Language and terminology constantly change. What was once considered normal or comedic could be considered inappropriate and offensive today. Recently, the term ‘political correctness’, a term that means we use language that advocates replacing offensive terms and labels with more neutral terms, has become prominent in Western culture. This is due to many people voicing themselves about terms that are offensive and unnecessary to our current vocabulary. To support any arguments shown in this essay, chapters three and four from Miriam Meyerhoff’s book Introducing Sociolinguistics and John Lucy’s article Recent Advances in the Study of Linguistic Relativity in Historical Context: Critical Assessment will be used to properly explain how political correctness came to fruition through terminology and historical information along with applicable examples.
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The concept of ‘political correctness’ is meant to be a way to properly address and treat people in society. Not long ago people were using terms that were once socially acceptable, but are now considered offensive. Chapters three and four from Miriam Meyerhoff’s book Introducing Sociolinguistics gives us information about speech, along with how it changes. Speech community, when a group of people share a common language along with its terminology to fit in with one another, seems to be a factor that changed the tone of various words along with changing their meanings.
As the meaning of words changed and evolved, people began to change their terminology to maintain a social standing ranging from a small, which defines the term audience design. Audience design is where there is a linguistic style shift to appeal to a speaker’s audience . This term is applicable to higher authorities and modern society. Both parties desire to be accepted by general society, which is a concept that is deeply ingrained in human behavior. Because of desire to be accepted people will automatically choose to behave properly to fulfill those needs.
Political figures are a proper example of people who want to be socially accepted by the public to achieve a desired goal. They’re often in the spotlight when it comes to the way they represent themselves and perceive people in society and to gain public favor, they tend to adhere to the current speech community of modern society. They’re typically overt prestige, meaning they can socially acknowledge what is ‘correct’ and valued highly among all speakers of the language . It’s beneficial to them to gain the favor of their target audience. Several politicians debate amongst themselves about political correctness and adhering to those rules to gain political favor. Other factors such as linguistic relativism and accommodation theory are necessary in order for higher authorities and society to get along peacefully.
Linguistic relativism is a hypothesis of linguistic relativity that holds the structure of language and how it affects its speakers’ world view or cognition while accommodation theory is what it sounds like, it’s the behavioral change that people make to attune their communication to one or more people in how they feel is appropriate. For them, as well as other higher figures, staying up to date with semantic shift and semantic derogation is equally important. Semantic shift deals with the evolution of a word, which can change the meaning of words while semantic derogation refers to when a words meaning changes to have a negative connotation. With the rapid change in terminology, there are possibilities that said figures might accidentally harm their career with poor jokes and a bunch of other stuff that should be obvious.
Moving from Meyerhoff’s Introducing Sociolinguistics, John Lucy’s Recent Advances in the Study of Linguistic Relativity in Historical Context: Critical Assessment is going to dissect language from a historical perspective, starting with the foundational period. This period began in the early-twentieth-century American tradition of linguistic anthropology due to the immanent emergence of cognitivist orientations in psychology after World War II (Lucy). This brought on psychological advancements in the way researchers perceived human behavior and speech. After World War II, there was an interest in the role of language pertaining to cognition was stimulated partially due to Whorf’s work. There are psychologists that changed their research methods to fit their understanding of language categories and disciplinary standards for cognitive research (Lucy). Brown and Lenneberg delved into the cognitive side of psychology and insisted on assessing individual speakers rather than inspecting patterns of cultural behavior. They also insisted that this cognitive assessment involve clear “nonlinguistic” measures of perception, classification, inference, and memory, whereby nonlinguistic they meant that the assessment process itself should not rely on speaking, because that would confound speech behavior with cognition.
The transformational period brought a sense of renewed research on relativity. With this came the conceptual and methodological advancements that derived from the foundational period. By doing a reanalysis of these prior advancements, were able to synthesize, refine, and extend these methods through language analysis and cognitive assessments. With this came a focus on verbal labels in cognitive development and challenges that are presented in language variation.
Finally comes the contemporary period of this motherfucking shit right here. In this period there has been the appearance of new linguistic trends and the persistence of old problems with language. These trends show a rapidly growing interest in various varieties of language input, and recognizing the complexity of cognitive effects.
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