Lakoff explores language, gender and culture
"We're not comfortable with a non-invisible first lady. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks for herself; Barbara Bush has her cocker spaniel speak for her," said Robin Lakoff, professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Lakoff delivered the third lecture in the Linguistics Program's inaugural lecture series on Feb. 15. "Linguistics," Lakoff said, "integrates the scholarly and the practical." Lakoff's lecture, "The Eternal Triangle: Language, Gender and Culture," bridged both areas, touching on sources that ranged from Alice in Wonderland, Pygmalian and Macbeth to the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings and the daily news. "Pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, listen to the radio. How much of current controversial matters are bound up with language?" she asked, citing speech codes, censoring of the Internet, English-only policies and political correctness. "Those issues show that control of language is an important issue." In the eternal triangle of language, gender and culture, she said, each has to be understood in its relationship to the others.