The dynamics of political correctness, inclusive language and freedom of speech

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The study aims to research the historical dynamics of the notions ‘political correctness’, ‘inclusive language’ and ‘freedom of speech’, as well as to reveal the mechanisms and new tendencies of their realization in public discourse. The sources of practical material are represented by: a) 126 journal and Internet articles; b) 12 speeches of famous US and British politicians, scholars and celebrities reflecting the notions under study. The leading methods include critical discourse analysis, definition and contextual analyses. The research indicates that during its long and contradictory history, the term ‘political correctness’ had both positive and negative connotations. When the negative attitude started to prevail, it was replaced by the notions ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive language’ based on similar mechanisms: ban on the use of offensive terms denoting different aspects of people’s identity; avoidance of stereotypes and false semantic associations; abundant use of euphemisms, etc. The paper reveals the new trends in the English language (non-binary expression of gender; changes in the conceptualization of race, age and disability) and social practices meeting the requirements of inclusive communication. Whereas political correctness and inclusive language aim to protect vulnerable social groups and improve the social climate, they produce certain undesirable tendencies: breach between social groups caused by inefficient communication; reverse racism; complex relationship of political correctness with science, literature and education; its speculative use; and restrictions on freedom of speech. The study also sheds light on the problems of politically correct intercultural communication caused by the non-stop language change, differences in social norms, values, grammatical structures, semantics, and cultural associations.

About the authors

Olga A. Leontovich

Volgograd State Socio-Pedagogical University; Tianjin Foreign Studies University

Author for correspondence.

Doctor habil., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Intercultural Communication and Translation at Volgograd State Socio-Pedagogical University (Volgograd, Russia) and Professor of Tianjin Foreign Studies University (Tianjin, China). She has authored over 220 publications. Her research interests embrace communication studies, discourse analysis, cultural anthropology, sociolinguistics and intercultural communication

27 Lenin Prospect, Volgograd, 400066, Russia; Tianjin, China


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Copyright (c) 2021 Leontovich O.A.

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