Words Matter: Meaning and Power

Cambridge University Press (2020)
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Abstract

History and current affairs show that words matter - and change - because they are woven into our social and political lives. Words are weapons wielded by the powerful; they are also powerful tools for social resistance and for reimagining and reconfiguring social relations. Illustrated with topical examples, from racial slurs and sexual insults to preferred gender pronouns, from ethnic/racial group labels to presidential tweets, this book examines the social contexts which imbue words with potency. Exploring the role of language in three broad categories - establishing social identities, navigating social landscapes, and debating social and linguistic change - Sally McConnell-Ginet invites readers to examine critically their own ideas about language and its complicated connections to social conflict and transformation. Concrete and timely examples vividly illustrate the feedback loop between words and the world, shedding light on how and why words can matter.

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