Item Details

“The Bridge” and the Veiling of Meaning: Investigating the Possible Linguistic Effects of Scientology’s Unique Lexicon

Issue: Vol 10 No. 1 (2019)

Journal: International Journal for the Study of New Religions

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/ijsnr.38937


This article examines the possible effects of the unique terminology of theChurch of Scientology on its members. It connects the concepts of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis with experimental data on the linguistic effects of differentword categories and applies them to oft-used terms within the Churchof Scientology. A thematic content analysis of an internal Scientology videoassesses the possible linguistic effects of the Scientological lexicon. The analysisis comprised of quantitative and qualitative elements. Unique words inthe video are cataloged by frequency and then tagged by one or more of sixword categories previously proven to have an associated linguistic effect, andthen qualitatively analyzed in regards to the categories' associated effects. Itwas concluded that key effects were exclusivity, complexity, and ambiguity,with terms veiling meaning, possibly causing an impression of Scientology asarcane and distant. Moreover, it was found that the ambiguity of terms andtheir sense of professionalism may cause Scientologists and non-Scientologistsalike to more easily place faith in the legitimacy of the concepts behindthe words. This shows that the kind of terminology used in Scientology orsimilar groups likely has an effect on perception and/or behavior, and maybetter inform Scientologists on the factors that influence their attitudes. Thepaper opens the gates for deeper studies into the discourse, behaviors, andnature of an enigmatic new religious movement.

Author: Benjamin Fischer

View Original Web Page

References :

Ariely, D. 2010. The Upside of Irrationality. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Bloom, P. and F.C. Keil. 2001. “Thinking through language.” Mind & Language 16(4): 351–367.

Bowers, J. S. and C.W. Pleydell-Pearce. 2011. “Swearing, euphemisms, and linguistic relativity.” PLOS ONE 6(7): e22341.

Cook, P. 1971. “Scientology and Dianetics.” The Journal of Education 153(4): 58–61.

Cruse, D. A. 1986. Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ernst, E. 2004. “Bioresonance, a study of pseudo-scientific language.” Complementary Medicine Research 11(3): 171–173.

Hales, A. H., K. D. Williams and J. Rector. 2017. “Alienating the audience: How abbreviations hamper scientific communication.” APS Observer 30(2).

Hubbard, L. R. 1950. Dianetics: The modern science of mental health. New York: Hermitage House.

———. 1982. Technical Dictionary of Dianetics and Scientology. USA: Bridge Publications.

———. 2017. Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000. Hollywood, CA: Galaxy Press.

Kodish, B. I. 2003. “General semantics: a general theory of evaluation.” ETC.:
A Review of General Semantics
60(3): 286–295.

Lucy, J. A. 2005. “Through the window of language: Assessing the influence of language diversity on thought.” Theoria: An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 20(3): 299–309.

Macagno, F. and D. Walton. 2014. Emotive language in argumentation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCall, W. V. 2007. Psychiatry and psychology in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Journal of Religion and Health 46(3): 437–447.

Mooney, A. 2005. The Rhetoric of Religious ‘Cults’. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Movsisyan, D. M. 2012. “Polysemy in Context.” Armenian Folia Anglistika. 53–59. n.d. “Scientology beliefs & practices: What is scientology?” Accessed October 3, 2019. n.d. “What is the e-meter and how does it work?” Accessed October 3, 2019. 2004. “Scientology flag world tour 2004 video.” Accessed April 16, 2019.

Urban Dictionary 2006. “Sessionable.” Accessed October 3, 2019.