Grammar - The first covert operation of war

David G. Butt, Annabelle Lukin, Martin Christian Matthias I Matthiessen

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The cultural perturbations created by 11 September (9/11) have produced a layering of discourses. These layers offer a remarkable opportunity for interpreting ideology in relation to text construction. We examine two degrees of this textual dispersion: first, the motivated selection in the crafting of President Bush's first speech after 9/11; and second, the speech by British Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins as he exhorts his troops before engagement in the war against Iraq of 2003. The texts are remarkable for their similarities and their differences - two different contexts in which humans are called to enact policy which involves behaviour that should be abhorrent. Bush presents an asymmetrical world (in moral, not economic, terms); and this asymmetry is mainly expressed in the consistent allocation of grammatical roles. Collins presents the regiment's task as a family mission, with dramatic switching between positive constructions of an Old Testament Iraq and the regiment ('family') on the one hand, and the 'rightful destruction' of the enemy, on the other hand. Again, but in more varied ways, it is the grammar which carries the burden of discriminating between those to be protected and those to be targeted. Ideology in language follows from the fact that we can construct multiple versions of the 'same' physical, biological, social and semiotic events.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-290
Number of pages24
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • 9/11
  • Grammar
  • Ideology
  • Systemic functional linguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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