The Language War

The Language War

by Robin Tolmach Lakoff
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0520232070

ISBN-13: 9780520232075

Pub. Date: 08/17/2001

Publisher: University of California Press


Robin Lakoff gets to the heart of one of the most fascinating and pressing issues in American society today: who holds power and how they use it, keep it, or lose it. In a brilliant and vastly entertaining discussion of news events that have occupied an enormous amount of media space--political correctness, the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, Hillary

Overview


Robin Lakoff gets to the heart of one of the most fascinating and pressing issues in American society today: who holds power and how they use it, keep it, or lose it. In a brilliant and vastly entertaining discussion of news events that have occupied an enormous amount of media space--political correctness, the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, Hillary Rodham Clinton as First Lady, O. J. Simpson's murder trial, the Ebonics controversy, and the Clinton sex scandal--Lakoff shows that the struggle for power and status at the end of the century is being played out as a war over language. Controlling language is a basis for all power, she says, and therefore it is worth fighting for. As a result, newly emergent groups, especially blacks and women, are contending with middle- to upper-class white men for a share in "language rights."

Lakoff's introduction to linguistic theories and the philosophy of language lays the groundwork for an exploration of news stories that meet what she calls the UAT (Undue Attention Test). As the stories became the subject of talk-show debates, late-night comedy routines, Web sites, and magazine articles, they were embroidered with additional meanings, depending on who was telling the story. Race, gender, or both are at the heart of these stories, and each one is about the right to construct meanings from languagein short, to possess power. Because language tells us how we are connected to one another, who has power and who does not, the stories reflect the language war.

We use language to analyze what we call "reality," the author argues, but we mistrust how language is used today--witness the "politics of personal destruction" following the Clinton impeachment. Yet Lakoff sees in the struggle over language a positive goal: equality in the creation of our national discourse. Her writing is accessible and witty, and her excerpts from the media are used to great effect.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520232075
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
08/17/2001
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
332
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsix
Introduction. What I Am Doing Here, and How I Am Doing It1
1Language: The Power We Love to Hate17
2The Neutrality of the Status Quo42
3"Political Correctness" and Hate Speech: The Word as Sword86
4Mad, Bad, and Had: The Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas Narrative(s)118
5Hillary Rodham Clinton: What the Sphinx Thinks158
6Who Framed "O.J."?194
7Ebonics--It's Chronic227
8The Story of Ugh252
Notes283
References303
Index313

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