Monday, November 5, 2012

Person-First Language: Noble Intentent But to What Effect

Interesting post from the Canadian Medical Association.

Kenneth St. Louis grew up with a moderate stutter that he eventually got under control in college. His struggle with stuttering led to an interest in speech-language pathology, which he now teaches at West Virginia University in Morgantown. St. Louis is an expert in fluency disorders, including cluttering, a condition characterized by rapid speech with an erratic rhythm. Once, after a journal sent him the edited version of a paper he had submitted on cluttering, St. Louis noticed something curious.
"They changed 'clutterer' to 'person who clutters' all the way through," says St. Louis.
The changes to St. Louis' prose stem from the person-first (or people-first) language movement, which began some 20 years ago to promote the concept that a person shouldn't be defined by a diagnosis. By literally putting "person" first in language, what was once a label becomes a mere characteristic. No longer are there "disabled people." Instead, there are "people with disabilities." 

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