Posts tagged: language
Ariel Meadow Stallings has written a good piece on “liberal bullying.” I thought this would be yet another “everyone needs to stop being so PC” type of post, but it isn’t:
I’m extra conflicted because I love observing and following the ways that language shifts. It’s exciting and fascinating to watch as the semantics of marginalized communities evolve. I recently had to talk to my aging lesbian mother and her partner about how the word “tranny” causes a lot of issues for folks in the transgender community. They’re totally aligned with the cause, and totally active in LGBT communities… and yet hadn’t gotten the latest memo.
Instead, Stallings is writing about uncivil blog comments meant to publicly shame. Here’s how Stallings identifies this behavior:
- Focus on very public complaints. I can think of exactly one time when someone emailed their concern about problematic language. These complaints seem to be always intended for an audience.
- Lack of interest in a dialogue. These complaints aren’t questions or invitations to discuss the issue. They’re harshly-worded accusations and scoldings (which I’ve written about before).
- Lack of consideration for the context or intent. The focus is on this isolated incident (this one post, this one word, this one time), with de-emphasis on the author’s background, experience, or the context of the website on which the post appears.
- And on a more stylistic note, these complaints are often prefaced with phrases like “Um,” and other condescending affectations.
I suspect this bullying is counter-productive — attacking someone puts them on the defensive, making them try to find ways to justify what they’ve written, even if it’s insensitive, and find ways to disagree with the attacker.
I’m not sure what the sample size is, or how old the adults in the study are, but:
Ferman and Avi Karni from the University of Haifa, Israel, devised an experiment in which 8-year-olds, 12-year-olds and adults were given the chance to learn a new language rule. In the made-up rule, verbs were spelled and pronounced differently depending on whether they referred to an animate or inanimate object.
Participants were not told this, but were asked to listen to a list of correct noun-verb pairs, and then voice the correct verb given further nouns. The researchers had already established that 5-year-olds performed poorly at the task, and so did not include them in the study. All participants were tested again two months later to see what they remembered.
“The adults were consistently better in everything we measured,” says Ferman. When asked to apply the rule to new words, the 8-year-olds performed no better than chance, while most 12-year-olds and adults scored over 90 per cent. Adults fared best, and have great potential for learning new languages implicitly, says Ferman. Unlike the younger children, most adults and 12-year-olds worked out the way the rule worked - and once they did, their scores soared. This shows that explicit learning is also crucial, says Ferman, who presented the results at the International Congress for the Study of Child Language in Montreal, Canada, this week.
Unusually interesting linkbait:
Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.