“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.”
Language is a fluid thing. There are no real “authorities” that create words but dictionaries can serve as reflections of the words people are using in every day life. To some degree words gain a certain legitimacy once they are included in the dictionary. How does a word get into the dictionary? This interesting infographic from Merriam-Webster maps out the process.
“We’ve been at it again: the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary has gotten bigger, this time by over 250 new words and definitions. These terms have shown themselves to be fully established members of the language, some after hanging about on the fringes for decades, and others after proving themselves too useful to ignore in relatively short order. All have demonstrated significant use in a variety of sources, making them words our readers expect to find in the dictionary. As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon.”
Click on the image to see the full graphic.
A young woman’s suicide has sparked a backlash against the country’s labor conditions. But death by overwork is so common there’s even a word for it: karoshi.
5 Japanese Words in the English Dictionary
“Another decision: describing the attack that authorities say was committed by Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white man, as a “mass shooting” rather than “domestic terrorism.” When a Muslim person mows down innocent victims and terrorizes a community, media and authorities are quick to declare it terrorism; when a white, non-Muslim attacker does the same, he is usually described as a disturbed loner in a freak incident. In both cases, journalists arrive at these conclusions early in the news cycle when information is incomplete. (Official statistics show far more terrorism in the U.S. is committed by white men than by Muslims).”
“There are 7,000 languages spoken on Earth. What are the costs — and benefits — of our modern-day Tower of Babel?”