Social Science blog

31 January 2011

Words

The New Year brings a new recruit to the social science team at the BL: namely Simone Bacchini, a socio-linguist whose PhD research centres on ‘the linguistic encoding and discursive representation of the experiences of physical pain and illness’. Simone will be working in the fields of sociology, culture, media and sport and is already researching an article for the Sport and Society website. He will be looking at the discourse of and around the Paralympic Games and identifying materials held in the Library’s collections which facilitate research into this, and similar subjects.

 The sports controversy du jour has stimulated much discussion about sport discourse, and how influential individuals like sports commentators can colour the way their audiences view people and events. Commentators have to be vigilant about how they express themselves (both on and off air!), and this is particularly the case with potentially sensitive issues around sport and gender, sport and race, and sport and disability. My feeling is that we are at a very crucial (i.e., formative) stage in the evolution of popular perceptions about the Paralympics and about elite disability sport in general so it is essential that we get it right at London 2012.

 There is no denying that the language we use and the ways we express it have an effect in creating positive (or negative) climates of opinion. The psychology of this is well known by athletes of all kinds – elites and amateurs alike, because competing is all about motivation and self belief, about positive affirmation and constructive criticism; hence the use of empowering language and visualisation by athletes and coaches, in order to create a state of mind which encourages excellence.

 What comes first though, the state of mind or the language? I’m all in favour of using language as a spur to change things, asserting the premise that if you use the right terms, the right behaviour will follow. A fascinating book in the collections goes into this issue from a gender perspective, exploring image, rhetoric and commentary in women’s sport. I recommend it:

 Sport, rhetoric and gender: historical perspectives and media representations edited by Linda K Fuller. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006

London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2012.a.6981

Lending collections shelfmark: m06/40365

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