Politically Correct: Do Our Language Choices Matter?
Thursday, 13 Apr 2017 at 7:00 pm – Sun Room, Memorial UnionAnne Curzan is Associate Dean for Humanities and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English at the University of Michigan and author of Gender Shifts in the History of English. She will discuss to what extent social attitudes shape language - or if language has the power to change social attitudes. Her talk focuses on words we use every day that have been the focus of conscious efforts to promote a more inclusive and equitable language. Curzan discusses trends in the English language in a weekly segment on Michigan Radio and contributes regularly to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca blog on language and writing in academe. Quentin Johnson Lecture in Linguistics
Anne Curzan also holds appointments in linguistics and the School of Education at the University of Michigan. She earned a BA in Linguistics from Yale University and an MA and a PhD in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. She has filmed a 36-lecture course called "The Secret Life of Words," for The Great Courses. Her other publications include Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language Change and How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction.
About the talk
Politically correct, or “PC” language has acquired negative connotations over the years: it is sometimes dismissed as “silly” or as “threatening” or as not really addressing the underlying social issues. Yet we probably all agree that at the most fundamental level, language matters. Words may not break our bones, but they have great power and can do real harm. So does that mean that every language choice we make, no matter how small and how local, matters? This talk will focus on words we use every day that have been the focus of conscious language reform efforts to promote a more inclusive and equitable language. Examples include "he" versus "her or she" versus "they" or "gay" versus "homosexual." To what extent do social attitudes shape language - or is it that language has the power to change social attitudes? It’s a difficult question but an important one for all of us to consider as speakers and writers.
- Linguistics Program
- Committee on Lectures (funded by Student Government)
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