“Political Correctness” and Hate Speech (Lakoff)

Un exercitiu interesant: gasiti cine foloseste political correctness si cine hate speech in politica romaneasca.

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“Political Correctness” and Hate Speech (Lakoff) – Presentation Transcript

  1. “ POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” AND HATE SPEECH The Word as Sword Robin Tolmach Lakoff
  2. If I say “desk” to you, as a speaker of English, you will form in your mind an image of a particular sort of piece of furniture. If I say “table”, your mind will produce another image, with some similarities to and some differences from “desk.” In these cases, reference is all we need to worry about: most of us don’t attach positive or negative connotations to these words. But there are many words that involve much more complex kinds of understanding . « Meaning goes beyond semantic reference »
  3. These are the words that win (or lose) wars, the shooting kind and the more subtle kind we fight with one another in the name of politics, religion and relationships. Links between form and meaning are forged and strengthened when people use those words in specific contexts , with specific nuances and connotations . Controlling meaning brings victory in the continuing war for hearts and minds by defining our cultural “values” and personal “identities” . « Words are at the forefront of our persuasive efforts »
  4. “ As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant; I honor him; but, as he was ambitious , I slew him” (W. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar ) The basic sense of “ambition” (desire for fame, wealth, status or power) has remained constant throughout its history in English. But society’s view of that desire has changed over time. The word came (…) into Middle English, in the form ambicioun , meaning “ excessive desire for honor, power or wealth,” a meaning the word kept into the seventeenth century. « New words are created , old ones given new meanings (1)»
  5. By then English society was changing: the government was becoming more democratic, and Calvinism encouraged the accumulation of wealth. So by the eighteenth century, desire for honor, power, or wealth was seen as a good thing , something it was hard to have too much of. ( POSITIVE ) As the values of society changed, the connotations of “ambition” shifted with it, so that today if we want to use the word with Shakespeare’s negative assumptions , we have to call it “blind” ambition . « New words are created , old ones given new meanings (2)»
  6. Definition may not be as neutral an act as it appears to be . Today we think of the dictionary as an impersonal , disinterested arbiter of meaning and usage . But it was not always so. Samuel Johnson is notorious for sneaking political import into some of his definitions. He defined “oats” as a food that in England was used to feed horses, but in Scotland, people – a sneer at Scotland’s poverty. «Dictionary definition is political , not purely scientific and objective (1)»
  7. The disagreement over meanings related to “addiction” implies competition in the culture over what habits should be criminally regulated as well as what behaviours should be considered subject to a person’s free will and which beyond our control. There are serious consequences attached to the place where we draw the line: we punish people we understand to be intentionally misbehaving , but treat people who “ can’t help it .” «Dictionary definition is political , not purely scientific and objective (2)»
  8. “ Political correctness,” “politically correct,” and the common abbreviation for both, “p.c.,” cover a broad spectrum of new ways of using and seeing language and its products, all of which share one property: they are forms of language devised by and for, and to represent the worldview and experience of, groups formerly without the power to create language , make interpretations , or control meaning . From 1990 onwards: served as the weapon of choice to defang (to undermine the strength or power of, make ineffectual) what was perceived, or represented, by the right as the threatening menace of the left . “ P.C.: Political correctness” (1)
  9. “ Political correctness” has been the epithet of choice used to discredit a wide array of discursive practices generally thought of as lefty, among them the adoption of self-descriptions originated by the minorities they described (e.g., “ woman ” for “ girl ” or “ lady ”; “ African American ” for “ Negro ”; “ gay ” for “ homosexual ”; “ Asian ” for “ Oriental ”). We may ask why there was a need for such a term, and such a concept, at this time: one answer is that we are a species as contentious as we are social , never really happy without a them to unite against . “ P.C.: Political correctness” (2)
  10. The New Right virtually copyrighted the term as its own, yet they did not originate it, but borrowed it from the enemy, the Old Left . However, something important had changed in the translation from left to right. In the left’s ironic use, “political correctness” was just teasing , “all in the family,” and so, “for your own good.” But in the mouths of the right it became a term of abuse leveled at outsiders , us versus them , a humorless and vitriolic (with violent hate and anger) sneer. “ P.C.: Political correctness” (3)
  11. As long as the narrative continues uninterrupted and unquestioned, language can be used (at whatever level of consciouness) by those with language-making power against those without it , in order to remind them that they are them but we are us . The status quo is maintained . Control of the story is control of history . “ P.C.: Political correctness” (4)
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