At a Loss for Words: The Relationship between Language and Institutional Structure
Natalie Byfield, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
This paper investigates the relationship between public discourse and the organization of institutions. Its findings suggest that the structure of institutions is a type of language in our public discourse.
The relationship between institutions and public discourse is explored through a study of the newspaper coverage of the Central Park Jogger Story, a 1989 incident in which a white, female investment banker jogging through New York City’s Central Park was raped and a group of six Black and Latino teenage boys were falsely charged and convicted with some serving as many as 10 years in prison. Data is gathered from a content analysis of a sample of 251 articles about the incident published in The New York Times and the New York Daily News over a span of 14 years.
This paper examines the processes in which language used in the coverage becomes a part of our shared knowledge about the case.