Abstract Ritesh Kumar 20 May 2020

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Title: Can we (automatically) recognise the Language of Propaganda?


Propaganda and its analysis and detection is one of the most classic problems in Linguistics, communication studies and media studies. Propaganda refers to the use of language designed to evoke a specific kind of response from its readers or hearers (Postman 1976). It is generally aimed towards fooling people and influencing public opinion in such a way that they end up accepting the dominant narrative (Herman and Chomsky 2002). In recent times, it has gained further significance in the wake of hyperpartisan and fake news epidemic on social media since propaganda lies at the heart of fake news and could be considered an inherent part of the fake news ‘ecosystem’. It is commonly accepted and acknowledged that propaganda (and by extension fake news itself) draws its strength and relevance from the fact that people would fail to recognise that they have fallen for it and as such would accept those to be legitimate.

Drawing examples from newspapers in English and Hindi, I shall discuss different rhetorical devices / techniques that have been employed for spreading propaganda among the masses. I shall look at a couple of examples and see how we may go ahead with recognising propaganda through language usage. Finally I shall also discuss some attempts at automatically recognising propaganda, the challenges and their results (Da San Martino, et al 2019).


  • Da San Martino, G, S. Yu, A. Barrón-Cedeño, R. Petrov, P. Nakov. 2019. Fine-Grained Analysis of Propaganda in News Articles. In Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP 2019), Hong Kong, China, November 3-7, 2019.
  • Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky. 2002. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (2nd ed.). New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Postman, Neil. 1976. Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk. New York: Delacort

Bio: Ritesh completed his MA and PhD in Linguistics from Jawaharlal Nehru University and is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at K.M. Institute of Hindi and Linguistics at Agra. His primary areas of interest include pragmatics, automatic recognition and intervention in aggressive and hateful language online. He approaches aggression and hate as situated phenomena which emanates out of various contextual factors such as hyperpartisanship, fake news and propaganda and tries to understand these as part of an interrelated system. Besides these, he also works towards the language documentation, description and development of resources and technologies for endangered and zero-resource Indian languages.