Campus Reform | Michigan State prof says the phrase 'Wuhan virus' is an example of 'linguistic racism'

Michigan State prof says the phrase 'Wuhan virus' is an example of 'linguistic racism'

Michigan State University highlighted linguistics professor Peter De Costa’s work in an interview about “linguistic racism.”

To discuss the concept of linguistic racism, De Costa used the phrase “Wuhan virus” as an example.

Michigan State University recently highlighted linguistics professor Peter De Costa’s study about “linguistic racism.” 

To explain the concept, De Costa cited the phrase “Wuhan virus” as an example.

The university’s official news service, MSU Today, interviewed De Costa following the publication of his study, “Linguistic racism: Its negative effects and why we need to contest it.”

De Costa saidthat “linguistic racism” is “magnified when a speaker is multilingual and shuttles between different languages and language varieties.” He explained that “nationalist and hate-mongering efforts to label the virus as the ‘China virus’ or the ‘Wuhan virus’” are an example of linguistic racism. 

He told MSU Today that the term "Wuhan virus" “fueled xenophobic resentment toward people of Chinese ethnicity across the globe.” He pointed to the attack of a Singaporean Chinese individual in London as evidence.

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“These racist acts can be overt or covert in nature,” he explained to MSU Today. “On an overt level, speakers may be openly mocked by others. On a covert level, they may be told that they are unintelligible because they speak with an accent, for example.”

De Costa said that “comments like, 'Could you please repeat what you said? I don’t understand your thick accent’” can constitute linguistic racism. 

He also explained that speakers of “varieties of a language,” such as “African American Vernacular English,” experience linguistic racism because they utilize a language “undervalued and seen as inferior to dominant, mainstream languages, such as standard English used predominantly by white, affluent members of society.”

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De Costa said that a good starting point for people to determine whether they are guilty of “linguistic racism” would be to “acknowledge the existence of a race-biased monolingual standard ideology that favors white, affluent mainstream speakers.”

Campus Reform reached out to De Costa for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft