Review of Animal Equality: Language And Liberation [by Joan Dunayer]
Jacobs, George M., (2007) Review of Animal Equality: Language And Liberation [by Joan Dunayer]. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies, 7 (2). pp. 1-7. ISSN 1675-8021
Official URL: http://pkukmweb.ukm.my/~ppbl/Gema/book_review_page1_7.pdf
Broward Community College, Singapore Campus
What is a book like this - on the language we use when referring to our fellow animals - doing in the Review section of a journal for language educators and researchers? The book is here because language is powerful – it reflects and shapes how we think and act, and language is ever-changing (Crystal, 1995; Halliday, 1978; Whorf, 1956). The power of language and its changing nature make language an area of contention in which activists for societal transformation seek to use language as a tool for change and advocates of the status quo seek to resist change. Language educators are inevitably involved, whether we want to be or not, and language researchers may find such areas fertile grounds for investigation. For example, the area of human rights has seen and continues to see many conflicts over language. A case in point is that today the term African-American is often used for people in the U.S. who are descended from slaves brought from Africa in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. English teachers need to help their students learn that the use of other terms for
these people, terms such as colored, negro, and nigger, are generally seen as inappropriate if not derogatory and inflammatory. Perhaps the best example of how the intersection of language and human rights has put English teachers in the middle of controversy regards language changes related to the issue of the relative place of females and males in human society (Cameron, 1995). A prominent grammatical change that has taken place in this area has been the move from generic he (use of male pronouns – he, his - and the male possessive adjective – his – in a way that implies males are representative of females and males), such as using “A doctor should take care of his patients” to include all doctors, female and male. Instead, people nowadays are more likely to use, “Doctors should take care of their patients,” “A doctor
should take care of her/his patients,” “A doctor should take care of their patients,” and other alternatives that do not place males as representatives of all humans. Similarly, in the area of vocabulary, alternatives have arisen for generic man (the use of male nouns to imply that males are representative of females and males). For instance, instead of fireman and policeman, people nowadays are more likely to use firefighter and police officer. Instead of man and wife, we might use husband and wife. These language changes in regard to the roles of the sexes have both reflected change and promoted change. However, the changes have not been automatic or uncontroversial. Nor are the changes complete. Generic he and generic man are still in use, e.g., they remain the norm in The Straits Times, the prestige English language newspaper in Singapore http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg).
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