Masaryk university faculty of education


Binary conceptualization and juxtaposition



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Binary conceptualization and juxtaposition

Chilton suggests that “the tendency in much political discourse is towards antonymous lexical choices, and other lexical choices that must lead to hearers making mental models that are binary in character.” (p. 203) Though the concept of binary conceptualization can be compared to that of linguistic opposition or contrast, it should be noted that the first has a broader and deeper implication in terms of mental grasp and physical proximity. For example the linguistic contrast in big/small or good/evil is clearly defined in the very denotative meaning of each word. On the other hand, binary conceptualization has a less clearly defined meaning, often hidden behind abstract concepts or metaphors, yet meeting within a paragraph or even a single sentence, often being juxtaposed. Consider the text below:

The essence of a community is common rights and responsibilities. We have obligations in relation to each other. If we are threatened, we have a right to act. And we do not accept in a community that others have a right to oppress and brutalise their people. We value the freedom and dignity of the human race and each individual in it.

Tony Blair, speech on Iraq

Even from this short example, the audience can understand the juxtaposed feelings of good and bad within just one paragraph, depicting both ends of the story. We have obligations, common rights and responsibilities, therefore we are good. Others oppress and brutalize their people, therefore they are bad. There is no actual mention of good or bad, but the reader is able to infer the correct meaning from the combination of connotation and a powerful use of pronouns and adjectives.





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