Scientists of all kinds speak out in the media on issues that affect society. What is the linguist’s obligation? Two language-based issues roil our society, year after year: (i) political correctness/language control; and (ii) the politicization, indeed weaponization of language to persuade and mislead large groups of people (includes such topics as fake news disinformation, propaganda, truth/lies, and much more). Why are linguists silent? Because they all live in academic halls of stifling political correctness?
The goals of International Pronoun Day and the means by which they are to be achieved are vague, but it sure is fun to invent new pronouns!
Unfortunately, this is not feasible, given the role pronouns play in sentences.
Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.
From the home page of International Pronoun Day
On the futility of International Pronoun Day full post
(737 words, 1 image, estimated 2:57 mins reading time)
Somewhere in this word cloud is “comment on language abuses in public discourse” and “resist political attempts at language and thought control.”
Nothing happens without language, and in the current social turmoil, one side is blatantly attempting control through language.
Linguists remain silent..
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
- – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
A profusion of pronouns
Pronomania [pro-no-MAY-nee-ah], n. an obsession with multiplying third-person personal pronouns to indicate a large number of genders, subjectively defined, resulting in the proliferation of personal pronouns, the announcement of “my” pronouns, and the user’s enhanced self-image and feeling of virtuous sensitivity to gender.
Some people think they know about pronouns. They know nothing. They think they can multiply English personal pronouns at will. They announce their “own” pronouns and feel virtuous. They don’t know that pronouns are one of a few classes of words that are so fundamental that the inventory is limited and rarely, if ever changed.
Calling for an end to pronomania full post
(1019 words, 1 image, estimated 4:05 mins reading time)
Linguistics consists of many sub-disciplines, all devoted to the study of language.
“Linguistics is virtually invisible to most people…”
— Roger Shuy, Language Crimes, 1996
“Critical Race Theory” is not going away. Although the slogan is heard almost everywhere in academia and education, almost no one inquires into what it actually means in practice.
It means a lot of different things, which is a good thing for its adherents and practitioners because, they can do anything they want in the name of this impressive- sounding undertaking.
It takes courage and clear thinking to question the all-pervasive indoctrination of Critical Race Theory. But what does the phrase actually mean?
As there is now an inexorable push to make Critical Race Theory a required part of America’s educational system, pushback is required. Kudos to Andrew Gutman, the Brearly (NY) School father who stood up, in no uncertain terms, to the relentless indoctrination to which his kid had been subjected (for $50,000+/year).
As Candace Owens notes, CRT is a double poison, taking time from teaching academic skills and at the same time producing a generation of non-thinking, malleable sheep.
It takes courage and clear thinking to resist the liberal preoccupation with racial/gender preference and language control.
[In George Orwell’s 1984] Syme [a Party official] encourages Winston to recognize that the ‘whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought’. He explains that ‘in the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.’ Syme refers to the fact that individual thought, rebellious or ‘unorthodox’ thoughts will be impossible and so, too, will the true concept of individual freedom. Each concept will be expressed in just ‘one’ word. Any ‘subsidiary’ meanings will be rubbed out and forgotten. (55).The party controls the mind through the control of language (Newspeak), the control of history (the past) and the control of war/ enemies, [via] the process of DoubleThink.
Latest language crime: “equity” full post
(908 words, 1 image, estimated 3:38 mins reading time)
On Jan. 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln spoke before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, about “the perpetuation of our political institutions.” During that address, he said:
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Lincoln’s message: no other nation is strong enough to destroy America. We would do it to ourselves. And it’s happening.
“There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
— George Orwell
One of the countless slogans by which we live.
“Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but primarily by catchwords”
-Robert Louis Stevenson
(NOTE: a catch-word is technically what we today would call a “pull-out quote”; I’m using it in a broader sense here, to refer to slogans, mottoes, taglines, and catch-words.)
I keep quoting Stevenson because his observation is so true and has been for a long time. We love slogans even more than we love narratives and conspiracies…because slogans are the verbal equivalent of Paxil and Wellbutrin. They encapsulate whatever some leader or group of people decides is the best summary of what the product, movement, party, etc., is all about, while they make us feel good about it.
Written language contains many information signals beside letters and numbers. Here are a few.
A period is to let the writer know he has finished his thought and he should stop there if he will only take the hint. Art Linkletter, A Child’s Garden of Misinformation (1965)
To a generation of children who are trained to be sensitive to an ever-increasing body of words deemed offensive because of their perceived meanings, who are “triggered” by these words and need “safe spaces,” it is, for the P.c., just a small jump from reading new meanings into words…to reading new meanings into marks of punctuation.
Politically correctness attacks the teaching of English. Be afraid.
Be very afraid..
“The truth is what most people believe. And they believe that which is repeated most often.”
“[The English language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts… if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
Who dares to be the red person in a sea of blue think-alikes?
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
— Lewis Carroll
“Offending and being offended are now the twin addictions of our society.”
— Martin Amis
Politically incorrect speech is neither red nor blue. It is red, while and blue. It is American. Repression of speech leads to repression of thought.
This is a message that the p.c. crowd — in the media, in the universities – needs to hear again and again, because they don’t get it, especially when a Presidential candidate (Warren) announces “her” pronouns on the debate stage, and a teacher is fired for not using the student’s preferred pronouns. It is not enough, the argument goes, to have pronouns of two genders, when there are so many other genders. We need more pronouns!
Stop the pronoun craziness full post
(1290 words, 1 image, estimated 5:10 mins reading time)
Linguistics is concerned with who says what to whom, and why. Why do groups of people adopt their own manner of speaking? There are many answers.
Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.
I admire John McWhorter so much for the breadth of his accomplishments, his accessibility to the media, his eloquent lectures.
I recently saw a video clip in which he pegged Trump’s speech as characteristic of primitive humans just getting their “language chops” together.
On baby talk and language change full post
(1069 words, 1 image, estimated 4:17 mins reading time)
From mind to thought (and from there to the speech and auditory organs)
The truth is what most people believe. And they believe that which is repeated most often.
Paul Josef Goebbels
Here is the text of a letter I sent to the Manchester NH Union-Leader (published 6/21/19):
March 19, 2019
Let me add my voice to the chorus of people outraged by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison of immigrant confinement to concentration camps. This is worse than obscene and ignorant. It is an utterly irresponsible use of language. As a linguist, I am appalled by the deceptive reducing of two vastly different entities to a single point of comparison — confinement.