Arguing About Language: The New York Times

“Language usage is and should be a battleground.  Our task is to make the conflict fruitful.  To do this, we need to understand what precisely is at issue in any particular dispute.  Does a new locution advance or retard our power to express our ideas effectively?  Is the issue primarily one of different aesthetic sensibilities?  Or is our argument over language rooted in deeper disagreements over who we are and how we should live?  Once we understand what is really at stake, we may be able to learn much through arguing about language.”

The concluding paragraph of this opinion reminds me of the many arguments about language that engenders power dynamics and oppression, such as the arguments about the legitimacy of Ebonics versus Standard English, or arguments about the effect learning American Sign Language can have on a Deaf baby’s ability to acquire spoken English. Certainly, these arguments, though initially about the usage of language, delve much deeper into issues of identity, politics, ownership, privilege, and discrimination.

You can read the full article here.


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