Linguistic discrimination

Linguistic discrimination (also called linguicism and languagism) is the unfair treatment of an individual based solely on their use of language. This use of language may include the individual's native language or other characteristics of the person's speech, such as an accent, the size of vocabulary (whether the person uses complex and varied words), modality, and syntax. It may also involve a person's ability or inability to use one language instead of another; for example, one who speaks Occitan in France will probably be treated differently from one who speaks French.[1] Based on a difference in use of language, a person may automatically form judgments about another person's wealth, education, social status, character or other traits. These perceived judgments may then lead to the unjustifiable treatment of the individual.

In the mid-1980s, linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, captured this idea of discrimination based on language as the concept of linguicism. Kangas defined linguicism as the "ideologies and structures which are used to legitimate, effectuate, and reproduce unequal division of power and resources (both material and non-material) between groups which are defined on the basis of language".[2] Although different names have been given to this form of discrimination, they all hold the same definition. It is also important to note that linguistic discrimination is culturally and socially determined due to a preference for one use of language over another.

Linguistic prejudice [ edit ]

Nationalists on Corsica sometimes spray-paint or shoot traffic signs carrying the official toponyms, leaving only the Corsican language toponyms

It can be noted that use of language such as certain accents may result in an individual experiencing prejudice. For example, some accents hold more prestige than others depending on the cultural context. However, with so many dialects, it can be difficult to determine which is the most preferable. The best answer linguists can give, such as the authors of "Do You Speak American?", is that it depends on the location and the individual. Research has determined however that some sounds in languages may be determined to sound less pleasant naturally.[3] Also, certain accents tend to carry more prestige in some societies over other accents. For example, in the United States speaking General American (i.e., an absence of a regional, ethnic, or working class accent) is widely preferred in many contexts such as television journalism. Also, in the United Kingdom, the Received Pronunciation is associated with being of higher class and thus more likeable.[4] In addition to prestige, research has shown that certain accents may also be associated with less intelligence, and having poorer social skills.[5] An example can be seen in the difference between Southerners and Northerners in the United States, where people from the North are typically perceived as being less likable in character, and Southerners are perceived as being less intelligent. As sociolinguist, Lippi-Green, argues, "It has been widely observed that when histories are written, they focus on the dominant class... Generally studies of the development of language over time are very narrowly focused on the smallest portion of speakers: those with power and resources to control the distribution of information." [6]

Language and social group saliency [ edit ]

Linguistic discrimination is sometimes linked with belonging to a social group, as in patriotism and nationalism. This poster is propaganda from World War I

It is natural for human beings to want to identify with others. One way we do this is by categorizing individuals into specific social groups. While some groups may be readily noticeable (such as those defined by ethnicity or gender), other groups are less salient. Linguist Carmen Fought explains how an individual's use of language may allow another person to categorize them into a specific social group that may otherwise be less apparent. For example, in the United States it is common to perceive Southerners as less intelligent. Belonging to a social group such as the South may be less salient than membership to other groups that are defined by ethnicity or gender. Language provides a bridge for prejudice to occur for these less salient social groups.[7]

Examples [ edit ]

Linguistic discrimination is often defined in terms of prejudice of language. It is important to note that although there is a relationship between prejudice and discrimination, they are not always directly related.[8] Prejudice can be defined as negative attitudes towards an individual based solely on their membership of a social group, while discrimination can be seen as the acts towards the individual. The difference between the two should be recognized because an individual may hold a prejudice against someone due to their use of language, but they may not act out on that prejudice.[9] The following are examples of linguistic prejudice that may result in discrimination.

Linguistic prejudice and minority groups [ edit ]

While, theoretically, any individual may be the victim of linguicism regardless of social and ethnic status, oppressed and marginalized social minorities are often its most consistent targets, due to the fact that the speech varieties that come to be associated with such groups have a tendency to be stigmatized.

In Canada [ edit ]

Quebec and Anglophone community [ edit ]

The Charter of the French Language, first established in 1977 and amended several times since, has been accused of being discriminatory by English speakers. The law makes French the official language of Quebec and mandates its use (with exceptions) in government offices and communiques, schools, and in commercial public relations. Though the proportion of English speakers had been in decline since the 1960s, the law accelerated this, and the 2006 census showed there had been a net drop of 180,000 native English speakers.[10]

Conversely, the law has been seen as a way of preventing linguistic discrimination against French speakers, as part of the law's wider objective of preserving the French language against the increasing social and economic dominance of English. Speaking English at work continues to be strongly correlated with higher earnings, with French-only speakers earning significantly less.[11] Despite this, the law is widely credited with successfully raising the status of French in a predominantly English-speaking economy, and has been influential in other countries facing similar circumstances.[10]

In the European Union [ edit ]

Linguistic disenfranchisement rate [ edit ]

The linguistic disenfranchisement rate in the EU can significantly vary across countries. For residents in two EU-countries that are either native speakers of English or proficient in English as a foreign language the disenfranchisement rate is equal to zero. In his study "Multilingual communication for whom? Language policy and fairness in the European Union" Michele Gazzola comes to the conclusion that the current multilingual policy of the EU is not in the absolute the most effective way to inform Europeans about the EU; in certain countries, additional languages may be useful to minimize linguistic exclusion.[12]

In the 24 countries examined, an English-only language policy would exclude 51% to 90% of adult residents. A language regime based on English, French and German would disenfranchise 30% to 56% of residents, whereas a regime based on six languages would bring the shares of excluded population down to 9–22%. After Brexit, the rates of linguistic exclusion associated with a monolingual policy and with a trilingual and a hexalingual regime are likely to increase.[12]

In the United States [ edit ]

Perpetuation of discriminatory practices through terminology [ edit ]

Here and elsewhere the terms 'standard' and 'non-standard' make analysis of linguicism difficult. These terms are used widely by linguists and non-linguists when discussing varieties of American English that engender strong opinions, a false dichotomy that is rarely challenged or questioned. This has been interpreted by linguists Nicolas Coupland, Rosina Lippi-Green, and Robin Queen (among others) as a discipline-internal lack of consistency that undermines progress; if linguists themselves cannot move beyond the ideological underpinnings of 'right' and 'wrong' in language, there is little hope of advancing a more nuanced understanding in the general population.[13][14]

African-Americans [ edit ]

Because some African-Americans speak a particular non-standard variety of English which is often seen as substandard, African-Americans are frequently the targets of linguicism. African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is often perceived by members of mainstream American society as indicative of low intelligence or limited education. Furthermore, as with many other non-standard dialects and especially creoles, AAVE sometimes has been called "lazy" or "bad" English.

The linguist John McWhorter has described this particular form of linguicism as particularly problematic in the United States, where non-standard linguistic structures are frequently judged by teachers and potential employers to be "incorrect," in contrast to a number of other countries such as Morocco, Finland and Italy where diglossia (a single person being able to switch between two or more dialects or languages) is an accepted norm, and use of non-standard grammar or vocabulary in conversation is seen as a mark of regional origin, not of intellectual capacity or achievement.

For example, an African-American who uses a typical AAVE sentence such as "He be comin' in every day and sayin' he ain't done nothing" may be judged as having a deficient command of grammar, whereas, in fact, such a sentence is constructed based on a complex grammar which is different from, and not a degenerate form of, standard English.[15] A hearer may judge the user of such a sentence to be unintellectual or uneducated when none of these is necessarily the case. The user may be proficient in standard English, and may be intellectually capable, and educated but simply have chosen to say the sentence in AAVE for any one of a number of social and sociolinguistic reasons such as the intended audience of the sentence, a phenomenon known as code switching.

Hispanic Americans and linguicism [ edit ]

Another form of linguicism is evidenced by the following: in some parts of the United States, a person who has a strong Mexican accent and uses only simple English words may be thought of as poor, poorly educated, and possibly an illegal immigrant by many of the people who meet them. However, if the same person has a diluted accent or no noticeable accent at all and can use a myriad of words in complex sentences, they are likely to be perceived as more successful, better educated, and a legitimate citizen.

American Sign Language users [ edit ]

For centuries, users of American Sign Language (ASL) have faced linguistic discrimination based on the perception of the legitimacy of signed languages compared to spoken languages. This attitude was explicitly expressed in the Milan Conference of 1880 which set precedence for public opinion of manual forms of communication, including ASL, creating lasting consequences for members of the Deaf community.[16] The conference almost unanimously (save a handful of allies such as Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet), reaffirmed the use of oralism, instruction conducted exclusively in spoken language, as the preferred education method for Deaf individuals.[17] These ideas were outlined in eight resolutions which ultimately resulted in the removal of Deaf individuals from their own educational institutions, leaving generations of Deaf persons to be educated single-handedly by hearing individuals.[18]

Due to misconceptions about ASL, it was not recognized as its own, fully functioning language until recently. In the 1960s, linguist William Stokoe proved ASL to be its own language based on its unique structure and grammar, separate from that of English. Prior to this, ASL was thought to be merely a collection of gestures used to represent English. Because of its use of visual space, people mistakenly believed its users to be of a lesser mental capacity. The misconception that ASL users are incapable of complex thought was prevalent, although this has decreased as further studies about its recognition of a language have taken place. For example, ASL users faced overwhelming discrimination for the supposedly "lesser" language that they use and were met with condescension especially when using their language in public.[19] Another way discrimination against ASL is evident is how, despite research conducted by linguists like Stokoe or Clayton Valli and Cecil Lucas of Gallaudet University, ASL is not always recognized as a language.[20] Its recognition is crucial both for those learning ASL as an additional language, and for prelingually-deaf children who learn ASL as their first language. Linguist Sherman Wilcox concludes that given that it has a body of literature and international scope, to single ASL out as unsuitable for a foreign language curriculum is inaccurate. Russel S. Rosen also writes about government and academic resistance to acknowledging ASL as a foreign language at the high school or college level, which Rosen believes often resulted from a lack of understanding about the language. Rosen and Wilcox's conclusions both point to discrimination ASL users face regarding its status as a language, that although decreasing over time is still present.[21]

In the medical community, there is immense bias against deafness and ASL. This stems from the belief that spoken languages are superior to sign languages.[22] Because 90% of deaf babies are born to hearing parents, who are usually unaware of the existence of the Deaf Community, they often turn to the medical community for guidance.[23] Medical and audiological professionals, who are typically biased against sign languages, encourage parents to get a cochlear implant for their deaf child in order for the child to use spoken language.[22] Research shows, however, that deaf kids without cochlear implants acquire ASL with much greater ease than deaf kids with cochlear implants acquire spoken English. In addition, medical professionals discourage parents from teaching ASL to their deaf kid to avoid compromising their English[24] although research shows that learning ASL does not interfere with a child's ability to learn English. In fact, the early acquisition of ASL proves to be useful to the child in learning English later on. When making a decision about cochlear implantation, parents are not properly educated about the benefits of ASL or the Deaf Community.[23] This is seen by many members of the Deaf Community as cultural and linguistic genocide.[24]

Texts [ edit ]

Linguicism, of course, applies to written, spoken, or signed languages. The quality of a book or article may be judged by the language in which it is written. In the scientific community, for example, those who evaluated a text in two language versions, English and the national Scandinavian language, rated the English-language version as being of higher scientific content.[25]

The Internet operates a great deal using written language. Readers of a web page, Usenet group, forum post, or chat session may be more inclined to take the author seriously if the written language is spelled and constructed in accordance with the written norms of the standard language.

Prejudice [ edit ]

In contrast to the previous examples of linguistic prejudice, linguistic discrimination involves the actual treatment of individuals based on use of language. Examples may be clearly seen in the workplace, in the advertising industry, and in education systems. For example, some workplaces enforce an English-only policy. This policy is part of a larger political movement in the U.S. where English is being pushed towards being accepted as the official language of the U.S. In the United States, the federal law, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects non-native speakers from being discriminated against in the workplace based on their national origin or use of dialect. There are state laws that also address the protection of non-native speakers, such as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. However, industries often argue in retrospect that clear, understandable English is often needed in specific work settings in the U.S.[1]

Examples [ edit ]

Carolyn McKinley[35] is critical of a dominant language because it does not only discriminate against speakers of other languages, it also disadvantages monolinguists because they remain monolingual.[34] Instead of using the indigenous languages along with the colonial languages, as McKinley also advocates, most African states still use the colonial language as the primary medium of instruction.[34] Furthermore, in authoritative reports by Unesco, it was found that the use of the former colonial languages in Africa benefited only the elite and disadvantaged the bulk of the populations.[34] Although English has global meaning as a language of discourse, it is not a neutral, unbiased instrument as it leads too much to a culture-dependent perspective in thinking and talking by the use of culturally bound value concepts, often being invisible value judgments and frames of reference inherent to and shaped by "Anglo culture", according to Anna Wierzbicka.[35]

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  • Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove (1988), Multilingualism and the education of minority children.
  1. ^ a b The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, & the ACLU Foundation of North California (2002). Language Discrimination: Your Legal Rights.
  2. ^ Quoted in Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove, and Phillipson, Robert, "'Mother Tongue': The Theoretical and Sociopolitical Construction of a Concept." In Ammon, Ulrich (ed.) (1989). Status and Function of Languages and Language Varieties, p. 455. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter & Co. ISBN 3-11-011299-X.
  3. ^ Bresnahan, M. J., Ohashi, R., Nebashi, R., Liu, W. Y., & Shearman, S. M. (2002). Attitudinal and affective response toward accented English. Language and Communication, 22, 171–185.
  4. ^ "HLW: Word Forms: Processes: English Accents".
  5. ^ Bradac, J. J. (1990). Language attitudes and impression formation. In H. Giles & W. P. Robinson (Eds.), Handbook of language and social psychology (pp. 387–412). London: John Wiley.
  6. ^ Lippi-Green, Rosina (2012). English with an Accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States (Second Edition). 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-415-55911-9.
  7. ^ Jaspal, R. (2009). Language and social identity: a psychosocial approach. Psych-Talk, 64, 17-20.
  8. ^ Schütz, H.; Six, B. (1996). "How strong is the relationship between prejudice and discrimination? A meta-analytic answer". International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 20 (3–4): 441–462. doi:10.1016/0147-1767(96)00028-4.
  9. ^ Whitley, B.E., & Kite, M.E. (2010) The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination. Ed 2. pp.379-383. Cencage Learning: Belmont.
  10. ^ a b Richard Y. Bourhis & Pierre Foucher, "Bill 103: Collective Rights and the declining vitality of the English-speaking communities of Quebec " Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, Version 3, November 25, 2010
  11. ^ Louis N. Christofides & Robert Swidinsky, "The Economic Returns to the Knowledge and Use of a Second Official Language: English in Quebec and French in the Rest-of-Canada"[permanent dead link], Canadian Public Policy – Analyse de Politiques Vol. XXXVI, No. 2 2010
  12. ^ a b Michele Gazzola, Multilingual communication for whom? Language policy and fairness in the European Union, European Union Politics, 2016, Vol. 17(4) 546–569
  13. ^ Coupland, N. (1999). "Sociolinguistic Prevarication About 'Standard English'" Review article appearing in Tony Bex and Richard J. Watts (eds) Standard English: the Widening Debate London:Routledge
  14. ^ Lippi-Green, R. (2012) English with an Accent: Language, Ideology and Discrimination in the U.S.. Second revised, expanded edition. New York: Routledge.
  15. ^ Dicker, Susan J. (2nd ed., 2003). Languages in America: A Pluralist View, pp. 7-8. Multilingual Matters Ltd. ISBN 1-85359-651-5.
  16. ^ Berke, Jame (30 January 2017). "Deaf History - Milan 1880". Very Well. Archived from the original on 1 January 1970. Retrieved 12 May 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ Traynor, Bob (1 June 2016). "The International Deafness Controversy of 1880". Hearing Health and Technology Matters.
  18. ^ "Milan Conference of 1880". Weebly.
  19. ^ Stewart, David A.; Akamatsu, C. Tane (1 January 1988). "The Coming of Age of American Sign Language". Anthropology & Education Quarterly. 19 (3): 235–252. doi:10.1525/aeq.1988.19.3.05x1559y. JSTOR 3195832.
  20. ^ "ASL as a Foreign Language Fact Sheet". Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  21. ^ Rosen, Russell S. (1 January 2008). "American Sign Language as a Foreign Language in U.S. High Schools: State of the Art". The Modern Language Journal. 92 (1): 10–38. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2008.00684.x. JSTOR 25172990.
  22. ^ a b Hyde, Merv; Punch, Renée; Komesaroff, Linda (1 January 2010). "Coming to a Decision About Cochlear Implantation: Parents Making Choices for their Deaf Children". Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. 15 (2): 162–178. doi:10.1093/deafed/enq004. JSTOR 42659026. PMID 20139157.
  23. ^ a b Crouch, Robert A. (1 January 1997). "Letting the Deaf Be Deaf Reconsidering the Use of Cochlear Implants in Prelingually Deaf Children". The Hastings Center Report. 27 (4): 14–21. doi:10.2307/3528774. JSTOR 3528774. PMID 9271717.
  24. ^ a b SKUTNABB-KANGAS, TOVE; Solomon, Andrew; Skuttnab-Kangas, Tove (1 January 2014). Deaf Gain. Raising the Stakes for Human Diversity. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 492–502. doi:10.5749/j.ctt9qh3m7.33#page_scan_tab_contents (inactive 20 August 2019). ISBN 9780816691227. JSTOR 10.5749/j.ctt9qh3m7.33.
  25. ^ Jenkins, Jennifer (2003). World Englishes: A Resource Book for Students, p. 200. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25805-7.
  26. ^ Foretia, Denis (21 March 2017). "Cameroon continues its oppression of English speakers". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  27. ^ Arnove, R. F.; Graff, H. J. (11 November 2013). National Literacy Campaigns: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781489905055. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  28. ^ Primary education: a report of the Advisory Council on Education in Scotland, Scottish Education Department 1946, p. 75
  29. ^ Repression of Kurds in Syria is widespread (pdf), Amnesty International Report, March 2005.
  30. ^ Special Focus Cases: Leyla Zana, Prisoner of ConscienceArchived 2005-05-10 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Kurdish performers banned, Appeal from International PENArchived 2012-01-13 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Haviland, Charles (23 July 2013). "Remembering Sri Lanka's Black July". BBC. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  33. ^ Associate professor in the education department of the University of Cape Town and author of 'Language and Power in Post-Colonial Schooling: Ideologies in Practice'
  34. ^ a b c d Ebbe Dommisse, Single dominant tongue keeps inequality in place, 16 November 2016. The Business Day
  35. ^ a b Anna Wierzbicka, Professor of Linguistics, Australian National University and author of 'Imprisoned by English, The Hazards of English as a Default Language, written in Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), the universally convertible currency of communication, that can serve as a common auxiliary inter-language for speakers of different languages and a global means for clarifying, elucidating, storing, and comparing ideas" (194) (book review)

Literature [ edit ]

  • Skutnabb-Kangas et al. (eds.), Linguistic human rights: overcoming linguistic discrimination, Walter de Gruyter (1995), ISBN 3-11-014878-1.
  • R. Wodak and D. Corson (eds.), Language policy and political issues in education, Springer, ISBN 0-7923-4713-7.

External links [ edit ]

What is this?