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When Linguists Attack

David Skinner

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Fed up with the PC domination of the academic linguistics, one professor fights back against the establishment.

The persecution of scholars for gender bias, on even the flimsiest evidence, has long been a fact of life in academe. Should one professor write, "Mary entered the kitchen," another boils over with feminist indignation, convenes a panel to investigate, and soon the whole campus is sucked into a tedious speakathon on the evils of sexism. But more than just the hobbyhorse of a few discontented radicals, heightened scrutiny for potential offense to preferred political groups has become policy within most disciplines. So it comes as an unexpected pleasure to see the practice of telling scholars what to write and say receive the kind of treatment it deserves.

Along these lines, in 1992, the Linguist Society of America began urging scholars to use androgynous names when writing example sentences. The aim, set in the Linguist Society of America Guideline for Nonsexist Usage, was to get linguists to forgo stereotypes and to "avoid peopling . . . sentences with just one sex." If anything, argued University of Wisconsin linguist Monica Macauley and co-author Colleen Brice five years later in Language, the official journal of the LSA, efforts to steer linguists away from unsavory example sentences needed to be expanded. For a taste of political correctness from its true vintage years, we'll examine their article, "Don't Touch My Projectile." The title is a disingenuous play on the kind of suggestive humor sometimes found in example sentences, which the authors argue needs to be stricken from textbooks.

Read the entire article on The Weekly Standard website.



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