John WilsonKaryn Stapleton
Table of contents

We are updating this entry ten years after the publication of the original article (Wilson 1996). In that time, the field of Pragmatics has not seen major developments specifically in the study of authority. This might be due to the way ‘authority’ is commonly conceptualised in relation to power. From a standard social psychology perspective, authority is one form (or sub-set) of power. The widely cited taxonomy developed by Raven and Rubin (1983), for example, lists six different bases of social power (reward, coercion, expertise, legitimacy, reference, and information), within which authority derives from the legitimacy source. Hence, authority is often seen simply as ‘legitimate power’ and, for this reason, it might reasonably be assumed that the topic is covered within the burgeoning literature on ‘language and power’. Certainly, the relationship between language and power has been extensively addressed within the overlapping fields of pragmatics, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, conversation analysis and linguistic social theory (e.g., Cameron 1998; Edley & Wetherell 1997; Erickson 2004; Gal 1993; Harris 1995, Heller 2001; Lemke 1995; Mayr 2004; Thornborrow 2002; Wilson 2006; Wilson & Stapleton 2007). In addition, research in Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is centrally concerned with the ways in which power relationships are enacted and perpetuated (or resisted/transformed) through linguistic and discursive practices (e.g., Fairclough 1989, 1992, 1995, 2000, Wodak & Meyer 2001, Wodak et al. 1999).

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