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Language as violence


Language is a mechanism of communication that was constructed for the purpose of providing a shared environment with mutually understood terms and ideas. Language is both shaped by society and a shaper of society. The words people use to communicate ideas reflect the ideas people have, but also provide framework for how people think about the world. In an advertisement campaign by Chipotle called Cultivating Thought, the restaurant printed literary works on their cups and bags. One of the authors whose work was displayed, Julia Alvarez, included a mini story she wrote about learning English after moving to America from the Dominican Republic. In the story, she talks about the words she misses in Spanish. She misses these words because the things she wants to explain cannot be explained in English because English doesn't have the words for those ideas. One of her quotes found among the series' bags reads, "I miss them, Miami. All those words I had to leave behind. Also, words that in English don't carry the same feeling." The same difficulty of finding meaning for a certain idea or feeling does not just apply across languages, however. Within one given language it can be difficult to express an idea or feeling because there may not be a word that fully encapsulates what the speaker wants to present. Society depends on the words they are given to express what is thought or felt and requires that the audience can make the correct inferences about the implications of each word choice. For example, imagine a person who is a first generation college graduate. Maybe they communicate to another person that they are very proud. What other words, ideas, phrases, comparisons, connections exist in relation to the word "proud"? The answer is an overwhelming amount. The speaker's statement requires that the audience make those connections and understand the implications of how being "proud" extends into other associations with the word that fully explain what the speaker meant.

In terms of violence, language can be used to convey violent ideas and feelings through what an audience can infer about the extent of the word or statement's meaning. Although "violence" is presumably physical, it can extend into the verbal realm of spoken and written communication in a way that produces a physical effect. Language can be constituted as a violent action because when it is used violently, it shares characteristics with other violent actions – it causes pain. Language can constitute violence in a number of ways but is generally executed as violence when it ( language) can be used to reinforce power over a marginalized group or individual in a way that hurts or harms that group **(cite The Reality of Linguistic Violence Against Women). Because of this, language can be destructive to a group or individual based on what feelings or attitudes that particular institution has attached to the words they use to carry out violence.



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Wikipedia

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