Types of Terrorism and their Linguistic Techniques and Strategies

Types of Terrorism and Their Linguistic Techniques and Strategies


This paper aimed at a minimal definition of terrorism. Forms of terrorism were also distinguished. The linguistic techniques employed by some terrorist organizations were discussed using the Critical Discourse Analysis Theory. The purpose was to find out to what extent these linguistic techniques enhanced the recruitment of members in the various terrorist groups. The findings revealed that terrorists’ speeches and narratives were mainly through the Social Media; through this channel, they have recorded great successes at recruiting many youths.


An Overview of Terrorism and Language

Terrorism has now become a global problem and issue. If it is not Boko Haram, Niger Delta Militants and Cattle Herdsmen in Nigeria and its neighbouring countries, it is Al-Shabaab in Somalia, or Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or ISIS in Syria.

In fact, attacks by terrorists have been reported the world over. On August 25, 2011, the United Nations building in Abuja was bombed leaving many people dead and many others seriously injured. On October, 1, 2011, Boko Haram launched twin bomb blasts which claimed eleven lives in Abuja. (Newswatch PP 10-21). Prior to this period, on October 1, 2010, two cars loaded with bombs exploded near the Eagle Square venue of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary celebration killing over ten people. What about the abductions/kidnapping of people and destruction of pipe lines by Niger Delta Militants? On the international scene, terrorists’ attacks have been reported. In the United States; for example:

On September 11, 2001, the United States became victim of the most deadly and devastating act of terrorism with the destruction of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre by means of hijacked passenger aircraft, and a similar onslaught on the country’s military HQ, the Pentagon (qtd. In Omego, 83).

In 2008, Mumbai, the largest city of India was coloured with blood when Islamic terrorists from Pakistan took the whole world by storm. The attack which drew widespread condemnation across the world came between November 26th and 29th of the same month, killing at least one hundred and seventy three (173) people and wounding about three hundred and eight (308). The attack was said to have witnessed the display and application of the latest information and communication technology gadgets (Senam et al, 99). There are indications that the world all over is now bedeviled by this menace. No wonder governments around the world have come to see this evil phenomenon as a major threat to global security. In the words of Crenshaw:

… the rise of ISIS and associated Jihad violence taking place in Syria and Iraq have reverberated widely. The effects can be felt not just in the horrific attacks that took place in Paris in January, 2015, but across the Asia – Pacific region as well, including Australia (en.wikipedia).

No matter the reasons/ideologies, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, referred to this ideology as “conspiracy theories, of Extremist” … championed by “violent extremists”.

Nevertheless, terrorism is not a recent phenomenon in the world. Its history goes back to 48. A.D, when a Jewish sect called the Zealots carried out terrorist campaigns to force insurrection against the Romans in Judea. These violent revolts included the use of assassins (Sicarii or dagger men) to infiltrate Roman legionaries with a sica (dagger), kidnap members of staff of the temple guard to hold to ransom in exchange for money or use poison on a large scale to eliminate them. The zealots’ justification for their killing of other Jews was that these killings demonstrated the consequences of the immorality of collaborating with the Roman invaders and, by implication, to discredit the Romans for inability to protect their Jewish collaborators. Eguavoen explains that:

This basic principle has so far informed the strategies in all boiling terrorists’ zones of the world today. Such terrorist groups, as will be listed later often create a sense of insecurity and fear amongst citizenry and give the impression that their government is unable to protect them. The aggression is not only towards the offending government as it were, but also government that supports their target government. (29)

According to the findings of this writer, the first terrorist to wear the label proudly were French revolutionaries. After 1789, Maximilian Robespierre, the radical leader in the post revolutionary period, famously said that “virtue is powerless without terrorists” (qtd in Imobighe and Eguavoen eds. 30). More recent examples of terrorists groups apart from those operating in the Middle East, include the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force in Northern Ireland, Basque Fatherland and liberty (EFA) in Spain, the Shinrikyo cult in Japan, the Shining Path Guerrillas in Peru and Al-Qaeda which later gave birth to Boko Haram Sect in Nigeria and ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

It is no doubt that language, being a social phenomenon, a multipurpose and an indispensable instrument whose major function is to make communication possible among its users is extensively employed by all terrorists. The use of language cuts across all facets of life – politics, education, religion; the media-man, the Engineer, the Educationist, the Politician and the Terrorist. With language, one can build or burn a city. God knows the potentiality and power that is in language and so “confounded their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7 KJV). This was when men in their nature of mischief planned to build a tower otherwise “Tower of Babel.”

Terrorists also, understand well this efficacious power of language and so employ it strongly to get people by their sides.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to find out the linguistic techniques employed by terrorists and the extent to which these linguistic techniques enhanced the recruitment of members.

Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study.

  1. What are the various language strategies used by terrorists?
  2. To what extent have these language strategies helped in the achievement of their objectives?


The grounding of this study or the approach adopted is Critical Discourse Analysis Theory (CDA). CDA’s major concern is to explore “the ways language is used to persuade and manipulate both individuals and social groups” (Bloor and Bloor, 1) it is also concerned with studying and analyzing written texts and spoken words, to reveal the discursive sources of power, vehemence, inequality and bias and how these sources are initiated, maintained, reproduced and transformed with specific social, economic, political and historical contexts (Van Dijk, 1988). CDA is developed out of Functional Linguistics which stresses the importance of context in the interpretation of language. Functional Linguistics refused to see language as a collection of bald words and sentences, but as symbols of communication manipulated by users to achieve social goals. The idea is to illuminate ways in which dominant forces in the society construct versions of reality that favour their interests. This paper examined how these dominant forces within a framework of discourse access and discourse structures that have created bias in the society. In this case recruitments and terrorism sympathizers.


Concept of Terrorism

Studies have shown that there are at least two hundred definitions of terrorism. In fact, Simon reports, that at least two hundred and twelve (212) definitions of terrorism exist across the world (6); ninety (90) of them are recurrently used by governments and other institutions. The term is so loaded with conceptual problems that a totally accepted definition of it still does not exist. The irony is that the recurrent theme of terrorism has become the daily part of the political drama of modern times. One just needs to turn on the TV to hear about it constantly. Nevertheless, below is a list of definitions of terrorism by some of the most distinguished scholars and institutions on the matter as compiled by Hoodman ( For Walter Laqueur, “Terrorism is the use or the threat of the use of violence, a method of combat, or a strategy to achieve certain targets. It aims that is ruthless, to induce a state of fear in the victim, that is ruthless, and does not conform with humanitarian rules. Publicity is an essential factor in the terrorist strategy.

Bruce Hoffman: “Terrorism is ineluctably political in aims and motives, violent or equally important, threatens violence, designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target, conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure (whose members wear no uniform or identifying insignia), and perpetrated by a subnational group or non-state entity”.

Alex Schmid and Albert Jongman: “Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi) clandestine individual, group, or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal, or political reasons, whereby in contrast to assassination the direct targets of violence are not the man targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators”.

David Rapoport: Terrorism is “the use of violence to provoke consciousness, to evoke certain feelings of sympathy and revulsion”.

Yonah Alexander: Terrorism is “the use of violence against random civilian targets in order to intimidate or to create generalized pervasive fear for the purpose of achieving political goals”.

Stephen Sloan: the definition of terrorism has evolved over time, but its political, religious, and ideological goals have practically never changed.

League of Nations Convention definition of terrorism (1937): terrorist acts are “all criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public.”

U.S Department of Defense definition of terrorism: terrorism refers to “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological”.

U.S Department of State: terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine state agents.

Terrorism is “any act or threat of violence, whatever its motives or purposes, that occurs in the advancement of an individual or collective criminal agenda and seeking to sow panic among people, causing fear by harming them, or placing their lives, liberty or security in danger or seeking to cause damage to the environment or to public or private installations or property or to occupying or seizing them, or seeking to jeopardize a national resources”.

Terrorism is a violence or the threat of violence calculated to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm – in a word, to terrorize – and thereby bring about some social or political change. (Kegley, 16).

As one can see, there are problems about attaining an all-inclusive definition. As Yasser Arafat, the late chairman of the PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organizaiton), notably said in a 1974 speech before the United Nation, “Nobody is a terrorist who stands for a just cause”.

The difficulty in defining terrorism has led to the cliché that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. The phrase implies that there can be no objective definition of terrorism, that there are no universal standard, of conduct in conflict. However, civilized nations have through law identified modes of conduct that are criminal. Homicide, kidnapping, threats to life, and the willful destruction of property appear in the criminal codes of every country (Kegley, Jr. 17).

In conclusion, terrorism can be objectively defined by the quality of the act, but not by the identity of the perpetrators or the nature of their cause: All terrorist acts are crimes. All involve violence or the threat of violence, coupled with explicit demands. The violence is to create fear (i.e terror, psychic fear) and is frequently directed against civilian targets. The purposes are for (1) political (2) religious, or (3) ideological reasons. Ideologies are systems of belief derived from world views that frame human social and political conditions. The actions are often carried out in a way that will achieve maximum publicity. The terror is intentionally aimed at noncombatant targets (i.e civilians and iconic symbols), and the objective is to achieve the greatest attainable publicity. The perpetrators are usually members of an illicit clandestine organization. Terrorists often claim credit for the acts. Finally, their acts are intended to produce psychological effects beyond the immediate physical damage and that is the hallmark of terrorism.

Concept of Language

Language is among the human natural phenomena that has attracted extensive consideration from scholars. However, one recurring feature in most scholarly views is that language is a means of communication. No doubt, language is important to man in social survival as water and food are to man for biological and chemical sustenance. McLaughlin has defined language, for instance, as “the system of arbitrary verbal symbols (and non-verbal means) that speakers put in order, according to a conventional code to communicate ideas and feelings or to influence the behaviour of others” (19). It is the means that is readily available to human beings in the communication of ideas and feelings. Language is one of the features that distinguishes human social life from other animal creatures. According to Fromkin et al, “the possession of language, perhaps more than any other attribute, distinguishes humans from other animal. To understand our humanity, one must understand the nature of language that makes us human” (3). Thus, language is very important because it enables one to speak and be understood by others who are intelligible in the same language. The functions of language in human social life are enormous. It is a binding force, a unifying and cohesive mechanism. In fact, there is society because there is language. Remove language and society will disintegrate and collapse.

The efficacy of language lies in its meaning potentials. Halliday in Webster, has submitted that language is “meaning potential: a system and process of choice which typically goes on below the threshold of attention, but can be attended to and reflected on under certain circumstances ­most typically, though exclusively associated with the evolution of writing” (404). Language expressively manifests as compendium of words, phrases, clauses and sentences, but are chosen by users, and stringed together systematically, to express meanings that are appropriate in a particular context. Essentially, language use is interpreted against the background of its context. Borrowing from Finegan, “people use language principally as a tool to do things: request a favour, make a promise, report a piece of news, give directions, offer a greeting, seek information, extend an invitation, request help and do hundreds of other things… ” (302).

What one does with language could produce positive or negative consequences. Therefore, knowing the use of language is not simply a matter of knowing how to structure words into phrases and sentences to encode messages and transmit them to a second party, who then decodes them in order to understand what is intended. Similarly, language use does not simply involve encoding and decoding of messages or just attaining grammatical competence where every sentence would have a fixed interpretation irrespective of its context of use. It also embodies our ability to use language accurately, appropriately and flexibly to reflect context and message. It involves the ability to make language perform the intended need of the user within the given context. Every situation expects peculiar mode of language use, just as every occasion expects a fitting dress mode. A mode of language use that is at odds with its context is likely to be counter productive, igniting misunderstanding: confusion and sometimes reprehension. (Okeke et al).

Concept of Communication

Communication as a word is derived from the Latin word communicare which means to share (Jain et al. 135). Its interpretation receives various interpretations depending on field or discipline. For instance, Cherry, a psychologist describes it as “the discriminatory response of an organism to stimulus. (It includes the) relationship set up by the transmission of stimuli and the evocation of responses” (qtd in Anyachonkeya 344). Such definition as this restricts communication to the mental or psychological process of stimulus – response relationship, how the internal mind responds to an external stimulus. But to a linguist like Crystal, communication extends to a process of “transmission and reception of information (a message) between a source and a receiver using a signaling system: in linguistic contexts, source and receiver are interpreted in human terms, the system involved is a language, and the notion of response to (or acknowledgement of) the message becomes of crucial importance” (qtd in Ndimele 123). Thus, to a linguist, communication is a process of social interaction that has the potential of bringing people together, the essence of which is to share knowledge. Again, this is not the end of it all, as the definition of communication could be expanded to incorporate an interaction process that involves sharing information, experience and culture.

Culture is necessary in communication because man is never different from the culture that shapes his identity and perception. Communication as a mental response to stimulus or social interaction is incidental on culture. Objects, concepts, ideas and images communicate differently according to people’s culture, and this is transferred through generations as part of learning and socialization. Notably, communication is not limited to the verbal language use. Other non-verbal forms like proxemics (use of space), kinesics (body movement), dress pattern and other manners of personal appearance, tone, pauses etc. are all forms of communicating messages. Incidentally, people often ignore the nonverbal aspect of communication, concentrating only on the words of speech and writing, Leech’s remark that speakers often “mean more than they say” must be taken seriously (qtd in Mey 69). Often times, the emotional aspect of communication comes from the non-verbal. What may bring quarrel between interlocutors could be how a thing is said, and not what is said. The how is the non-verbal and may be the tone used, the facial construction of the speaker, the posture of the speaker, the emotional consideration of the social or economic space between the interlocutors and so on. Thus, both the verbal and the nonverbal aspects of communication are important in any interlocution.


This work is a qualitative descriptive/survey research design. According to Anaekwe “Descriptive research is concerned with the collection of data for the purpose of describing and interpreting existing conditions on practice, beliefs, attitudes etc”. (34). It is an empirical inquiry that uses multiple sources of evidence to investigate a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context (qtd. in Wimmer and Dominick, 136).

The researcher made use of wide variety of sources which included Newspapers, news magazines, books from libraries, social media, journals, diaries, speeches of some people. The study involved the analyses of the speeches (narratives of the terrorists using the linguistic theory discussed above.

Forms of Terrorism

In her article titled “Types of Terrorism”, Anzaldua outlined the following as some forms of terrorism. They are:

State Terrorism

State terrorism is the systematic use of terror by a government in order to control its population. Not to be confused with state sponsored terrorism, where states sponsor terrorist groups state terrorism is entirely carried out by the group holding power in a country and not a non-governmental organization. It is the original form of terrorism. The 1793 French Revolution and the thousands of executions that resulted are often cited as the first instance of state terrorism, though rulers have plausibly been using it for centuries to control their subjects.

Examples: The aforementioned French Revolution is the most prominent example, however state terrorism is wide spread. Just about every dictator in history has arguably utilized state terrorism as a way of controlling his or her populations. For more contemporary examples one could look to the use of violence by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds or even the suppression of democratic protestors in Syria.

Religious Terrorism

Terrorism can be motivated by religious ideologies and grievances. Religious terrorism is particularly dangerous due to the fanaticism of those who practice it and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the cause. Religious terrorists are more likely to use “all in” tactics such as suicide bombings. This is made possible by religious teachings used to justify and even encourage this kind of self-sacrifice. Bruce Hoffman discussed religious terrorism at length in his book Inside Terrorism.

AI-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram are perhaps the most prominent examples of a groups that can be characterized as religious terrorists.

Right Wing Terrorism

This type of terrorism aims to combat liberal governments and preserve traditional social orders. Right Wing terrorism is commonly characterized by militias and gangs; many times these groups are racially motivated and aim to marginalize minorities within a state.

Examples: Modern right wing terrorist groups include the Klu Klux Klan and Neo-Fascists. Many such groups are present not only in the U.S. but also in Germany, Russia, and others. Foreign Affairs has published an article titled A Nazi Legacy Right-Wing Extremism in Postwar Germany.

Left Wing Terrorism

These groups seek to overthrow capitalist democracies and establish socialist or communist governments in their place. They want to attack the established system in order to do away with class distinction. While these groups still exist they are not as prominent as they were during the World War.

Examples: The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front in Turkey, Revolutionary Organization 17 November in Greece, and The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are all current examples of left wing terrorist groups.

Pathological Terrorism

This describes the use of terrorism by individuals who utilize such strategies for the sheer joy of terrorizing others. Pathological terrorists often operate alone rather in groups like the others on this list and often are not true ‘terrorists’ as they lack any well­-defined political motive.

Examples: Pathological terrorism is most commonly seen in school shootings and serial killing scenarios. The shootings at Columbine High School and of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords all serve as examples of pathological terrorism since those who carried them out sought to use violence to terrorize for their own pleasure.

Issue Oriented Terrorism

This type of terrorism is carried out for the purpose of advancing a specific issue. Commonly these issues are social in nature or deal with the environment. Here this definition is used to include environmental terrorism.

Examples: The bombings of abortion clinics and the assault of whaling ships are the best examples of issue-oriented terrorism. Perhaps the best documented example of an eco terror group is the Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) due to their attacks on ski resorts and logging operations.

Separatist Terrorism

Separatists seek to cause fragmentation within a country and the establishment of a new state. This type of terrorism is typical of minorities within a nation-state that desire their own, commonly due to discrimination from the majority group.

Examples: The most prominent examples are the ETA Basque separatists in Spain, the Chechen terrorists in Chechnya, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, and the Quebec Liberation Front in Canada.


This term originally refers to organizations that gain funds through the sale of drugs. It can also deal with the use of violence by those groups or gangs designed to make the sale of their drugs easier.

Examples: the cartels in Mexico have carried out beheadings, mass burials, and other severe acts of violence. Many times this violence is carried out to intimidate populations into not cooperating with authorities. Pablo Escobar also enacted the assassinations of Colombian politicians during the height of his power in order to intimidate the government into not interfering with his drug trafficking activity.

Domestic Terrorism

This concept of terrorism occurs when the head of the family – the father becomes the enemy within his home and unleashes mayhem of sorts on his own children and wife. In another way, it means the existence of terrorism in the family set-up. Sociologists define the family as the basic unit of society. And in the family set-up, the father is the head by virtue of the institutional power and social recognition he enjoys because of his bread- winning role. Yet, even in these days of role reversals due to radical social change and social mobility resulting in drastic changes in traditional occupational roles (men, doing women’s job and vice versa), men continue to enjoy the benefits of a large patriarchal social order. Even so, when the father seems to have done so well economically, thus earning the respect and honour of his family as well as the society, he may for some curious reasons set himself up as the main threat; the enemy to his own family, deliberately or otherwise plotting the downfall, or, worse still, the utter annihilation of his own family. In this sort of self versus family conflict outside issues – wars, political conflicts, civil strives etc. are important inasmuch as they affect the family.

Criminal Terrorism

This kind of terrorism relates to the use of acts of terror for private material gain, such as kidnapping for ransom.

Psychological Terrorism

This has to do with terror perpetrated by mentally unbalance persons, what one might call violence perpetrated without a rational or definite purpose or motive.

Sexual Terrorism

The crime of using force, acts of terror to have sex, especially by using violence. Women are often victims of this kind of terrorism. ( Wisdom, 21).

Language: A veritable instrument in the hands of terrorists.

The above statement was expounded using the following research questions.

Research Question 1:

What are the various language strategies used by the terrorists for publicity and for recruitments?

Language as already been expressed is a multipurpose instrument. Its multipurpose nature is transparent in the various functions it performs in relation to context and user, from intrapersonal to interpersonal communication. The social structures of human communities are reflected in language through expression and interpretation. No wonder Hall defines language as, “the institute whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oral-auditory arbitrary symbols (Crystal, 396).

Language is power. With language, we can express anger, give order, indicate sociopolitical statuses. With language, we can oppress, suppress and humiliate our subordinates. Language can vindicate the guilty party and convict the innocent. Language is a working tool in every aspect of human life in relation to context and speaker or group of speakers (Onojie, 4). The terrorists understand this about language and so use it to maintain and perpetuate certain ideologies. The following are the linguistic techniques used in terrorism.

Grievance Narratives

Foundational to terrorists’ discourse are grievance narratives. These contain a strong ethical focus on the many injustices that Moslems have been forced to endure. Importantly, the grievances are not isolated in a single geopolitical context. Each situation forms part of what is perceived as an overarching attack on Islam. Niger Delta Militants, ISIS and Al-Queda explore this a lot. For Niger Delta Militants, their grievance narratives are heaped on the Federal Government’s injustices on their lands/economy. Language is about communication and communication is process. Recruitment is through language. Ideologies are sold through language. Commitments are sold through language.

Language of Social Media

Social media has become a critical recruitment mechanism for some terrorist organizations. It is such an effective tool for attracting new followers. It provides a stage on which terrorist organization like ISIS can perform its recruitment-oriented “theater”, by presenting a carefully packaged image of itself as the fulfillment of a kind of ultimate Jihad fantasy. Again social media constitutes an institution where extreme beliefs and actions are “normalized”, or made to seem the standard practices of dedicated Muslims. Furthermore, religious terrorists use social media to develop and disseminate its central narratives often by refraining familiar concepts such as Jihad and Martyrdom.

Islam is a religion with an embedded political dimension. This fact has been exploited by extremists to cultivate among their recruits a sense of obligation to take action. Jihad is then centralized as the expression of this obligation. Jihad is explicitly portrayed as a military struggle, and this stance is supported by many forms of evidence – including the Qur’an, the Hadith, statements by prominent radical scholars, and fatwas (teachings) that relate to specific political situations such as the Syrian revolution. Social media evidence indicates a constant narrative highlighting the centrality of Jihad within the use of a “true Moslem”. ISIS, for instance, employs a discursive strategy that embraces risk and even encourages recruits to seek out death. In his first public speech after declaring himself “caliph” or leader of ISIS. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said that “hijrah (or emigration) to the land of Islam is obligatory” for Muslims. And ISIS wasn’t just calling for fighters to join its caliphate, both also for doctors, administrators, engineers, scholars, and women who can marry martyrs and bear their children”. ISIS compels Muslims to travel to its territory, the group also encourages “lone wolf” attacks in Western nations. This threat is becoming of increasing concern for countries that already have a hard time monitoring potential extremists, some of which carry out attacks of their own terms without being directed by any leaders within the terror group itself.

In summary, extremist Islamic discourses are widely circulated in social media. Social media has become a means of institutionalized socialization, drawing in new recruits by dispersing potent narratives around the globe. It is social media, plat forms such as facebook that allow for interaction and socialization, including the delivery of extremist narratives thereby radicalizing the youths.


Terrorist groups all over the world have realized the potentials of mass communication and strong language. This is observed in the way they make inflammatory and including statements through other media outlets like television, radios to communicate their revolutionary or divine messages all in the bid to gain attention for a course. For instance, in 2013, Boko Haram used the electronic media, the internet, to be precise to warn the Nigerian government to release their family members. In several occasions also, Boko Haram and Niger Delta Militants have spoken to the government and the Nigerian Masses concerning their plans and next line of action. They have made demands from the Federal Government in threatening modes through the media; they have recorded messages in video clips of hostages being held by them to the Federal Government and Society. Notice these words from Asari Dokubo to Dr Good Luck Jonathan “if I am arrested, Nigeria will cease to be as a nation”.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is also largely employed by some terrorist groups. Notice the images and pictures they send to the media. Images and pictures where they commit violent acts to cause fear, tension and disrupt normal life style in the hope of gaining attention for a course. “Without the media’s coverage, terrorists’ impact is arguably wasted and remains narrowly confined to the immediate victim(s) of the attack, rather than reaching the wider target audience at whom the terrorist violence is actually aimed (Hoffman, 174).

Language as we have seen in this work is about communication. Communication is the process by which meaning is exchanged between individuals, through a common system of symbols, signs or behaviour (Person et al, 30).

Persuasive Language

Persuasive language is another linguistic tool used by the leaders of terrorist organizations. A persuasive speaker/writer wants the audience/reader to follow his line of reasoning willingly. In issue presentation, coalition, formation and addressing the public, these charismatic terrorist leaders appeal to the reasoning and emotional needs of the people resulting to success. Asari Dokubo and Tompolo would always make the militants see how impoverished, undeveloped, and polluted their areas have become as a result of government’s activities on their lands (Petroleum drilling).

Language of Propaganda

Terrorists propaganda had a history measured in decades, but it had long been obscured and limited to mostly their audience Stern and Berger wrote, “suddenly, the stuff was everywhere, intruding on the phones, tablets, and computers of ordinary people who were just trying to go about their daily business ( Neo terrorists are successful in pushing their propaganda to a mass and mainstream audience. A notable example is the Islamic state (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh). Through this online propaganda, it not only touts its violent acts against “non-believers”, but also the lifestyle the group claims to offer its members, referred to by some within the group as “five-star Jihad”. They recently announced the opening of a luxury hotel in Mosul, complete with a photo spread of the facilities. They have also marketed their “caliphate”- an area about the size of Belgium the terror groups are in control as a utopia.

Furthermore, ISIS women many of whom are young, are on Twitter and Tumbler, updating their followers about their lives and portraying ISIS territory in an overwhelmingly positive light.

To further prey on the western audience, they have released propaganda videos featuring foreign fighters who speak western languages and can encourage others to come to Syria to wage violent Jihad or help in some other way.

Some ISIS propaganda also focuses on their military strength, calling on followers to join in the fighting. They issued English – language magazines called Dabiq, featuring 50 pages of graphics and articles on ideology, theology humanitarian service, philosophical justification for the organization and its ideology, praise of the organization, and quotes from American military and political figures. They described ISIS’s strength and urged readers to move to their territory or at least pledge allegiance to the organization. They released a number of propaganda posters explaining the “virtues of swords”, virtues of seeking martyrdom and the benefit of “racing towards Jihad”. These can be seen on the organizational Twitter accounts as well as on the accounts of its regional affiliates.

Hate Language/Speech

Hate speeches abound in the narratives of some terrorist groups like ISIS and Niger Delta Militants. Some of the speeches are:

Would you like to taste losses, pain, death and all what you tasted in Iraq again … O westerners, your governments have lost their minds, and they will let you pay the cost of their stupidity, the Islamic State is too strong, so you must yield to it, not fight it.

The video “Ya Junod Al-Haqq Hayya” (“Soldiers of the just cause, let’s go”). Released in June, 2014, features a song with the lyric: “Break the crosses and destroy the lineage of the grandsons of monkeys”, apparent references, to Christians and Jews. Similar threats were issued during the conflict between Hamas and Isreal in the summer of 2014. Following the kidnapping and killing of three Isreali teenagers namely, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, a warning came that:

The Islamic state will do everything within its means to continue striking down every apostate who stands as an obstacle and kill those of them hiding beheld the gharquad trees (the trees of the Jews. Other sentences by terrorists in a song whose lyrics read: “Brothers join us. We slaughter until the day of judgement indicate these terrorists not only strongly hate Christians and Jews, but also take them as their arch enemies hence the hate speeches (

The analyses so far is in corroboration with the submission of Bloor and Bloor (1) that the major concern of CDA (Critical Discourse Analysis) is to explore “the ways language is used to persuade and manipulate both individuals and social groups”. Functional linguistics is also reflected in the analysis. Functional linguistics stresses the importance of context in the interpretation of language and it refuses to see language as a collection of bald words and sentences, but as symbols of communication manipulated by users to achieve social goals. Language is used to capture the structures, injustices, sufferings and prejudices of the people. The responses to the first research question of this work dealt sufficiently with that.


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