Ethics/Nonkilling/Linguistics

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Introduction[edit]

  • This Course is based mainly on "Toward a Nonkilling Linguistics", chapter prepared by Professor Patricia Friedrich (Arizona State University) and Professor Francisco Gomes de Matos (Federal University of Pernambuco) for Toward a Nonkilling Paradigm (Honolulu: Center for Global Nonkilling, 2009). The Course is part of the Interdisciplinary Program on Nonkilling Studies at the School of Nonkilling Studies.


It is the ages-old question: are human beings naturally predisposed to conflict and violence and therefore bound to a perpetual and elusive quest for peace, or are we a peaceful group falling prey to the traps of aggression and hostility? In Nonkilling Global Political Science, Paige (2005) raises the question of whether or not a nonkilling society is possible and what it would take to build such a society. He explains that a nonkilling society is,

a human community, smallest to largest, local to global, characterized by no killing of humans and no threats to kill; no weapons designed to kill humans and no justifications for using them; and no conditions of society depend upon threat or use of killing force for maintenance or change. (1)


Paige acknowledges that the answer to the first part of his question is a product of one’s “personal experience, professional training, culture, and context.” (2) The answer to the second, in case one agrees that such a society is possible, would in our view, depend upon a collective effort in which each member of the society employs their expertise and special skills to contribute to the nonkilling paradigm. Our contribution to a nonkilling society would involve the use of languages and its social power.

The linguistic power conveyed by the juxtaposition of the negative prefix NON and the noun KILLING recalls another felicitous combination, namely, NONVIOLENCE, a Gandhian concept-term which according to Random House (1995: 891) originated in 1915, meaning "the policy or practice of refraining from the use of violence, as in protesting oppressive authority". That same source tells us that VIOLENCE made its debut in written English at the beginning of the 14th century. How about KILLING, the reader might be wondering. The verb KILL first appears in written form in 1175. According to the American Heritage Dictionary (2001:469), KILL can mean 1. To put to death; 2. To deprive of life; 3. To cause to cease operating. When, however, we add the prefix NON, we positivize what would otherwise destructive terms. A history-making concept-term in that respect is, for example, that of NONPROLIFERATION as in Nonproliferation Treaty, signed in 1968 by the U.S., the then USSR, the UK and over 80 nonnuclear weapon states.

What these examples show is that language is an important element in designing this better version of the world we have now because it has the power to transcend and transform. In the current state of affairs, Paige argues, “Language reflects and reinforces lethality, contributing a sense of naturalness and inescapability.” (14) His examples are many, for instance, the way in which metaphors which make reference to violence, war and conflict abound in the English language. He reminds us of expressions such as “making a killing in the stock market,” or being “stab[bed] in the back”, or movie stars being dubbed “bombshells.” We can add our own: Lou Dobbs’s constant reference (2006, for example) to the “war on the middle class,” the disagreements between men and women as “the battle of the sexes,” or taking part in a discussion as engaging in a “war of words.” There are also two ecolinguistically inappropriate – unfair! – nouns in English referring to animals: “killer bee” (for African honeybee capable of stinging repeatedly) and “killer whale” (large black-and-white dolphin). Such labeling is biased against those species and again emblematic of our desensitizing toward the use of linguistically violent terms. English is not the only language through which we display violence-inspired metaphors. In Portuguese, for example, the combination of either “morrer” or “matar de vergonha” (to die or kill of embarrassment) fits this description as well.

Because we live in a world which has, to a certain extent, been the backdrop for a rather indifferent attitude toward violence, allowing us to become also somewhat unmoved by it, linguists might be interested in mapping the lexicon of violence, an area which is in need of cross-cultural data collection. For a useful section on violence in a reference work, a starting point could be Glazier (1997:634-638).That work features subsections on violent events, fights, attacks, violent actions, and violent persons. The listing of over 300 types of violent actions provides evidence to support the hypothesis that human beings are the most destructive creatures on Earth. However, we must also ask what listing would be made to exemplify the opposite, that is, the fact that human beings are constructive creatures as well.

Other contexts of use also evidence this indifference and actually give away a certain acclamation of violence. A quick search through a movie guide (Maltin, 2008) for example revealed the popularity of such titles as Kill Bill (2003), The Matador (2005) and A Time to Kill (1996). An interesting challenge could be to try and find an equivalent number of titles displaying peace-fostering terms. This challenge could be a desirable practice among conscientization (to use a Freirean term) activities aimed at enhancing communicatively constructive vocabulary, humanizing uses of languages and linguistic activism.

Of course the role of language in both the maintenance and peace and unfortunately the pursuit of violence is not restricted to its more metaphorical or purely linguistic uses. Effective diplomacy through peace talks, for example, can mark the divide between practicing peace through constructive dialogue or engaging in war through armed conflict. So can the growingly researched phenomenon of public peace dialogue (Saunders, 1999). At the micro-level, the use of language can signal our desire to respect and honor human dignity on the one hand, or to offend and attack one’s self-esteem on the other. Additionally, human beings have the capacity to use linguistic boundaries to segregate, to deny membership, to belittle or conversely to educate, to empower, to establish contact and to elevate.

Surprisingly enough, given the ubiquitous nature of language, it took linguistics quite a long time to be more formally recognized as an important element of peace and the establishment of fairer social institutions. Luckily for us and our contemporaries, Peace Linguistics (Gomes de Matos, 1996; Crystal, 1999; Crystal, 2004; Friedrich, 2007a and 2007b) now figures alongside Peace Psychology, Peace Education and other disciplines, among the contributing subjects helping in the development interdisciplinary Peace Studies which in turn can inform those interested in the building of a nonkilling society.

However, the task ahead for linguistics scholars, teachers, language policy makers, government officials and language users themselves is not a small one. Languages are so intricately connected to human experience that they can be said to permeate all aspects of our lives, from school to work, from entertainment to family relations, from conflict to diplomacy and governmental action. Yet, we often take language for granted and fail to recognize its power and reach and we many times trivialize its use. We neglect to engage in peace-fostering dialogue or we become cocooned in our own silence. We often find it hard to say “I am sorry,” to yield to the other speaker, and to choose our words according to their potential for peace. We at times fall short of recognizing situations in which language, if used constructively, could avoid serious conflict both at the personal, micro-level and at the global, macro-level.

In a nonkilling society, language must play a pivotal role as a tool for peace as it needs to be widely engaged. Language users need to be empowered, and constructive dialogue needs to replace violence. This chapter is organized around the idea that several elements related to language are central to the establishment of a nonkilling society. We will visit but a few. While these elements relate to linguistics in its more abstract form, which means that they do not refer to any one particular language and at the same time include all languages, examples of their applicability are given vis-à-vis existing languages and the dynamics of power that unite and unfortunately also divide them. Furthermore, whereas the list is not exhaustive, it is guided by two encompassing, fundamental principles and two general pleas as follows:

  • First fundamental principle: “Language is a system for communicating in nonkilling ways”
  • Second fundamental principle: “Language users should have the right to learn to communicate nonkillingly for the Good of Humankind”
  • First plea: “Let us be communicative Humanizers, treating all language users with compassion and dignity.”
  • Second plea: “Let us opt for communicatively nonkilling uses of languages.”


Respect for language users and the uses they make of language[edit]

Languages are not autonomous entities. They exist to serve the societies in which they are embedded. They are made into tools or weapons depending upon their users. They are not intrinsically good or bad; however, they are used as vehicles of good or evil by the people who utilize them. Each user of language impacts the language in many ways by modifying, creatively applying, denying, or embracing it. Each language user is also unique because no one’s experience with language and with the world is the same as any one else’s. Even if one considers identical twins, obviously born to the same parents, in the same place and roughly at the same time, they will come to realize that the twins’ experiences with language are unique; each will speak to different users, read different books, and develop unique interests which in turn will help shape their language use differently. Recognition of the multiplicity of users, realms of use, cline of proficiency, and educational environments of different languages and language varieties is paramount to building a nonkilling society.

Multiple users will present different linguistic features. Pronunciation will vary, and choice of vocabulary and type of variety will also oscillate according to the situation of communication, educational background, geographical location, gender and age of participants. While we must recognize and seize such diversity, we must also learn to refrain from using it against language users. How many times has violence resulted from denied membership due to linguistic separatism? How often do negative attitudes towards users or groups of users of specific dialects end up impacting people in non- linguistic realms of life? Fought (2002:127) provides an example of such attitudes. In a study conducted with college students from California about attitudes towards the various regional dialects of the United States, she found out that “the South was labeled as a separate geographic area more frequently than any other region.” In addition, “a majority of terms associated with the South are negative.”

Scientifically speaking, no evidence exists that using a certain linguistic variety correlates with accomplishment, intelligence or skill. Yet, people are often stereotyped and pigeonholed with dialectal variation and language proficiency as criteria, and these criteria are then later wrongly reapplied to include or to exclude users. In a nonkilling society, multiple linguistic expressions exist in harmony, and people have a chance to develop their full potential regardless of the native status of their language use (i.e. whether they are native speakers or not), the regional origin of their dialect, or the functional range of their language use. Additionally, notions about cline of proficiency and frequency of use are not employed judgmentally. Some people will use a certain language for a variety of functions (e.g. the speaker of English who uses the language in his medical practice, to talk to his kids, to write in academic journals and to chat with friends) while others will use it for only one (e.g. the airport controller in a primarily Spanish speaking country who uses English for a specialized function at his workplace). In a nonkilling society, all kinds of users have their right to use such a language recognized and revered. They feel they are valuable members of their linguistic communities, and other members of such societies are grateful that because of those people’s linguistic skills others have access to, for example, a medical diagnosis or the safe landing of their plane.

Thus, in a nonkilling society, besides the respect for dialectal variation, the questionable deficit approach to language use (i.e. the view which focuses of language users’ shortcomings) is replaced with support for the further development of their skills and appreciation for the skills they already possess.

Respect for a healthy ecosystem of languages[edit]

Recently, The Economist (Oct 23, 2008) published an article on endangered languages. The renowned publication reflected on the fate of thousands of languages which may disappear by the end of the 21st century, languages such as Hua, spoken in Botswana, and Manchu, from China. The most optimistic estimates foreshadow that about 50% of the almost 7,000 languages of the world are endangered (Wurm, 2001; Gordon, 2005; Austin and Simpson, 2007); the most pessimistic bring the numbers up to 90% (Krauss, 1992).

Disagreements aside, most specialists concur that the rate at which languages are disappearing is unprecedented, and part of our inability to know what to do is intimately connected to such uniqueness – no historical antecedent tells us what needs to be done. Austin and Simpson (2007:5) point out that besides being unparalleled, “[l]oss of linguistic diversity on this scale […] represents a massive social and cultural loss, not only to the speakers of particular languages but to humanity and science in general.” Scanlon and Singh (2006), referring to Maffi’s scholarship (2001), cite colonization, the rise of the nation state, globalization, and environmental degradation as the most important phenomena contributing to the disruption of linguistic diversity and a healthy ecosystem of languages.

The fact that many languages are currently endangered has to be juxtaposed with the fact that languages do fade away more ‘naturally’ too and that some of the sociolinguistic phenomena which account for such disappearance is beyond our scope of action. Nevertheless, despite the fact that we might not be able to save all endangered languages, we do not need to unnaturally push for their demise. In a nonkilling society, the danger of languages displacing (Phillipson, 1992) other languages is diminished because respect for language diversity also signifies that multilingualism is revered and encouraged. In that case, the need for languages of wider communication (which fulfill a pragmatic purpose) does not clash with the desire to build community and preserve local language and culture.

Notice, however, that the term “preserve” is a tricky one; some preservation efforts are an attempt to catalog and document the language as it was last conceived. Such efforts are to a large degree undertaken by language preservationists when there is no hope of a language surviving (e.g. when the last few speakers are of an advanced age and no young users can be found). The other complementary effort is to preserve a language’s ability to continue changing, that is, to continue to be used functionally by a community. In this case, policy making, which includes sound educational policies, can be an important step to maintaining a language alive. Smith (2000: 174) argues that “… mutual recognition of all linguistic heritage should be the goal. Without such mutual respect and tolerance, internal and international tension and hostilities may result.” While Smith is referring more specific to languages indigenous to Europe, the researcher’s reflection bears relevance to all relations among languages with regional and international status and those used only within smaller communities. It also establishes the connection between disrespect for linguistic diversity and social unrest.

Therefore, as individuals interested in upholding the ideals of a nonkilling society, ideals which can be extended to the nonkilling of languages, we should take measures to preserve dying languages, counteract unnatural homogenizing forces when necessary, and recognize the necessity of linguae francae (but strive to establish them alongside local languages). In a nonkilling society, languages and speakers of languages are not purposefully exterminated. There is no effort of an educational, political or armed forces nature to decimate linguistic groups and extinguish their language and culture.

Focus on diplomacy: negative peace[edit]

Galtung’s (1964) widely know concept of ‘negative peace’ refers to the absence of war, thus the word ‘negative’. Attempts to uphold peace in situations where conflict has already erupted fall within the realm of negative peace. Thus, a great deal of the effort to re-establish and restore peace in undertaken by diplomacy. Nevertheless, in a nonkilling society diplomacy is also the primary vehicle used to resolve differences because armed conflict is not an option. The use of language in diplomatic talks is paramount to sustaining a nonkilling paradigm. Gomes de Matos (2001) has created a very thorough list of principles for diplomatic communication to be carried out ‘constructively.’ Some highlights include:

  • Avoidance of dehumanizing language
  • Investment in handling differences constructively
  • Emphasis on language with a potential for peace rather that language employed with a strategic agenda
  • Focus on agreement rather than on polemics
  • Avoidance of pompous language used to separate and hide

Gomes de Matos (2001) also speaks of the importance of upholding the ideals of diplomacy to the utmost degree and believing in diplomats and other representatives in their ability to pursue these ideals under a positive light. We would add that in a nonkilling society efforts need to be undertaken and investments made in research and education so that we can increasingly understand which features of languages make them more apt to generating peace in diplomatic talks. As Gomes de Matos (2001) similarly points out, our efforts should not be to take advantage of language to ‘win’ peace talks but rather to arrive at the kind of understanding which will lead to longer lasting peace.

Focus on building strong social institutions: positive peace[edit]

Galtung’s (1964) other form of peace, “positive peace,” that is, can also be framed in terms of language use. Positive peace refers to the building of strong social institutions which obliterates the need for war in the first place. As pointed out elsewhere (Friedrich, 2007b), language, as a uniquely human institution, can largely contribute to this effort because if individuals see their linguistic rights respected, they will be less likely to engage in violent conflict. Amongst the necessary steps to building a strong language institution, we can highlight efforts to offer sound, peace-promoting education with a curriculum which emphasizes rights and duties, moral values and ethic, and sound linguistic skills. Complementary, a well-building linguistic structure also relies on access to resources, information and opportunities by speakers of different languages and by users of various dialects. In a nonkilling society, individuals are encouraged to use their language-related skills for the development of society as a whole and for the upholding of human dignity.

Peace educators, peace psychologists, peace linguists and all those concerned with the nonkilling education of language users are urged to exercise their right to be communicatively creative for peaceful purposes and, in such spirit, to add, adapt, expand, refine, and probe the practices found most relevant to specific socio-cultural contexts. The overall goal should be to make learners aware of the open-ended practical activities aimed at enhancing one’s nonkilling communicative potentialities. Group discussion of results achieved is desirable since communicating is above all an act of sharing. Examples of educational activities which could help fulfill this goal are:


Practice 1. Answering the question “When do we kill a person linguistically?” by adding verbs or verb phrases to the list in the suggested answers.

Answer: When we antagonize, coerce, desecrate, frighten with threats of harm, intimidate violently, oppress, provoke in a violent way, exclude from our network…

Practice 2. Answering the question “How can we humanize a person linguistically?” by adding verbs, phrases or sentences to the list of suggested answers.

Answer: When we refer to him or her in admiring respectful ways. For instance, when we call the person a peacebuilder, an expert, a connoisseur, a creative genius, a luminary, a mentor, a patriot, a prodigy, a role model, a trendsetter, a virtuoso, a visionary, a prophet…

Practice 3. Creating nonkilling proverbs (adding to the challenge and the fun by using alliterations. Rhyme, etc).

Examples: Wicked words wound the world/ Nonkilling words nourish nonviolence

Practice 4. Creating constructive acronyms.

Example: Challenge yourself to add other letters:

AAA = Activate life-Affirming assertions MMM=Monitor manipulative messages ( in the media) TTT = Transform tension into tranquility VVV =Value a vital vocabulary

Practice 5. Creating a poem celebrating the power of nonkilling communication or celebrating the vision of a nonkilling “planetary patriot,” such as Mahatma Ghandi or Johan Galtung.

Practice 6. Creating some entries for a dictionary of encouragement and praise, so conspicuously absent in the literature (there are Dictionaries of Insults even in Portuguese…) or a dictionary of (name of language) for nonkilling purposes.

Practice 7. Paraphrasing inspiring statements by Glenn Paige in his seminal book.

Practice 8. Adapting famous quotations to a nonkilling perspective.

For example: Confucius’ statement “ Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men” could become “ Only by knowing the nonkilling power of words it is possible to humanize human beings communicatively”

Another example: “Beauty is eternally gazing at itself in a mirror” Kahlil Gilbran,The Prophet. On Beauty(1923) could become “A nonkilling society is Humankind swimming in a Sea of Serenity.”

Practice 9. Listing more reasons for not killing, besides those mentioned by Glenn Paige.

Practice 10. Creating practical, transforming communicative alternatives.

Examples: Turning an intended threat into a thought-provoking text Turning an intended intimidation into an invitation.

In these two examples, the belief in loving one’s linguistic neighbor is challengingly applied.

Practice 11. Composing a poem on “Why more nonviolent people are needed.”

Practice 12. Completing a Nonkilling paradigmatic set with nouns in –ATION.

Example: NONKILLING is (a) moral obligation, spiritual elevation, humanizing conscientization, Global salvation, life-affirming education, planetary cooperation, vital preservation, etc.

Practice 13. Engaging your students in this creatively humanizing activity of building a repertoire of actions to avoid ,with the use of NON+NOUN words in an alphabetically arranged paradigm (for a complete list, see appendix):

NONaggression, nonanimosity, nonantagonism, nonattack(ing),... NONbelligerance, nonbrutality, nonbombing, nonbombarding, NONconspiracy, nonconcealment,...



When will educational systems all over the world include the systematic learning of NONkilling language in their language programs? How can PEACE educators, psychologists, linguists and other peacebuilding humanizers get together and help design NONKILLING LANGUAGE Programs for use in schools at all levels? Herein lies a formidable educational universal challenge. Besides learning to systematize one’s NONkilling vocabulary, every planetary citizen could be educated in a Critical NONkilling Linguistics framework, or in other words, learning to question KILLING uses of language(s). In such spirit, human beings would learn not to KILL their “linguistic neighbors” communicatively, by avoiding violent actions.

If we take the above considerations about education seriously, it becomes clear that a curriculum of non-violence and peace should be the next step to fostering a nonkilling mentality. Such a curriculum should include teachings about communicative aspects of peace, linguistic ecology, peace linguistic terms and language appropriate for peace-fostering action. Crystal (2004) writes about the importance of fostering a curriculum of peace from the early grades. Along side teachings about ecology, he explains, young students can receive education on linguistic ecology, linguistic rights and other language-related topics.

Other scholars have addressed the importance of the classroom as a site for all facets of peace education. Gomes de Matos (2002), reviewed by Rector (2003) explains aspects of his ‘humanizing pedagogy’ which integrates Dell Hymes’s concept of communicative competence (1966) expanded to include communicative peace. He urges the reader to promote language uses which reflect a preoccupation of the linguistic rights of others as well as respect for the participants in communicative acts regardless of their status or of the communication site.

In Friedrich (2007a and 2007), an argument is found for the importance of linguistic peace education in promoting encompassing peace and for the appreciation of the classroom as a prime environment for education about peace (Peace Education), education about linguistic forms which enhance peaceful communication (Peace Linguistics) and education about all things sociolinguistic which impact the ways in which we communicate (Peace Sociolinguistics).

In a nonkilling society, classroom education, as well as life-long education in all of these language-related aspects of peace, is taken very seriously and given a position of relevance and influence alongside other disciplines.

Respect for individual linguistic choices[edit]

The matter of linguistic choices has largely become a political one. Whether one chooses to remain monolingual, embrace bilingualism or multilingualism, or primarily use a language other than their native tongue has social implications. Furthermore, these choices are usually framed by critics in terms of group membership rather than individual decisions. The widely debated phenomenon of linguistic imperialism (Phillison, 1992) is an example of how choices are made into political entities. Phillipson argues that the global use of English is a result of linguistic imperialism and that people in the “periphery” (countries were English is acquired as second or foreign language) are victims of the imperialistic moves by countries such as the US and England. However, what theories of imperialism fail to recognize (among the many other elements brought forth by non-supporters of this view) is that whether or not to use English or another language is ultimately a matter of personal choice and that individuals in the so-called periphery make these choices conscientiously based on weighing the benefits and drawbacks of using a given language (regardless of the original intentions of leaders in the alleged imperialistic countries).

In a nonkilling society, these choices are easier to make because language use is not seen as part of an ‘either or’ paradigm in which languages are disseminated (rather than spread) for purposes of domination. Since human beings have an infinite capacity for language acquisition, if we could remove the fear that language could be used as a weapon of domination and subjugation, then individuals would be free to make these choices based on functional needs and personal interests. In that kind of society, we would also be able to abandon all metaphorical references to killing vis-à-vis languages of wider communication (e.g. “killer languages”, as used by Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000 to refer to English and other dominant languages), and we would focus on a language’s capacity to bring people together instead while maintaining diversity and a healthy ecosystem of languages.

Respect for language change[edit]

Languages go through a natural process of birth, change and death. Many times the “death” of a language actually means that it changed so much that it gave birth to new varieties which in time became so independent (and ultimately partially or totally unintelligible) that they originate new languages. Geopolitical phenomena also contribute to such a development because these new languages, by virtue of being embedded in different societies with different state-ruling and outside influences, continue the process of differentiation and modification. That was the case, for example, of Latin and such languages as Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and Romanian. So languages die because their functional uses have ceased, no new native speakers exist and, as a consequence, these languages have stopped changing. That is how important language change is.

Language change will occur whether we like it or not. Language death is also a natural phenomenon and part of a cycle of change. In a nonkilling society, however, the process of language death is not accelerated unnaturally because linguistic decisions are forced upon language users, not is language change arbitrarily stops in the name of language purism. In a nonkilling society, there is no policy impeding users to employ a given language and no violent and unnatural attempts to impact the ecosystem of languages. Legislation exists to protect individual linguistic choice but not to forbid it.

On the other hand, in a nonkilling society individuals are not punished for engaging in linguistic change processes. Change is not seen as corruption, impurity, or error. It is seen as a natural process of linguistic evolution, one which is brought about by social transformation and/or one which aims at transforming society as well.

Respect for language teachers, language learners, and users with special language needs[edit]

Language learning environments are not immune to some of the problems which plague other spheres of our society. In fact, in many cultures, learning settings suffer from a lack of resources and conditions because education has yet to be recognized in real and concrete terms as an important part of the foundation of any society which values human development. As a result, too often we see teachers working form a position of scarcity, with fewer resources than minimally necessary to perform their duties adequately. In other places, while the infrastructure is adequate, educational decisions are made capriciously or in the name of political interests.

In a nonkilling society educators are given a prominent social role because members of such a society recognize that violence is to a great degree a result of ignorance. Once we empower (the term is used in the Freirean sense) individuals to the point that they feel the safety of being in control of their own future (and education can do just that), they can feel less inclined to resort to violence.

In a nonkilling society, we empower language teachers, and in fact all teachers by offering them a safe, clean and appropriate environment where to work. We compensate them with fair wages for the important service they provide, and we allow them to make pedagogical decisions based on sound knowledge and experience, not on their political impact.

By supporting the work of teachers, we directly affect the lives of students and consequently the whole social structure in which they are embedded. The classroom has been shown to be a perfect site for peace education, peace linguistics education, and for discussing ecological concerns vis-à-vis languages with the students (Crystal, 2004). Any society which places education anywhere but in a prominent position is bound to be faced with ignorance which in turn breeds violence and disrespect for human dignity. On the other hand, any society which values education and places it amongst the strategic elements greatly contributing to social justice and dialogue (also as understood by Freire), is on its way to greater social inclusion and ultimately nonkilling potential. People with language related disabilities (e.g. hearing and speech impairment and impediment, paralysis impacting speech production, aphasia) also have a right to education and communication in a dignified manner. We have the opportunity of providing them with tools, adaptive technology and other forms of support to allow them to express themselves, to claim their rights, and to contribute to their communities. In a nonkilling society the rights of all language users, including those with language-related disabilities are not only acknowledged but also and more importantly observed.

Upholding of a vocabulary of peace rather than one of war[edit]

Because language changes to both reflect social transformation and to affect such transformation, revising our metaphors to express a preoccupation with peace is a necessary step to becoming nonkilling. In that paradigm, as mentioned elsewhere in this chapter, terms such as “killer languages” (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000:46), which is attributed to Singaporean linguist Anne Pakir, are replaced with peace fostering ones. We stop the “fight” for human rights and start the educational process toward upholding such rights. We do not scare social groups into action by denouncing the “war on the middle class” but instead establish a dialogue in which different constituencies in society can pursue social justice. Within that paradigm we also avoid resorting to “scare tactics” or appeals to fear to sell products or change one’s mind. Everywhere, from political campaigns to television commercials, we emphasize the positive rather than the negative. Fear tactics only make us perceive reality as one of danger rather than harmony, and fear only fuels violence. On the other hand, wise linguistic choices can help change our perception and act more sensibly toward one another.

Forging of new “Humanizers”[edit]

Although linguists kept refining their enumeration of aspects of language, one trait was conspicuously absent: the humanizing nature of language use. Thus, in Gomes de Matos (1994) a plea was made for such conceptual gap to be filled, since by merely stating that language is human we do not do justice to its humanizing power. Humanizing has to do with both acknowledging language as a system shared by human beings as well as investing in making language humane. Realistically, such characterization of language would be worded so as to cover both its humanizing and dehumanizing power, after all, linguists such as Bolinger (1980) and Crystal and Crystal (2000) have already expressed that language can unfortunately be employed as a weapon (Gomes de Matos, 2006:159).

Humanizers are persons imbued with the ideals of human rights, justice, and peace and who apply such values in everyday interaction. In such spirit, language users, depending on their humanizing or dehumanizing uses of languages, can be described as Humanizers or Dehumanizers, and of course we need many of the former. While language is a mental marvel for meaning-making used by members of one or more communities in varied sociocultural contexts for humanizing or dehumanizing purposes, the latter dimension seems to have received the most interest by linguists, especially when dealing with detrimental effects of language use. Jay (1999), for example, adopts a neuro-psycho-social approach for developing a theory of speech which can be explanatory of cursing. Of interest to researchers in Nonkilling Linguistics is his section on “Do words wound?” In which he summarizes research on harmful, psychological effects of words on listeners. It seems appropriate for us as humanizers to ask that linguists take further interest in investigating the neurological, psychological and social makings of a theory of language which explains positive uses of language such as praising, comforting, and reassuring. Additionally, we need linguists, psychologists, sociologists and language users in general to employ their time, energy and knowledge in becoming humanizers themselves.

Implications for an Applied Peace Linguistics[edit]

An awareness of or conscientization about the need for a Nonkilling Society not only helps shed light on an equally needed Nonkilling Linguistics but also provides insights on actions to be implemented which can contribute to the rise and development of an Applied Peace Linguistics. Among the implications which could be drawn derived from an initial study of Nonkilling Linguistics, as presented here, five stand out:

  1. Nonkilling Linguistics prioritizes nonkilling, peaceful, humanizing uses of languages at the individual, group, community, national, and international levels.
  2. Nonkilling Linguistics needs to interact with many other fields so as to help build an interdisciplinary approach to Nonkilling communication, in varied types of societies.
  3. The preparation of Nonkilling linguists calls for a keen perception and thorough analysis of both constructive and destructive ways of interacting intra and internationally, in face-to-face or online situations.
  4. Nonkilling Linguistics can also be thought of as a humanizing realization of an Applied Peace Linguistics. As such, it should be able to join other interdisciplinary areas within the ever-growing macro-field of Applied Linguistics. For an overview of the latter, see Kaplan (2002).
  5. A steady, universal increase in the number of killings and homicides –sometimes deplorably labeled “justifiable”) calls for immediate nonkilling actions by all individuals and organizations committed to protecting and preserving human linguistic health and life.

May we close this section with a plea for the systematic application of principles and practices of Nonkilling Linguistics all over the world. May Glenn Paige’s prophetic, transformative wisdom of a Nonkilling Society also influence the work of linguists committed to helping improve the living conditions of human beings as language users at the service of universal, communicative Peace.

Final Remarks[edit]

Our list of elements connecting language and peace or language and nonkilling ideas could go on for a long time. It would come to include the importance of empathy and sensitivity to different rhetorical patterns in cross-cultural communication (e.g. Kaplan, 1966; Hofstede, 1980; Friedrich et al, 2006). It would also describe the need to respect and preserve linguistic artifacts, from books to original manuscripts, so often destroyed for political reasons. What all of the elements above and the many still missing from the list have in common is their central role in making human beings, in their uniqueness as producers of complex linguistic expression, feel included, valued, and reverenced. Respect for human communication and human dignity is paramount to building a nonkilling society and as such should be pursued in all aspects of our lives.

Bibliography and Further Reading[edit]

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. (2001) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Austin, P. K. and Simpson, A. (2008) Introduction. In Peter K. Austin and, Andrew Simpson (eds.) Endangered Languages. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Velarg. Bender, L. (Producer), & Tarantino, Q. (Director). (2003). Kill Bill (vol. I)[Motion picture]. United States: Miramax Films. Bolinger, D. (1980) Language, the loaded weapon: The use and abuse of language today. London and New York: Longman. Brosnan, P., Del Rio, R., Furst, B., Furst, S., St. Clair, B., (Producers), & Shepard, R., (Director). (2005). The Matador [Motion picture]. United States: Stratus Film Co. Crystal, D. (1999) The Penguin Dictionary of Language. London: Penguin, 254-255. Crystal, D. and H. Crystal (2000) Words on Words: Quotations about language and languages. London: Penguin. Crystal, D. (2004) Creating a World of Languages. Introductory Speech presented at the 10th Linguapax Congress, Barcelona. In FIPLV (International Federation of Language Teacher Associations), World News 61, December 2004, 22-35. (Contribution to Linguapax conference on Diversity, Sustainability and Peace, Barcelona, 20-23 May, 2004. Dobbs, L. (2006) War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back. Viking Adult. Elvin, W., Grisham, J., Lowry, H., Milchan, A., Nathanson, M. G., (Producers), Shumacher, J. (Director). (1996). A Time to Kill [Motion picture]. United States: Regency Enterprises. Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum. Fought, C. (2002) California students’ perceptions of, you know, regions and dialects? In Daniel Long and Dennis Preston (eds.) Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology. Volume II. John Benjamins. PA: Philadelphia Friedrich, P.; Mesquita, L.; Hatum, A. (2006) The Meaning of Difference: Cultural and Managerial Homogeneity Stereotypes of Latin America. Management Research, 4(1), 53-71. Friedrich, P. (2007a) English for Peace: toward a framework of Peace Sociolinguistics. World Englishes, 26(1):72-83. Friedrich, Patricia (2007b) Language, Negotiation and Peace: the use of English in conflict resolution. London: Continuum Books. Galtung, J. (1964) A structural theory of aggression. Journal of Peace Research, 1(2) 95-119. Glazier, S. (1997) Word Menu. New York: Random House, pp.634-638. Gomes de Matos, F. (1976) Linguistica aplicada ao ensino de inglês. São Paulo: McGraw-Hill do Brasil. Gomes de Matos, F. (1994) A thesis 20 years on: The theory-praxis of the rights of language learners, in Leila Barbara and Mike Scott (eds.) Reflections on Language Learning. In honour of Antonieta Celani. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Gomes de Matos, F. (1996). Pedagogia da Positividade: comunicação construtiva em Português. Recife: Editora da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco. Gomes de Matos, F. (2001). Applying the Pedagogy of Positiveness to Diplomatic Communication. In Jovan Kurbalija and Hannah Slavik(Eds.) Language and Diplomacy. Msida, Malta: DiploProjects. Gomes de Matos, F. (2002) Comunicar para o bem: rumo à paz comunicativa. São Paulo. Editora Ave-Maria, 2002. Gomes de Matos, F. (2005) Using peaceful language. In EOLSS online Encyclopedia of Life-Support Systems. Paris: UNESCO Gomes de Matos, F. (2006) Language, Peace, and Conflict Resolution. In Morton Deutsch; Peter, T. Coleman and Eric C.Marcus (eds). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Gomes de Matos, F. (2008) Learning to communicate peacefully. In Monisha Bajaj(ed.) Online Encyclopedia of Peace Education. http://www.tc.edu/centers/epe/ last accessed on Dec. 19, 2008. Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (2005 ed.) Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Fifteenth edition, Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/. Hofstede, G. (1980) Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-related Values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Hymes, D. (1966) Two types of linguistic relativity (with examples from Amerindian ethnography). In William Bright (ed.) Sociolinguistics: 131-156. The Hague: Mouton. Jay, T. (1999) Why we curse: a neuro-psycho-social theory of speech. Philadelphia and Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co. Kaplan, R. (1966) Cultural thought patterns in intercultural education. Language Learning, 16(1): 1-20. Kaplan, R.B. (2002) (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Oxford University Press. Krauss, M. (1992) The world’s languages in crisis. Language, 68, 6-10. Maffi, L. (2001) On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. Maltin, L. (2008) 2009 Movie Guide. New York: Signet, Penguin Group. Paige, G. (2005) Nonkilling Global Political Science, Xlibris: Philadelphia. Phillipson, R. (1992) Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary of the English Language (1995). New York: Random House, p.891. Rector, M. (2003) Review of Frascisco Gomes de Matos, Comunicar para o Bem: rumo à paz comunicativa. São Paulo: Editora Ave Maria, 2002 in Hispania, Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, 86(3) pp. 529-531. Saunders, H. H. 1999. A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts. 1st ed. New York: St. Martin's Press. Scanlon, C. and Singh, M. (2006) Theorizing the decline of linguistic diversity. International Journal of the Sociology of language, 182, 1-24. Smith, Rhona K.M. (2000) Preserving Linguistic Heritage: A Study of Scots Gaelic. International Journal of Minority and Group Rights, 7(3): 173-187. Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2000). Linguistic Genocide in Education - or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights? Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum. Second edition, 2008, Longman Orient. When nobody understands (2008, Oct 23) The Economist. Wurm, S. (2001) Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing. UNESCO.

Appendix[edit]

Here is the full list of terms positivized by the prefix NON. We invite you to add your own contribution to the list.


NONaggression, nonanimosity,nonantagonism,nonattack(ing), nonatrocity...

NONbelligerance,nonbrutality,nonbombing,nonbombarding,

NONconspiracy,noncealment,...

NONdestruction,nondevastation,nondiscrimination,nondivisiveness,nondomination,

NONexploitation,nonexplosion,nonextermination,nonescalation,...

NONfrightening, nonfear,...

NONgore,...

NONharassment,nonhatred,nonhumiliation,...

NONintimidation,noninvasion,nonintervension...

NONjeopardy,nonjeer,...

NONKILLING,..

NONlethality,...

NONmurdering,...

NONnegativity,nonnegativism,...

NONoffending,nonoppression,...

NONpersecution,...

NONquarreling,...

NONretaliation

NONslandering,nonslaughter,...

NONterror(ism),nontorture,nonthreat(ing),..

NONusurpation,...

NONVIOLENCE,nonvillainy,nonvillification,nonvengeance,...

NONwar,nonwarmaking,nonwickedness,

NONxenophobia,...

NONzealotry,...