Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/6359
Deceptive and evasive use of language plays a major role in human exploitation and abuse of animals. With language comes power and responsibility. Without the linguistic means for their own defence, animals are currently situated at the deepest level of oppression. This essay explores issues in the linguistic exploitation of animals, focusing mainly on lexical semantics and grammatical construction.
Firstly, the historical and philosophical background to animal rights will be reviewed. Starting for real with the introduction of Christianity, animal exploitation in the Western world has culminated over the last century. However, in recent decades, people have started to see through the deceptive discourse surrounding animal exploitation and have begun the battle for animals’ rights.
Secondly, the relation between language and power will be examined through the discourses surrounding warfare and women. Emphasis is placed on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which builds on the notion that language influences thought.
Lastly, the role that language plays in perpetuating animal exploitation will be explored and the importance of attitude change emphasised. Linguistic devices such as euphemisms, jargon, derogation and possessive and passive forms promote emotional and cognitive distance from animals and foster the speciesist beliefs that sustain their abuse. The discussion adopts a moderate version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and is largely based on Joan Dunayer’s book Animal Equality: Language and Liberation (2001). A list of suggestions to alternative language can be found in the appendix.
The central thesis is that as long as our unjust treatment of animals stays linguistically hidden our attitudes towards animals are unlikely to change and they will continue to suffer.
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