The way in which language is used to represent reality is a key concern in disciplines that range across the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences. For it is now generally recognised that language is not a neutral medium through which the world can be viewed in a simple, objective, manner, but a mode of representation that is affected by a variety of social, cultural and historical factors. Our language, in other words, is always loaded and always in need of decoding.
Decoding language in order to discover its explicit and implicit meanings is a complex process and one that demands a range of critical skills in the analysis of discourse. Such skills involve careful and detailed examination of text, and the ability to read and interpret signs in their wider context. Whether we are trying to decide why a particular text works on an audience in a particular way, or how the language of aesthetics has been figured historically, or how language helps to construct particular forms of identity, we need to understand precisely how language operates as a means of representation in order to achieve real and significant social effects.