The volume brings together authors from different geographical areas (North America, Europe, and Australia) and from different disciplines (particularly communication, linguistics, and psychology). Contributions are organized around five themes, corresponding to the five sections of the book: defining features and constraints; tools of intergroup communication; social groups in their context; intergroup communication in organizations; and future directions.
Chapter Four: Language Attitudes as Intergroup Terrain
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Language Attitudes as Intergroup Terrain
In 1937, Dominican President Rafael Trujillo ordered the execution of the Haitian population living in the borderlands of the Dominican Republic with Haiti. The ensuing murder of thousands of ethnic Haitians came to be popularly known as the Parsley Massacre. The name for the massacre derives from the shibboleth1 that Trujillo purportedly had his soldiers apply to determine whether or not those living on the border were native Afro-Dominicans or immigrant Haitians. Dominican soldiers would approach locals holding up a spring of parsley and ask, “What is this?” Those who could not pronounce the Spanish word for parsley (perejil ) with a trilled r were considered Haitian and executed.
As this morbid historical anecdote illustrates, language is a powerful social force that conveys more than just referential information. Our language choices, whether conscious or unconscious, can and do have real communicative and other social consequences, irrespective of what we actually say. The study of the social meanings attending linguistic variation and their behavioral consequences is the domain of language attitudes.
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