Indirect Language: A Significant Resource for Interlocutors in Bribery Negotiations

Author: Mampoi Mabena (University of Johannesburg)
Speaker: Mampoi Mabena
Topic: Language in Real and Virtual Spaces
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 Colloquium


People do not always say what they mean; they often veil their intentions in implicature, euphemism, or double-speak. There is a difference between what is expressed literally (surface meaning) in a sentence and what is suggested (deeper meaning) by an utterance of the same string of words. This indirect language is often observed in speech contexts where interlocutors communicate matters related to death, threats, solicitations, and conspiracy. In particular, indirect language is observed in bribery negotiations where language is used to offer, extort or agree to give or receive bribes. It enables interlocutors to code their illegal intentions. As informed by interviews between the researcher and the motorists who had been engaged in bribery situations, this paper provides a record of indirect language used in bribery negotiations in Lesotho. It further analyses other peculiar features that characterise this form of language. The study reveals several indirect utterances such as ‘kea utlwa wa lla empa ha ke bone dikgapha’ (I hear you cry but I do not see your tears); Bea fatshe (Put down), Etsa tirinki (Do a drink). The paper argues that indirect language, as one of the linguistic strategies accessible to speakers, is a significant resource used to protect unethical behaviour from being revealed and punished by courts of law. In the end, the study’s recommendations for transforming communication in bribery situations are discussed.

Keywords: Indirect language, bribery, interlocutors, illegal, linguistic strategies, utterances