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PLM2008 :: 11-14 September 2008

PLM2008 Workshop Session: Language and religious beliefs

A myth sets up a grid, solely definable in terms of the rules by which it is constructed. For the members of the culture to which the myth belongs this grid confers a meaning not on the myth itself but on everything else, i.e. on the picture they have of the world, on the society and its history (...) and on the ways in which these things are problematic for them. (Claude Lévi-Strauss)

This PLM session aims at investigating a vast array of topics, all united by this leitmotif: what language tells us about the interrelation of religion/transcendence and society, and what the codes for articulating the relationship between the transcendental and the immanent are. The framework of the session can thus be summarized by the triangle Language, Religion and Society. Within the linguistic perspective we would like to integrate new ideas of religious studies and new developments in the other social sciences. The material explored need not be restricted to written media. Verbal, musical or visual databases are also welcome. Possible focuses might include, but are by no means limited to:

  • linguistic studies of the primary sacred texts, e.g. Vedas, the Koran, the Torah, the Bible, as well as the secondary sacred texts, e.g. Talmud, Al-Sahifa al-Kamila al-Sajjadiyya [The Psalms of Islam],
  • the locus of the thaumaturgical sphere in post-modern society (convenience religion, talismans, superstitions, secular saints, New Age, etc.),
  • religion and/as media,
  • the linguistic markers of religious affiliation, identity and texts,
  • religious abbreviations, their functions and peculiarity,
  • dictionaries/ encyclopedias of religion and their depiction of religious keywords/ controversial themes,
  • semantic change or differences of certain religious keywords/ titles,
  • the spread of religious images and concepts in pop-culture,
  • the performative function of language and the sociolinguistic analyses of cult and devotional practices (rites, ritual performances, magic, spells etc.), the performative conditions of mediated communication,
  • myths, mythic discourse, contemporary myths,
  • the modes/ forms of (positive as well as negative) address/reference to persons and entities in religious contexts.

Session organisers

Muhammad-Reza Fakhr-Rohani (University of Qom), e-mail: dr_fakhr_rohani (at)
Małgorzata Haładewicz-Grzelak (Opole University of Technology), e-mail: m.haladewicz-grzelak (at)
(In the addresses above, replace (at) with @)

Selected bibliography

Arkoun, Mohammed. 1988. The concept of revelation: From the people of the book to the societies of the book. Claremont, California.

Bailly, C. R. 1987. Shaiva devotional songs of Kashmir: A translation and study of Utpaladeva’s Shivastotravali. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Cabezon, Jose I. 1994. Buddhism and language. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Clyne, Michael − Gary D. Bouma. 1994. "Talking About One's Life and Faith: A Pilot Project on Language and Religion." In: Text 14: 167-184.

Greenwood, S. 2000. Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: An Anthropology. Oxford: Berg.

Halbertal, Moshe − Avishai Margalit. 1992. Idolatry. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Holt, Steward L. − Knut Ludby. 1997. (eds.) Rethinking media, religion and culture. London: SAGE.

Hoover, Stuart − Lynn Schofield Clark. 2002. (eds). Practicing religion in the age of media. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hutton, R. 2000. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kale, Sudhir. 2004. ‘Spirituality, religion and globalization”. In: Journal of Macromarketing, 12; vol. 24. 92 – 107.

Kołakowski, Leszek. 1982. Religion. If there is no God..., New York: Oxford University Press.

McFague, Sallie. 1982. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia: Fortress.

Mircea, Eliade. 1957. Das Heilige und das Profane. Vom Wesen des Religiösen. Hamburg: Rowohlt-Verlag.

Mitchell, W.J.T. 1986. Iconology: Image, text, ideology. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

O'Donnell, Matthew Brook. 2005. Corpus Linguistics and the Greek of the New Testament. New Testament Monographs, 6. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press.

Pike, S. 2001. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ricoeur, Paul. 2001. L'herméneutique biblique. Paris: Les éditions du Cerf.

Seul, Jeffrey. R. 1999. “Ours is the way of God: Religion, identity and intergroup conflict”. In: Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 36, No. 5. 553-569.

Soskice, Janet Martin. 1985. Metaphor and Religious Language. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Stiver, Dan R. 1996. The philosophy of religious language: Sign, symbol and story. Oxford: Blackwell.