The practice of linguistic nonviolence

Abstract

Does language do violence, and, if so, can linguistic violence be overcome? Language can do violence if violence does not require the exercise of physical force, and linguistic violence can be overcome if its use can be avoided. Some forms of violence do not use physical force, and various means are available for avoiding linguistic violence. Hence, although linguistic violence can and does occur, it also can be overcome. Much of my recent work has focused on how language, which does not rely on physical force, nonetheless often does violence. Linguistic violence occurs when we are hurt psychologically by words and when we are harmed socially by words. While most people are conscious of the pain that words can cause, many social groups are often unconscious of injustices that language helps to create and sustain. Exposing both of these forms of linguistic violence is the first step.

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