as a manifestation of paradox of intolerance boundaries. Unrestricted intolerance may lead to total disappearance of tolerance. The boundary of tolerance is defined as the threshold behind which tolerance towards everything “strange” (culture, language, ethnicity, conduct of life) prevents from preserving own culture, language, ethnicity and conduct of life [5].

Absolute tolerance leads to passiveness, apathy, indifference, degradation. As a result of absolute tolerance without restrictions and boundaries interference of everything “strange” and disappearance of “not strange” (“own”) is perceived as a normal tolerant ethno-cultural environment. Under conditions of the absolute tolerance discourse the majority of population of a country or region is geared up tolerantly or indifferently towards the penetration of the strange language, culture, religion. This is always accompanied by dissolution of national identity.

At the same time a small part of population becomes radicalized in response to these processes because they oppose such penetration. This part of population will seek support of their radical, xenophobic disposition from corresponding political trends which are guided by ideologies of exclusion and discrimination based on ethnical or other characteristics.

This process may be characterized as a discursive fight of such concepts as tolerance and intolerance, openness and closeness, democracy and autocracy.

The Discourse-Forming Potential of the Concept of Tolerance

Discourse is understood as the process and the result of speech seen as the totality of its cognitive, communicative, lingual and non-lingual aspects (V. Karasik). The definition of discourse as “not just a duel, a fight of two minds, but a duel between two personalities where one communicant’s I is trying to win a victory over the other communicant’s I” is currently important for understanding the conceptual opposition of tolerance vs intolerance [2]. This explains why the cognitive-pragmatic arrangement of discourse provides for propensity towards conflict, which is “not only the contradictions that exist in different forms but also the ways to solve these contradictions”.

Successful tolerant argumentation makes solution of a conflict possible because “the paradox of argumentation lies in coexistence of discordance and accordance within it” [1, p. 63].

The study of the discourse of tolerance/intolerance is based on the following approaches:

1) The sociolinguistic approach. The discourse of tolerance is one of the main components of social environment as a whole because basic principles of coexistence and development of harmonious relations among different groups of a society form the basis for the discourse.

The principles mentioned above are: the culture of polemics, the culture of dialogue, respect of the original point of view, freedom from aggression and hostility. The discourse of tolerance provides for consideration of addressee- addresser characteristics (sex, age, status etc.) and establishes equal right communication where viewpoints of all the parties are respected.

2) The psycholinguistic approach studies the processed of formation of the discourse of tolerance/intolerance, its creation and perception by communicants. The peculiar aspect of study of the discourse of tolerance/intolerance is the investigation of its persuasive force.

The following problems need to be solved: how reasoning influences the process of making decisions by the addressee; if the communicants’ conceptual framework of the world changes under the impact of psycholinguistic factors, and how it changes; what intensions of communicants influence the formation of the discourse of tolerance etc.

The choice of logical (induction, deduction, analogy) and psychological (exaggeration, provocation, surprise, humor) strategies and tactics is stipulated by psycholinguistic characteristics of communicants: if logical tactics are principally ruled by the ability of the audience to make logical conclusions, the psychological tactics interact with subconscious parts of human psychology which are chiefly grounded on the basic instincts of the person (self-preservation, extension of the family line etc.)

3) The lingual-cognitive approach. As the discursive continuum unfolds, different concepts, the ranking of which is stipulated in each phase of speech by the specific goals of communication, gradually overlap and create a specific conceptual domain. Basic concepts of the discourse are defined by the general background knowledge of communicants; they are the points of conflict of addressee’s and addressor’s worldviews; they are also the basis of communicants’ mutual influence.

4) The lingual-pragmatic approach. J. Mey regards lingual-pragmatics in its inextricable connection with the users of the language for them to reach the desired goal. For the first time he determines the mechanisms of talk exchange optimization within the social context, which allows to make the communication as effective as possible [10].

G. Leech introduces the Politeness principle and The Irony Principle with the maxims which, in contrast to the Cooperation principle by H. Grice (formal communication) function in the context of interpersonal communication [6].

H. Grice introduces the term "utterer's meaning". He links the category of meaning with the speaker’s intention which consists in being understood by the addressee. Often the intention of the speaker may be unclear, so the addressee has to single out semantics from the implication of the utterance. The addressee deduces it from the background of the intercourse due to being aware of communication principles, maxims, postulates and conventions which were called “pragmatic implicatures” by the author [4, p. 217 – 237].

Manifestations of tolerance in speech cannot be absolutely neutral; they must bear the traces of evaluation. According to E. Volf, evaluation is the modal frame which includes a number of compulsory elements: the subject and the object of evaluation, the axiological predicate, the aspect of evaluation, the evaluation element, the evaluation stereotype, and the evaluation scale [11, p. 203]. The author states that the emotional response to the object is expressed by exclamations, emotive words, and figurative words. Practical evaluation provides for the evaluative judgement, expressiveness is extrinsical there [11: p. 40]. In other words, expressiveness, affectivity, intensification are the constituent parts of the emotional evaluation.

Speech Aggression vs Speech Tolerance as the Markers of Modern Discourses

The discourse of tolerance is based upon the emotional aspect of the communicative person; the discourse of intolerance contains verbal stuffing of negative emotions which are not restrained by anyone or anything. Expressiveness, affectivity, and intensification are typical to the discourse of intolerance.

The manifestations of verbal explicit tolerance are inextricably connected with implicit aggression, negative evaluation, inner rejection, insufficient understanding of the addressee. There is no tolerance “ in the pure state”. Hence, there are no “pure” ways to express tolerance, all the ways are ambivalent i.e. they combine explicit manifestations of tolerance at the surface level and implicit aggression at the underlying level. Hereby, explicit tolerance and implicit aggression (or just negative evaluation) are a coherent whole, “two sides of the same coin” in one utterance.

Democratization processes widely contributed to the regularization of indecent, degraded vocabulary, while language tolerance stipulates the responsibility of the professional communicator for the conformity of his texts to the fundamental rules of the language culture, because within it the phenomenon of speech tolerance is suggested.

Speech tolerance may be regarded as the term which is completely opposite to the other term – speech aggression – the use linguistic means to express enmity or hostility. Besides, it is important to note that speech aggression is manifested not so much in preferential use of the linguistic units associated with rude, abusive, forceful behavior (vulgarisms, colloquialisms, criminal jargon), as in obtrusion of his / her speech (and communicative) behavior on the recipient, in refusal of dialogueness, in inability to “listen” to the interlocutor [9, p. 110–114].

With this background, vulgarisms, jargonisms, language anomalies and mistakes, partly slang, amplitude vocabulary in the form of opposition pairs, as well as typographical errors, inexpert and incorrect interpretation of notions, irrelevant use of words etc. fall within the list of undesirable and often intolerable elements. When present in the discourse, all the listed elements testify disrespect towards the addressee.

Dysphemisms are markers of the discourse of intolerance – they are the markers of negative attitude towards a person at the linguistic level. Deliberately rude, vulgar, stylistically degraded words and phrases appear as dysphemisms. They discredit a person and form the perception of a person as an undesirable one which provokes suspicion, hostility, disgust or hatred. 

Dysphemisms emerge during the process of pragmatic processing of information with the aim to attract attention to an undesirable or forbidden concept or event, make the utterance expressive, ensure the desired pragmatic effect, and in such a manner make a purposeful influence on the interlocutor (reader, listener). For instance, recent sports events were used as the starting point for the fight of the discourses of tolerance and intolerance. Clashes among football fans happened during the football match. Internet users commented on the events in different ways:

«Суркис: Кучка подонков может лишить тысячи людей радости посещения матчем. Я не завидую этим негодяям. Если мы их вычислим, даже не представляю, что с ними могут сделать наши фаны» (>http: // sport. bigmir. net/ football/ europeleague/ 1705347 – Surkis - Kuchka - podonkov - mozhet – lishit - tysjachi - ljudej - radosti – posec-shenija - matchej);

“Surkis: A bunch of scumbags can deprive thousands of people of the happiness which may be brought by being present at the football match. I don’t envy those scoundrels. If we single out them, I don't even know what our fans might do with them”;

«Ребята из среды ультрас мне на электронную почту сбрасывают фотографии: прямо на фанатском секторе 3-4 негодяя поднимают полотнище с неонацистской символикой, фотографируются с ним. Почему так произошло? Наверное, “хозяин“ денежку дал за работу, они отчет предоставили. Спрашиваю у фанатов: “Это же ваш сектор, почему не среагировали?“. Они отвечают, что если бы мы туда сунулись, возможно, кто-то из нас получил бы финку в бок» (http: // sport. bigmir. net/ football/ championleague/ 1738564 - Vice - prezident - Dinamo - Fanaty - govorili - chto - mogut - poluchit - finku - v - bok);

“The guys from among ultras send photographs on my e-mail: right at the fan’s end of the stadium 3 or 4 scoundrels are raising a towel with neo-Nazi symbols and are having their pictures taken with it. Why has it happened? Probably, the “master” had given them the money and they submitted an account. I asked the fans: “It is your end of the stadium, why didn’t you react?” And they answered that if they had nipped into someone might have been shived”.

The featured examples demonstrate the use of dysphemisms both by representatives of the football club and football fans. In addition, it should be noted that swear words (bunch of scumbags, scoundrels) and criminal jargons (single out, might have been shived) were in the comments of both parties. In such a manner, by adding expressiveness they were trying to attract attention to the event, and to shape the readers’ negative attitude to the target of criticism.

From a pragmatic point of view, euphemization is tied with violation of the maxim of manner (when one tries to be clear and orderly in what one says) [3, p. 28 – 32].

Euphemization is a strategy of window dressing and blurring over the undesired information, which makes it possible to make unpleasant facts less obvious. R. Denton and G. Woodward associate political euphemisation with the notion of mystification, which after being re-defined appears as the use of namings that make the ability to understand the essence of events complicated “submerging the description of events in verbal transcendentalism” [7, p. 131–132].

«Это ужасное событие отражает реалии того, что происходит на трибунах футбольных стадионов в Центральной и Восточной Европе. Мы сдали отчет в УЕФА, который должен вынести наказание, и мы будем лоббировать применения как можно более жестких санкций“, - заявил исполнительный директор FARE Пиара Поуар» (http:// sport. bigmir. net/ football / championleague/ 1736370 - Rasizm - v - Kieve - UEFA - mozhet -nakazat – Dina-mo - za - draku - na - NSK - Olimpijskij);

This awful incident reflects the actual state of what is happening on stands of football stadiums in Central and Eastern Europe. We rendered a report to UEFA, and it must adjudge a punishment, and we will lobby for application of tougher sanctions”, said Piara Powar, FARE's executive director”;

«Мы призываем избегать спекуляций на урожайной ниве ксенофобии и не превращать бытовые конфликты между алкогольно-опьяненными болельщиками в расовую вражду. И еще раз констатируем, что только адекватное поведение на секторах стадиона является нашей надлежащей моделью поведения» (http: // sport. bigmir. net/ football/ championleague/ 1736581 - Fanaty-Dinamo - V - sosednih - i - na - nashem-sektore – proizoshlo – srazu – neskol - ko-drak);

“We call to avoid speculation in the fertile field of xenophobia and not to turn domestic conflicts between drunken fans into race hatred. We state once again that only appropriate behavior on stadium stands is our correct behaviour pattern (http:// sport. bigmir. net/ football/ championleague/ 1736581-Fanaty - Dinamo –V – sosednih – i – na – nashem - sektore – proizoshlo – srazu – neskol – ko - drak).

The aforementioned lexemes give ground to speak about certain intolerant intension of the discourse in which they function. “… there are the simple truths which we consider tolerant by definition. They are consecrated by ideas of humanism, friendliness, compassion, empathy, mercy, mutual assistance. There are utterances with mixed content: on the one hand, they seem to unite and  organize representatives of the same ethnic group, let's say – US, assist in forming OUR civil and ethnical identity, hence, they are quite tolerant as regards US. However, on the other hand, the same utterances may separate the group of US from the other, contradistinguish US and THEM (ethnically different), and even work up against each other, underlining our mutual irreconcilability and hostility towards each other. Thus, the same information functions as intolerant, too” [8, p. 105].


To sum it up, the discourse of tolerance is the ability to express even intolerant position tolerantly: to use the language of arguments and well-balanced impartiality instead of language of emotions. By adhering to language tolerance, one should refuse from what contravenes the social norm: to exclude the elements fostering disintegration of society from the texts at the level of self-control, to use the ways of communication humanization. Language tolerance binds to communicate within the norms of the standard language, which means freedom from vulgarisms, jargonisms, language deviation and mistakes, amplitude vocabulary, incompetent interpretation of concepts, inappropriate use of words etc.

Speech tolerance appears to be an important component of the culture of a society on the whole, as at the heart of it there are basic democratic principles of harmonious development and mutual respect without which it is impossible to imagine the advancement of global information environment.


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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №7 - 2015

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