“Over the course of human history, thousands of languages have developed from what was once a much smaller number. How did we end up with so many? And how do we keep track of them all? Alex Gendler explains how linguists group languages into language families, demonstrating how these linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past. “
If I’d had access to the right language, it’s possible that I might have felt empowered by this change. Instead, people on campus began referring to me as “it” or “he-she.” Eventually I folded into myself. I cut my hair off, wore drastically less makeup and took to wearing all black clothing, because I was constantly mourning the identities I might have had, that the world had slowly killed. I became increasingly depressed and even attempted to end my life.
Below are a couple of articles regarding the recent news.
Words banned at multiple HHS agencies include ‘diversity’ and ‘vulnerable’
The Trump administration has informed multiple divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services that they should avoid using certain words or phrases in official documents being drafted for next year’s budget.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is part of HHS, were given a list of seven prohibited words or phrases during a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget. The words to avoid: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
Why Words Matter: What Cognitive Science Says about Prohibiting Certain Terms
How much does it really matter if a government agency avoids certain language in documents sent to Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies?
Perhaps a great deal. Scientific American spoke with Lera Boroditsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, about the significance of this recent news, why words matter and how language changes our perceptions of the world.
“Amadeo said it haltingly, in broken Spanish, the only way he would be able to communicate with the world from that moment on. No one else spoke his language anymore. The survival of his culture had suddenly come down to a sole, complicated man.”
“The waters of the Peruvian Amazon were once a vast linguistic repository, a place where every turn of the river could yield another dialect, often completely unintelligible to people living just a few miles away. But in the last century, at least 37 languages have disappeared in Peru alone, lost in the steady clash and churn of national expansion, migration, urbanization and the pursuit of natural resources. Forty-seven languages remain here in Peru, scholars estimate, and nearly half are at risk of disappearing.”
Who can use which words? How does context affect meaning?
“If you’re going to admit that stories matter,” Wilson told me, “then it matters how we tell them, and that exists on the level of microscopic word choice, as well as on the level of which story are you going to pick to start off with, and then, what exactly is that story? The whole question of ‘What is that story?’ is going to depend on the language, the words that you use.”