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What does linguistics have to do with social justice?

When you study linguistics at Calvin, you learn that linguistic equity leads to social equity—and you’re in the perfect position to be part of that movement.


  •   Author: Michal Rubingh
  •   Published: October 2, 2019
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Every language bears the image of God

At Calvin, you’ll take a unique look at what it means to seek justice through linguistics. For linguistics major Lyric Floria, that all started in the first linguistics class she took.

“In my first linguistics class, my professor talked about how God values every dialect. That diversity of language is part of being made in the image of God. You can’t just have one dialect of English and say that we are whole.”

Kids who code-switch are masters of language

Lyric has also come to understand that we do value certain ways of speaking over others—in school, work, church, and everyday conversations.

“One common problem is that children raised to speak nontypical English are told in school that they’re using English ‘wrong,’” explains Lyric. “But the truth is that those students are actually more adept with language than their peers because they have to constantly switch between English dialects depending on their audience. They have to write school papers in one dialect and then speak another at home.”

So how would a linguist change the conversation about what a “good student” looks like? As Lyric shared, it all starts with recognizing the value of every language and dialect.

From rule-keeper to influencer

“When people with a shared identity come together, that identity is reflected in their language. A linguist gets to bear witness to that identity in a unique way,” expressed Lyric. “In one of my linguistics classes, we learned how valuable it is to say our names in our own dialect. Valuing someone’s name like this is a simple way to love each other through language.”

Seeing the value of every linguistic background is just the first step. At Calvin, you’ll start to see your role as a linguist a little differently.

“One thing I’ve recognized is that linguistics isn’t about finding the ‘right way’ to speak and write. It’s about understanding and empathizing with people who speak differently,” Lyric noted. “And a linguistics degree empowers me to have a say in the conversation around linguistic equity.”

  •   Author: Michal Rubingh
  •   Published: October 2, 2019

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