Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department



Anthropology – Linguistics

Faculty Mentor

Leora Bar-el

Faculty Mentor Department



Military, language, linguistics, totalistic, politeness, identity

Subject Categories

Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics


A totalistic social group is defined as a collection of individuals who share similar values and goals and who live together within intensive boundaries enforced by the group’s leadership and/or members themselves (Lifton 1969). The focus of this project is to better understand the effect of language on (I) a totalistic group’s social structure and (II) the ideologies and actions of members. The limited linguistic research on totalistic groups claims that leaders and members use language in order to enforce rules and beliefs, encourage conformity, and maintain as well as increase membership. By examining language practices in the US military, this project fills the current gap of limited data in the linguistic literature on totalism. My research suggests that certain language practices are created and used within totalistic communities in order to support an in-group mentality between members, dedication to the group’s leaders and efforts, and a powerful social structure.

This project analyzes data collected from an anonymous online survey regarding language within the US military. For instance, the results of this survey suggested that respondents regarded language as a powerful tool in reinforcing the military’s hierarchical structure. This research therefore suggests that language practices are taught to military members in order to encourage certain desired behavior. Ultimately, this research demonstrates how language practices in totalistic groups determine the maintenance of power and the fortification of membership. Therefore, by providing new data on language and totalism, this project is shedding much needed light on an under-researched area of sociolinguistics.

Honors College Research Project




© Copyright 2018 Emily H. Allen