Words matters. And, as we say at my house, all words are made up. Although there is an arbitrariness to words (e.g., there is nothing inherent as to why the furry animal that chases after dots of light is called a ‘cat’ or the one that chases after its tail is called a ‘dog’, especially if we consider that each language has a different word for that same thing), there is intention in their use embedded in their ever evolving etymologies within the languages they inhabit. Just because words are arbitrary in their assigned creation and meaning does not follow that they are insignificant: “sticks and stones may break my bones (true) but words will never hurt me” (false). Words matter.
In this presentation, we will explore the intersections of language, linguistics, and race from a social justice and equity lens. We will talk about words that are intertwined with the birth of our nation (i.e., the United States of America) and their weight in the midst of an arguably second nadir since the first that began with the end of Reconstruction in 1877. My goal is to begin or continue – depending on where you situate yourself – this discussion about our roles and responsibilities as humanistic social scientists in the midst of #BlackLivesMatter and a reconciliation with African American Language and linguistic justice, as April Baker-Bell (2020) contends, and ‘caste,’ as Isabel Wilkerson (2020) contends.
Sonja Lanehart is Professor of Linguistics in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona with a partial appointment in Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies in the College of Education as well as a Faculty Fellow in the Graduate College
Accommodation statement: If you require an accommodation such as live captioning or interpretation to participate in this event, please contact Ashwini Deo at firstname.lastname@example.org. In general, requests made two weeks before the event will allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.