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The Free Academy: Hana Dufková

  • Where: Václav Havel Library, Ostrovní 13, Prague 110 00
  • When: April 25, 2024, 19:00 – 21:00

What’s the Deal with Strong Words? On Changes in Language and in Society

Language is one of the important tools for constructing ideologies and a prominent means of manipulation. An easy way to influence society is through the use of key terms that carry strong, culturally and historically conditioned connotations. These connotations, which are often negative, may no longer correspond to the original content of these terms and their use. Fascism, for example, has long been more than a term to describe Italian interwar ideology, a trend that continued after its widespread use during WWII. Analogous shifts in usage may be observed in other words from a similar field of meaning, such as Nazism, Nazi, totalitarian, communism, communist, Bolshevik, neo-Marxist, etc. To view this shift as a mere hollowing out caused by speakers’ ignorance would be linguistically misleading and socially imprudent. In this talk I will try to show that linguistic corpora, huge electronic databases of linguistic expressions, can tell us something important about the rise of fascism and other similar words in contemporary discourse. Backed by genuine linguistic data, I will try to offer an answer to whether, how and why language change can/not be stopped.


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