Trends in the use of language for inclusiveness

The role of social organizations

Essay, 2016

9 Pages


Abstract ... 1
1.Introduction ... 3
2.Review of Literature ... 3
3.Results and Discussion ... 4
4. Recommendations... 7
5.Conclusion ... 8
References ... 9

As the society is getting more and more inclusive, the way we communicate is also changing.
In the ancient and the medieval periods, those people who were different were excluded from
the society. Neither was medical science very advanced nor the people's mindsets. The per-
sons with disabilities were ostracized, marginalized or killed at birth. In Sparta, babies who
were weak were not spared either because there, it was the survival of the fittest. As we move
along the pages of history, they were termed as possessed, sinner, cripple, deviant, unfit, lame,
idiot and more recently retarded. But have we thought about as to why these terms are no
longer used today. It is due to the fact that we are slowly moving towards an inclusive society.
And to achieve this, not only the physical well being but also the psychosocial aspects need to
be taken into consideration. In the 21
century a lot these aspects are emphasized in educa-
tion. These terms have taken a pejorative form today. This may be due to the historical stigma
and oppression that were attached to these terms or the language usage may not have been
1.1Objectives of the study
1.To find out whether social organizations like media, schools are using politically correct
terms or not to refer to disadvantaged groups and disabled persons.
2.The possible psychological effects of negative expressions.
3.The linguistic backgrounds of such words.
2.Review of Literature
Richard Rieser and Mason have studied the phenomena of the everyday language that we use
in their books like `Disability Equality in the Classroom'(1990/1992) and `Altogether Bet-
2.1Materials and Methodology
Various critical books and case study books were read and also internet was used. Electronic
media sites were also researched for a few case studies.

3.Results and Discussion
In various writers' style manuals like that of the American Psychological Association, etc., we
get examples of bias free language. Here, the manual has suggestions for terms and expres-
sions to be used with reference to disabled persons, people with different gender identities,
etc. For example, the term handicapped that we see painted on various public transport vehi-
cles is wrong. It is because the expression is also a verb, which means a burden was created
from the outside and makes the person totally dysfunctional in society. It is commonly seen
and heard people using the expression, the disabled, the blind, etc. In these cases it is to be
remembered that the particular disability does not define the entire person. The disability is
only an "aspect of the person". We have to understand that they are people like you and us. It
is also not proper to use expressions like the blind, deaf, etc., and instead we should say, a
person with visual impairment as there are figurative expressions like "you are a blind profli-
gate", etc. And by using these expressions you are stereotyping a disabled person into a par-
ticular category of profession like begging and assuming that person to be indisposed.
With reference to the third gender, there are lots of misconceptions as to the correct way to
term and address them. The transgender people are often confused with the intersex people
and transsexual persons. I had come across a particular University's academicians' article on
the employability of transgender. There, an Indian term called `hijra' was used. But let me
reiterate that `hijras' are generally the transsexual people who have biological characteristics
different from transgender people. The transgender people feel a different gender identity than
the one that society forces them to accept. And very recently in a school in England, a teacher
did not wish to call her students, girls and boys but rather `pupils' to make her classroom
more inclusive. In our country, in many schools there is an administrative routine every
month or so to take the headcount of every girl and boy in the class and note it in a form. But I
do not recall noticing any space for the third gender. So gender neutral language is becoming
popular. Epicene pronouns are being coined by academicians to further this.
Many electronic and digital media today are becoming aware of these but during my research,
I found that they are still using archaic expressions in their articles. I shall give few examples
of these statements and headlines, etc. One news media house uses the term "wheelchair
bound" which is a pejorative term for a person with a physical impairment. The article which

was written on March 15
2016 states "Drop everything and listen to wheelchair-bound 12
year old cover Eminem". This same media house again wrote on May 14
, 2016 "70 year old
Wheel-chair bound woman not allowed to board Air-India flight". In these cases one should
use the expression "a person who uses a wheelchair". For, the expression "wheel-chair
bound" implies that the person who is on the wheel chair is suffering but who are we to say
whether they are suffering or not. So we should not define a person from our perspective but
rather accept them as they are.
Another popular media house writes on June 1
2016, "Doctors mislead couple, baby born
crippled". To put emphasis on the gravity of the situation the journalist has used strong words,
but not only is this term crippled archaic and pejorative, but these particular statements may
also affect the child when he/she grows up and finds these articles. He or she may think that
the society has perceived me to be detestable even at birth. So the media need to be a little
more sensitive to these things, because people are imbibing wrong terminology and errone-
ously using them in their daily life thinking them to be standard expressions. The archaic
word "cripple" has connotation of being a beggar and in the societies of the ancient and medi-
eval period they were outcasts and lived on the fringes of towns.
Linguistically speaking, pragmatics has broken down the levels of politeness into faces. Faces
are the subconsciously constructed images of the `I' and politeness seeks to inform the vari-
ous dimensions of these image building and destroying words and phrases. There is the "posi-
tive face" and the "negative face"(Yule,2010). Till now whatever I have spoken was the con-
cerns of the "negative face". The positive face of communicating creates inclusion automati-
cally. The "negative face" does not denote something bad. Rather it is a form of awareness
about the freedom from any sort of prejudice and burden. For example, suppose my friend has
fractured his leg and the doctor has advised rest. He can move with crutches. One day he asks
me to order a pizza. The phone may be just out of reach and my friend may not have required
any help. I am busy with an important report which the boss wants me to send in an hour. I
say to my friend, "Do it yourself. If I were you, I would not have sat inside all day."So, by
using these words I have just committed a "face destroying act". I have not only hurt his self
image and implied that he lacks confidence but harmed my image and relationship in the pro-
cess. A more convenient answer would have been, "I know the phone is out of reach and you
are hungry but could you just wait a few minutes till I complete this project. It's really ur-

gent." In the latter sentence, I am not only showing a negative face of mine but also commit-
ting a "face saving act" by showing some concern for the image of the other person.
Daniel Goleman in his book "Emotional Intelligence" in 1995 stressed on self awareness and
self management for the smooth functioning of our day to day work and life. It would help us
to become better persons and efficient performers of our tasks. But during this period he also
had some inkling that it is not sufficient to know ourselves only. We have to know the other
person too because we do not live or work in vacuum. Therefore, in 2006 he published the
book "Social Intelligence". This book helps the readers to manage relationships better. It is
the science of knowing the person in your immediate space. So, subsequently he replaced self
awareness with social awareness and self management with relationship management.
Goleman's social awareness has aspects such as primal empathy, attunement, empathic accu-
racy and social cognition. The part I shall emphasize is empathic accuracy. Empathic accura-
cy is related to proper communication in diverse social situations. Apart from social cogni-
tion, empathic accuracy helps in direct communication and maintaining our image and rela-
tionships. By virtue of this skill, we are able to know when to speak and what are the correct
expressions that can be utilized for that particular situation. But whatever may be the psychol-
ogy that the author has proposed, ultimately our attitude and approach remains the key factor
for being social. Feelings of compassion for the other person are important. And moreover,
human values also play a significant role.
It has been stressed that the foremost reason for new teachers not being able to manage the
class and failing to evoke proper learning outcomes in the student is their "tunnel vi-
sion"(Evans, 2013). The "tunnel vision" does not allow the teacher to see from the student's
perspective and once the teacher starts to let go of this habit the more he/she becomes adept in
fulfilling the needs of the student. And I mention this, because the teacher comes to the class-
room with certain predispositions which hinders his goal to make his/her class more inclusive.

4. Recommendations
Finally, the trend that I have noticed is that the terminology for expressions in social situa-
tions is more and more shifting from single words that have been clichéd, generalized and
have a historical stigma attached to these to more compound words and phrases that are indi-
rect and which do not seek to stereotype. I cannot say for sure if these will mitigate the burden
of oppression and prejudice that we have inherited. Nevertheless, these expressions are more
clearly defined and I shall hope it will lessen the ignorance of the people and make us more
However, when coining new expressions or trying to speak consciously, it should neither be
done in a flippant and superficial manner, using very loud or flowery language nor should our
manner of communicating seem patronizing. On the contrary, these should be subtle and sci-
entific in nature to show concern rather than flatter.
Sounds and words have a healing effect when used appropriately or conversely, it has the po-
tential to create negative feelings. Certain words have a unique ability to create positive feel-
ings in us through their energy. Whether we choose to ignore it or not, the after effect of a
positive or negative statement stays with us subconsciously for a long time. Words when used
inappropriately even when the speaker and the listener is ignorant of its implications tend to
promote bad feelings. Somewhere, the listener may feel that in spite of the fact that those sen-
tences were uttered innocently, something or the other is not right because our subconscious
does not want give those a clean chit.
This is because unconsciously, as we are growing up, we are gathering archetypes, to use
Jung's term and which is finally getting concretized the moment we are engaged in "per-
formatives" like speech acts. So even though certain expressions look innocuous, we are actu-
ally causing some amount of indirect discomfort in the other person. A person who is socially
aware will have the ability to avert these pejorative terms consciously. For this, inculcating
awareness through study is necessary. Therefore, socializing is not an easy task for some and
it requires some experience and a broader outlook.

Social organizations should be given training for proper usage and be updated. It is imperative
that this orientation courses be conducted regularly, especially those organizations that deal
with people directly. By taking these steps, minimization of errors in language usage can be
achieved. There should also be a mechanism for constant feedback which should be taken
from the personnel regarding this. In certain literature textbooks, archaic terms may have been
used related to the context or written at a time when the author may not have thought much in
this direction. Therefore, it is also necessary for the teacher to explain and make the students
understand the contemporary trends in language usage and to avoid these archaic words in
their own compositions.
It is high time that people learn these rules, along with other rules of etiquette. Apart from
these, accessibility and infrastructure should be developed. Opportunities for expression
should also be given. And I would like to conclude by referring to the fact that we--by "we" I
mean the non disabled people often feel uncomfortable in certain situations because we are
not used to encounter it, so let me suggest something to everyone­ let's be ready to get used
to it.

American Psychological Association.Publication Manual of the American Psychological
ed.). Washington DC:Author.
Author.(2010). The Power of Words . The Dynamic Turnaround. Retrieved from
Authors.(2013, December). Inclusive Language Guidance. Unitarian Universalist Association.
Retrieved from
Authors.(2016, January). Gender Neutral / Gender Inclusive Pronouns. University of Wiscon-
sin-Milwaukee. Retrieved from
Cole, M.(Ed) (2012). Education,Equality and Human Rights.London:Routledge.
Evans,M.(Ed.)(2013).Teacher Education and Pedagogy.Cambridge.Cambridge University
Goleman, D. (2006).Social Intelligence.New York: Bantam Dell.
Jungian archetypes. (2016, May 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:58,
July 14, 2016, from
Kohli, A.(2016, March). Drop Everything and Listen to Wheelchair-Bound 12-Year-Old
Cover Eminem. NDTV. Retrieved from
Munyi, C.W.(2012,April). Past and Present Perceptions Towards Disability: A Historical Per-
spective .Disability Studies Quarterly.32(2).
Office for Disability Issues and Department for Work and Pensions.(2014, August). Disability
Confident campaign and Equality. Retrieved from
Political correctness. (2016, July 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:19,
July 14, 2016, from
PTI.(2016, May). 70-Year-Old Wheel Chair-Bound Woman Not Allowed To Board Air India
Flight.NDTV. Retrieved from
TNN.(2016, June).Doctor `mislead' couple, baby born crippled. The Times of India. Re-
trieved from
Transgender. (2016, July 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:11, July 14,
2016, from
Yule, G. (2010).The Study of Language.New Delhi:Cambridge University Press.
Excerpt out of 9 pages


Trends in the use of language for inclusiveness
The role of social organizations
University of Calcutta  (University of Calcutta)
Master of Education
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
473 KB
disability, language, media, schools, communication
Quote paper
Soumit Basu (Author), 2016, Trends in the use of language for inclusiveness, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: Trends in the use of language for inclusiveness

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free