@DialMforMara I had an idea that I know I am absolutely not qualified to study, so I thought I'd throw it your way. The question is "Do linguists who are generally of a descriptivist attitude become more prescriptivist when dealing with 'problematic' words and phrases?" For example, when people use "retarded" to mean "stupid," or "triggered" to mean "relatively annoyed," are they more likely to say "That's how language is evolving," or will they take a stance on how words "should" be used?

@AdmiralMemo @DialMforMara Similarly not qualified, nor a linguist, but as a general comment on the implicit question: I don't think being descriptivist and wanting people to use certain words in certain ways are incompatible concepts. I *want* people to avoid the word "retarded". I *recognise* that its generally understood meaning is a particular thing whether I like it or not. It's not "wrong", just bad.

The vast majority of linguists I've worked with are interested in promoting diversity in a number of areas, and my extremely unscientific hypothesis is that they would counsel against discriminatory language. But there is also descriptive research into how words become pejorative, especially in the case of words for physical or mental disability. Look up the Euphemism Treadmill.

@AdmiralMemo @ekimekim
Being a linguist is not simply saying "don't use r****ded, it's a bad word." Being a linguist is saying something like "r****ded started as a euphemism for another insulting description of mentally disabled people, & then it became the technical term because it was okay to say at the time, & then its association with a marginalized group and the earlier insult made people start thinking of it as an insult. So if you use it you'll sound insulting."


@DialMforMara @ekimekim Thanks for the insight. I was familiar with the Euphemism Treadmill in general, but never got into the nuts and bolts of how it was technically defined. 😀

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@ekimekim @DialMforMara And after re-reading all that, I just realized that the descriptivists are saying "This term is insulting and here's why" without making a judgment on whether insulting someone is good or not. I think I get it more now.

Well, "insult" has its own connotations, and there's a whole other body of research on why people insult each other. But there's no inherent value judgement in the scientific description.

@DialMforMara @ekimekim That must be a persistent problem in linguistics. You describe or define language using other language, which needs its own definition based on further language, etc. etc. It's a bit of a bootstrap issue. 😀

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