Distinguishing the Language of Destructive Cults from the Language of Mainstream Religion: Corpus Analyses of Sermons

Main Article Content

Raymund T. Palayon
Richard Watson Todd
Sompatu Vungthong

Abstract

The language of religious leaders expressed in their sermons characterizes the social characteristics of their groups. Over the past decades, most studies into cults specifically destructive cults and mainstream religion have mainly focused on their social-psychological characteristics with limited applicability to other religious groups. In this study, corpus-based methods were applied to the sermons of the leaders of two destructive cults (namely, Peoples Temple led by Jim Jones and Heaven’s Gate led by Marshall Applewhite) and the sermons of mainstream religious groups represented by Baptist preachers to distinguish the language between dangerous and beneficial religious groups based on the patterns of key linguistic features. The methodological process includes keyness analyses (namely, keyword analysis, key semantic tag analysis, and key part-of-speech analysis) and multidimensional analysis. The results from a keyness perspective show that the destructive cult sermons promote non-religious concepts with the use of othering, intensification, and strong elaboration. For the mainstream sermons, they uphold religious concepts for life development with the use of personal involvement and moderate elaboration. The results from a text dimension perspective show that the language of destructive cults and the language of mainstream religion displayed in their sermons are both persuasive and elaborative. However, the language of destructive cults is more persuasive and elaborative than the language of mainstream religion. The findings may serve as a basis for how to recognize the potential detrimental and beneficial characteristics of religious groups based on their language.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
T. Palayon, R., Watson Todd, R., & Vungthong, S. (2022). Distinguishing the Language of Destructive Cults from the Language of Mainstream Religion: Corpus Analyses of Sermons. REFLections, 29(1), 20–37. Retrieved from https://so05.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/reflections/article/view/257065
Section
Research articles

References

Anthony, L. (2014). AntConc (Version 3.4.4) [Computer Software]. Waseda University. URL http://www.laurenceanthony.net/software/antconc

Archer, D. E., Rayson, P., Piao, S., & McEnery, A. M. (2004). Comparing the UCREL semantic annotation scheme with lexicographical taxonomies. In Proceedings of the EURALEX-2004 Conference (pp. 817-827). European Association for Lexicography.

Athanasiadou, A. (2007). On the subjectivity of intensifiers. Language Sciences, 29(4), 554-565.

Beaman, W. J. (1990). From sect to cult to sect: The Christian Catholic Church in Zion [Doctoral dissertation]. Iowa State University, United States.

Benitez, J. (2015). Hispanic religious outreach in the Upper U.S. South: Missionary outreach, strategies, and institutional praxis among mainstream denominations [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Kentucky, United States.

Berber Sardinha, T., & Pinto, M. (2014). Multi-dimensional analysis, 25 years on: A tribute to Douglas Biber.

Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Biber, D. (1988). Variation across speech and writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D. (1989). A typology of English texts. Linguistics, 27(1), 3-44.

Biber, D. (1995). Dimensions of register variation: A cross-linguistic comparison. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bohm, J., & Alison, L. (2001). An exploratory study in methods of distinguishing destructive cults. Psychology, Crime & Law, 7(2), 133-165.

Bondi, M., & Scott, M. (2010). Keyness in Texts (Vol. 41). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cheng, W. (2009). Income/interest/net: Using internal criteria to determine the aboutness of a text. In K. Aijmer (Ed.), Corpora and language teaching, 157-177. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Cronshaw, D. (2019). “Growing Young” in Australian Baptist Churches: Surveying formation, belonging and mission. Exchange, 48(2), 156-181.

De Fina, A. (2006). Group identity, narrative and self-representations. Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics, 23, 351-375.

Dervin, F. (2007). Podcasting and intercultural imagination: Othering and self-solidifying around tapas and siesta. Cultura, Lenguaje y Representación, 4(4), 67-89.

De Vries, R. E., Bakker-Pieper, A., & Oostenveld, W. (2010). Leadership = communication? The relations of leaders’ communication styles with leadership styles, knowledge sharing and leadership outcomes. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(3), 367-380.

Esimaje, A. U. (2012). A corpus-based lexical study of sermons in Nigeria. English Language Teaching, 5(9), 24-32.

Gabrielatos, C. (2018). Keyness analysis: Nature, metrics and techniques. In C. Taylor & A. Marchi (Eds.), Corpus approaches to discourse (pp. 225-258). New York, NY: Routledge.

Holbrook, D. (2015). Designing and applying an ‘Extremist Media Index’. Perspectives on Terrorism, 9(5), 57-68.

Hutchins, W. J. (1978). The concept of ‘aboutness’ in subject indexing. In Aslib proceedings. MCB UP Ltd. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/eb050629/full/html

Martin, W. C. (2018). A prophet with honor: The Billy Graham story (Updated edition). Michigan, USA: Zondervan.

Méndez-Naya, B. (2008). Special issue on English intensifiers. English Language and Linguistics, 12(2), 213-219.

Negri, A., Andreoli, G., Barazzetti, A., Zamin, C., & Christian, C. (2020). Linguistic markers of the emotion elaboration surrounding the confinement period in the Italian epicenter of COVID-19 outbreak. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1-14.

Nini, A. (2015). Multidimensional analysis tagger (Version 1.3). http://sites. google. com/site/multidimensionaltagger.

O’Halloran, K. (2011). Limitations of the logico-rhetorical module: Inconsistency in argument, online discussion forums and electronic deconstruction. Discourse Studies, 13(6),797-806.

O’Keefe, D. (2013). The elaboration likelihood model. In J. Dillard & L. Shen (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of persuasion: Developments in theory and practice (pp. 137-149). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Palayon, R. T., Watson Todd, R., & Vungthong, S. (2020). The language of destructive cults: Keyness analyses of sermons. Communication & Language at Work, 7(1), 42–58.

Pojanapunya, P. (2017). A theory of keywords [Doctoral dissertation]. School of Liberal Arts, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand.

Pojanapunya, P., & Watson Todd, R. (2018). Log-likelihood and odds ratio: Keyness statistics for different purposes of keyword analysis. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 14(1),133-167.

Pojanapunya, P., & Watson Todd, R. (2021). The influence of the benchmark corpus on keyword analysis. Register Studies. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1075/rs.19017.poj

Rayson, P., Berridge, D., & Francis, B. (2004). Extending the Cochran Rule for the comparison of word frequencies between corpora. The 7th International Conference on Statistical of Textual Data (JADT 2004). Vol. II, Purnelle, G., Faircon, C. and Dister, A. (Eds.), March 10-12, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, pp. 926-936.

Rayson, P., & Garside, R. (2000). Comparing corpora using frequency profiling. Annual Meeting of the ACL: Proceedings of the Workshop on Comparing Corpora, 9, 1-6. http://dx.doi.org/10.3115/1117729.1117730

Reisigl, M., & Wodak, R. (2009). The discourse-historical approach. Methods of critical discourse analysis, 2, 87-121.

Scott, M. (2010). Problems in investigating keyness, or clearing the undergrowth and marking out trails. In M. Bondi & M. Scott (Eds.), Keyness in texts, 43-57. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Shen, L., & Bigsby, E. (2013). The effects of message features: Content, structure, and style. In J. Dillard & L. Shen (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of persuasion: Developments in theory and practice (pp. 20-35). Los Angeles, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Tangenberg, K. (2008). Saddleback Church and the PEACE plan: Implications for social work. Social Work & Christianity, 35(4). 391-412.

Taylor, R. J., Ellison, C. G., Chatters, L. M., Levin, J. S., & Lincoln, K. D. (2000). Mental health services in faith communities: The role of clergy in black churches. Social Work, 45(1), 73-87.

van Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse and manipulation. Discourse & Society, 17(3), 359-383.