Linguicism

From Academic Kids

Linguicism is a form of prejudice, an "-ism" along the lines of racism, ageism or sexism. The word is attributed to the linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, who may have coined the word in her writings in the mid-1980s about prejudice in education.

Linguicism involves making judgments about one's wealth, education, social status, and other traits based on their use of language. Parts of language which may go into this consideration are accents, the size of vocabulary (whether the person uses complex and varied words), and sentence structure or syntax. It may also involve a person's ability or inability to use one language instead of another; for example, someone speaking Japanese in France will probably be treated differently from one speaking French.

Linguicism is a form of prejudice which is often more subconscious than other forms, possibly because not much attention has been raised about it; it is not a cultural taboo as racism and sexism are today. Further, it is not clear that it is logically unjustifiable or morally reprehensible to draw inferences about a person's education partly based on their linguistic proficiency.

For example, in some parts of the United States, a person who has a thick Mexican accent and uses only simple English words may be thought of as poor, poorly educated, and possibly an illegal immigrant by many of the people who meet them. However, if the same person has a diluted accent or no noticeable accent at all and can use a myriad of words in complex sentences, they are likely to be perceived as more successful, better educated, and a legitimate citizen.

Linguicism, of course, applies to written as well as spoken language, especially given the rise of the internet, which operates largely via the former medium. Readers of a web page, Usenet or forum post, or chat session may be more inclined to take the author seriously if the written language is properly spelled and constructed.

Speakers of constructed languages are frequent victims of linguicism, as some people consider their language to be artificial and thus less real or credible than other languages. Ironically, some of these constructed languages may have more speakers than many national languages. For example, Esperanto has hundreds of thousands of proficient speakers and hundreds of native speakers.

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