The Missing Link: Linguistics And National Defence


Ever since I was a child, I have passionately wanted to serve the motherland anyway I can. And the passion only grew in strength and intensity in the events that followed 9/11 terror attacks and the situation Pakistan and its armed forces found themselves in.

This urge of mine found a manifestation when I finally got enrolled to study linguistics from the Allama Iqbal Open University Regional Campus, Gujranwala in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course. My admission came at a time when political instability and security crisis were at their peak in Pakistan.

Now, you might be wondering how TEFL can be related to defence and security when it is purely a teaching degree. Well, this can be argued in terms of the scientific study of language that enhanced my understanding regarding the role of language in our social construct and the way it may affect the cognitive framework of people exposed to it. Hence, the subject knowledge of the schematics of language equipped me to understand the prevailing narratives in the national and international setting.

This has intrigued my interest to study the local narrative projections in electronic, print and social media, where semantically and pragmatically loaded language in general and words in particular, appear to be shaping and influencing public opinion, diplomacy, national strategic planning, including peace and conflict descriptions. In this way, ‘words’ can be seen as socio-cultural and socio-political weapons that target and/or hijack national perception. This can be understood keeping in view the assertions made by the ISPR regarding the role of media in the image building of Pakistan.

The language and the words used by media formulate the public’s pulse by constructing certain frames of reference regarding a particular event, personality or idea which is then strengthened with time.

Lack of Interest

However, I have been bothered by the fact that in the age of information and psychological warfare, relevant courses linking linguistics with defence, security and strategic studies are not being offered in Pakistan. Contrastingly, it is interesting to note that in the US, an institute linking linguistics, defence and security has been formally functional since 1954. Defence Language Institute (DLI) of the US Department of Defence has been working as an educational and research institute providing its expertise in linguistic and cultural instruction to the US Government and the state agencies. Moreover, DLI is considered to be responsible for the Defence Language Programme that involves activities like language instruction to the personnel of the Department of Defence in assigned languages, in addition to functions related to the curriculum planning, development and research in foreign language learning and acquisition.

Therefore, I feel that it is imperative to realize the needs of present time where generations of warfare are evolving rapidly and the language is becoming a weapon. Those in power need to understand that there is a dire needs to introduce and encourage cross-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary courses and research, particularly in the higher education, to produce a skilled youth that is able to counter the global game of narratives and stay on course of ensuring national security and identity at all levels.


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