Manipulation by deliberate failure of communication

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This work studies manipulative use of language that can be called "deliberate failure of communication"; I characterize this kind of manipulation and show that it can be found in the discourse of marketing experts and legal professionals. Relying on relevance theory, I show that manipulation of this kind takes advantage of what van Dijk calls the "context model" of the addressees. I exemplify two ways in which the context models of some of the discourse's participants might be misused in order to manipulate them. One way is exemplified by a text from an advertisement, the other by a text from a criminal court file. I propose, finally, that the analysis supports van Dijk's view that social, discursive, and epistemic inequalities reproduce one another in a kind of vicious circle. It suggests, in van Dijk's terms, that manipulation by deliberate failure of communication is a discriminatory use of language employed by elite groups in order to reproduce their social power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-516
Number of pages15
JournalPragmatics and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 John Benjamins Publishing Company.


  • Communication failure
  • Context models
  • Legal discourse
  • Manipulative discourse
  • Relevance Theory
  • Unspoken assumptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Manipulation by deliberate failure of communication'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this