“Why are the issues involved in language and representation considered so important?” Discuss, using examples of a range of terms and a range of social groups.
Issues involved in language and representation are considered to be so important as they have the power to affect the way we structure our thoughts. Within different social groups, language and its usage have different connotations and consequences. For example, a pupil will not be able to swear at a teacher but could at a peer group member with little resulting action. In this way we can define language usage. Representation can be defined as the portrayal of the words we use, whilst the issues include such things as political correctness, pejoration and so forth.
Over time, there has been a lot of semantic change, in which new words have been introduced and existing words have been adapted in meaning. Sometimes, in order to express a meaning in a different way, for example making it more polite, phrases and words have been introduced or used. Such examples of semantic change include amelioration, pejoration, euphemisms and dysphemisms. It is important to think about the way these have changed when communicating with different people or when using different genres. For example when covering a topic of embarrassment in polite company it may be more appropriate to use a euphemistic phrase, such as, instead of going to the toilet, it would be more polite to say to spend a penny. However, in some cases, words have not only been substituted but have also changed in meaning such as amelioration and pejoration. It is an issue when using words that have adapted in meaning as the language used represents a person’s knowledge and understanding. For example, ‘bitch’ which once only meant a female dog has now pejorated to become an insult for a human female. This is unacceptable to say in many parts of society and would show a lack of understanding for the correct use when used as an insult. If a person is able to use words in a correct manner they can portray their character a lot more easily and will generally look more educated.
It is therefore considered to be of great importance to think about what we say or write before doing so to ensure we represent ourselves without causing offence to anyone. This can be called political correctness. The aim of political correctness is to try and be as non-discriminatory as possible. This meant that the whole of society was reassessed resulting with some social groups being renamed. However, the question of who had the authority to rename these groups was raised. For example, during the time political correctness was raised, Eskimos decided they would prefer to be called Inuit. Social groups who were more often than others discriminated against were able to choose their own names. This became a big issue as it allowed people to be represented, as they would like to be. From the 1880s African-Americans as they are now known went from being Negro to Afro-Caribbean to the present term. Political correctness was considered to be an improvement, however was it really?
In the 1980-1990s there was a backlash about political correctness. It became a subject of ridicule and this became an issue in the way language was used. The word ‘challenged’ was used as a term of ridicule. For example aesthetically challenged was used to mean ugly and horizontally challenged was used to mean fat. The changing of names of social groups, such as blind to visually impaired, also made many feel there was a sense of over-sensitivity. This led to attention being drawn to problems that didn’t exist. It made many feel that they were different and that people actually believed they must have a problem in order to be renamed. In this way it caused a very controversial issue as it led people to believe there was a reason to discriminate against people that were different to themselves and also allowed them to use non politically correct phrases as insults. In this way language and its use to represent was degenerated. In addition to this, what happens when the linguistic rules are broken? This was another issue raised. An example of this is of a teacher calling a corner of his classroom the nig-nog corner because of the colour of the children that sat there. The result was of him getting the sack. It is in this way he chose to represent himself. It was unacceptable in society with almost every social group and he had to suffer the consequences of his actions. In summary, if rules are chosen to be ignored, the outcome can have effects on society as well as individuals and cause great offence to different social groups.
The way language is used as a representation can be shown in many different areas including sexism and stereotyping. For example when stereotyping, a whole concept can be thought of with just the use of one word, such as, blonde or Indian. It is not only possible to represent ourselves with our use of language we can also represent others. This is why it is so important to think about the issues involved in language and representation because our use doesn’t only affect us but also affects others. Language use must therefore be considered carefully as it is a way of communicating and communication is the key of the human race. This means that if we were unclear, we may portray others or ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t want to.
In conclusion, from the way language structures our thoughts, it is important to think about the issues involved in order to represent ourselves appropriately. As we have the power to cause offence through language it is important that we be non-discriminatory and that we must always consider the consequences of our actions. It is in this way that language and representation is a way of portraying and communicating with others and in order to get what we want out of life without causing controversies we have to think about what we do and say in language before we do so. The issues involved in language and representation are vital in the way of communication and that all social groups including those of race, colour, sexual orientation, disabilities and so forth are all incorporated and thought about so as language is used correctly and they are not insulted by our representation of them.