Kristina Boréus, Dept. of Political Science, Stockholm University,
106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. Phone: +46 8 16 2632. Fax: +46 8 674 74 76. E-mail:
Discursive Exclusion in the Public Sphere:
The importance of categorization
1. Discursive exclusion of groups of people
Groups of people, seen as different, as 'others', get socially excluded, discriminated against, physically attacked, and persecuted. In contemporary societies, the public sphere, with the mass media being of central importance, plays a crucial role for the way people are categorized and evaluated. I will take the sociological concept ``social exclusion'' as my point of departure and call all negative discursive processes, directed against groups of people, 'discursive exclusion' of these groups. Discursive exclusion in this sense can range from the manifestation of mild distaste for a certain group to the most extreme hate propaganda against it. The verbal and symbolic exclusion that might take place in the public sphere is normally connected to discrimination in other areas.
The main purpose of the greater study, of which this paper is a part, is to develop a model of discursive exclusion of groups of people in the public sphere and to analyze the components of such a model and the relation between the components.
The model of discursive exclusion consists of the following components:
(i) Categorization. People are categorized as belonging to certain groups, for instance blacks or heterosexuals. Categorization is expressed by the mentioning of certain groups. Usually a category is given a name, it is lexicalized, by a fixed expression, but it might also be referred to in other ways. In this paper only lexicalized categories are discussed. Different sorts of lexicalization are distinguished: lexicalization by a single noun or by other sorts of set expressions.
(ii) Contempt. The word is meant to cover different shades of a negative attitude towards a group of people, from regarding group members as negligible or worthless, to the strongest aversion. Contempt might be expressed in many different ways. In this paper, a distinction is made between expressions of contempt on what I call the linguistic, the argumentative and the discursive levels.
(iii) Arguing for negative treatment of group members. Examples of this is when harder punishments, deportation from the country, or forced sterilization are argued to be adequate ways of dealing with group members.
According to my definition, discursive exclusion is present in the public sphere when the components (i) and (ii), (i) and (iii), or (i), (ii), and (iii) are simultaneously expressed in regard to the same group. All three components of the model appear in texts of various sorts.1 Their appearance is due to the language used and the attitudes held by those who produce the texts (journalists, authors, politicians and many others). This language-use and these attitudes are connected to attitudes held in society in general. The focus of attention, however, of my study is the textual patterns appearing in the public sphere.
This paper deals with categorization and its relation to the component of contempt. Categorization in itself is a necessary, but not a sufficient, mental and verbal act for discursive exclusion to take place. Are there cognitive-linguistic facts about the categories we form which are of relevance for the other two components of the model of discursive exclusion? Is there something like 'dangerous categorization'? Or can all discursive treatment of categories be explained only by the ideological context, the ideas in a society about certain categories of people? Those are important questions for the overall study. They will be discussed in the light of the findings presented in this paper.
The paper is composed in the following way. In Section 2, I present the corpus that is the basis for the empirical studies meant to shed light on the questions spelled out above. In that section I also explain the types of category chosen for the empirical studies. Section 3 deals with the social importance of categorization and categories. The fourth section poses the questions: what are the aspects of categories that might be of relevance for discursive exclusion of people? In what way are these aspects relevant? Some hypotheses are presented. Section 5 presents the results of an empirical study dealing with the same questions. In the conclusion, section 6, I approach the questions about the importance of categorization for discursive exclusion of groups of people in the light of the results.
2. Corpus and categories
The overall study is a comparative analysis of a text corpus consisting of material from the Swedish public sphere at three points in time: 1932/`33, 1970/`71, and 1994/`95. The entire text corpus consists of news reporting and debate from newspapers, radio and television, propaganda from the general elections held at the three points in time, parliamentary speeches and other materials from the Swedish parliament, and texts from Swedish encyclopedias. The idea is to get samples that show general tendencies in the public sphere at the three points in time.
Nine superordinate categories, based on different (imagined) characteristics of people were chosen. I analyze how these categories and people sorted into them are treated in the public sphere, making in-depth studies of the treatment of a few of them.2 The categories have some traits in common:
(a) They are categories formed in opposition to some standard of `normality'. They are categories of `others'.
(b) People being categorized into the nine superordinate categories have been the victims of more or less cruel exclusion and persecution during the last century, in Europe and elsewhere, continuously or at times.
(c) All the `others' categories are thought of as minority groups in their societies. The category woman, often analyzed as the typical `other', is not studied. A reason for this is that I think the making of women as `others' might follow a different logic from the construction of minority groups as `others'.
Among the superordinate categories are the ones based on the following types of (imagined) facts about people: that they commit crimes, that they are seen to belong, or not belong, to some ethnic or national group in a wide sense, or that they have what is considered to be physical shortcomings, such as handicaps or chronic diseases.
The category, which the material presented in this paper is about, is one that is usually sorted into the third group mentioned above, people considered to have physical shortcomings: the category deaf person. The part of the corpus used for this study is the one consisting of encyclopedias. This type of text is characterized by being matter-of-fact rather than rhetorical and meant to be authoritative and educative. It is experts and scientists in different fields who speak to the public. The encyclopedic corpus consists of two encyclopedias published around the first point in time and three around each of the other two. They are presented in the appendix, together with a list of the entries that make up the part-corpus.3
3. The importance of social categories
By `category' is meant a number of objects that are considered equivalent (Rosch 1978:30). The categories of interest for this study are the ones in which human beings are the members. The social importance of such categorization has been studied by social anthropology and by sociology.
The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes how categorization has been inherent to one of mankind's most disastrous processes of exclusion (Bauman 1993). He considers the order-making and classifying activities to be characteristic and constitutive parts of the modern national state formations. He understands the Holocaust in this context and uses the term `the gardening state'. It formulated the criteria for which inhabitants were to be considered useful plants and which ones weeds to be moved or dispelled of. The gardening metaphors were, according to Bauman, used explicitly and combined with medical metaphors, as in this quote from Konrad Lorenz, the zoologist, in 1940:
There is a certain similarity between the measures which need to be taken when we draw a broad biological analogy between bodies and malignant tumors, on the one hand, and a nation and individuals within it who have become asocial because of their defective constitution, on the other hand... Any attempt at reconstruction using elements which have lost their proper nature and characteristics is doomed to failure. Fortunately, the elimination of such elements is easier for the public health physician and less dangerous for the supra-individual organism, than such an operation by a surgeon would be for the individual organism.4
Categories of people as cultural constructs
It is important not to confuse the activity of categorization with the actual categories that people use. Much of the work referred to by Lakoff (1987) suggests that there are universal cognitive patterns of categorization, one example being the use of basic level categories. This is not to say that the categories that people use are natural or unavoidable. Probably there are concepts that tend to be necessarily universal, because of the shape and function of the human body. But in the social world, few categories are obvious. Both Rosch (1978) and Lakoff (1987) are careful to point out that important parts of the activity of categorization are culturally dependent. At different times and in different places different facts, or what is believed to be facts, are used as the basis for the construction of categories of people. How different (believed) facts about people are picked out and made the basis for categorization at different points in time is exemplified in the empirical study presented below.
Categories are ideologically embedded
Categories are not created out of the blue, but embedded in culture and language. There are other concepts and ideas `around' that help shape the categories. By `idea' I mean a more elaborated understanding of states in the world, such as factual theories about social patterns, or normative visions of what society ought to be like. Examples of such embeddedness will be given in the presentation of the empirical study that follows.
The reshaping of categories
That categories are social constructions means that they, in principle, can be de- or reconstructed. This, however, does not mean that individuals, or societies, have free choices at each point in time: existing categories are more or less deeply rooted in language and thought and they are connected to other concepts and ideas that might be more or less conscious and of central importance to our understanding of ourselves and others. Categories appear as social realities. But even though free choice does not exist, there is the possibility of a conscious influence on the categories through reflection and changes of praxis.
4. The importance of the variations in different aspects of categories
Categories can be classified according to different aspects. The aspects discussed in this section are whether a category is lexicalized; how its sense is related to other categories; its place in taxonomies; whether the category boundaries are clear or fuzzy and the sort of facts in the world considered to be the basis of the category. (The aspects are elaborated on below.) I will concentrate the discussion on the possible connection between these aspects and the second component of the model of discursive exclusion, contempt. In this discussion, `category' refers to the concept, the mental construct, not to category members as existing people. (Or, to put it differently, I am discussing the denotation, not the referents, of the names of categories.)
In broad lines, there are two ways that the varying aspects of categories might be of relevance for the component of contempt. One way is a direct connection between the variations in the aspects of categories and contempt. The possibilities are that what the category is like (its place in taxonomies, whether its boundaries are clear or fuzzy etc.) affects the risk of public contempt for category members emerging; that the existence of public contempt for a category affects its aspects; and that the aspects of the category and the public feelings towards category members mutually affect each other. The other way is by an indirect connection, the stability of a category. High stability means that the category persists for a long time. It also means that the category as such is difficult to challenge or deconstruct. This is of indirect importance for the component of contempt. If a despised category is not very stable, there are two main strategies open for the category members or others who side with them. They might deny the reasons for the category being despised: Blacks are not less intelligent than Whites; immigrants are not abusing the well-fare system. The other main strategy is to challenge the category as such. It can thus be challenged as unimportant, as based on false assumptions, or as arbitrary. It could be stated that it is unimportant as a means of sorting people, a type of criticism that might have been raised against the use of a category given social importance in Sweden a few decades ago: illegitimate child. It might be claimed to be based on false assumptions: women classified as witches did not really have the characteristics, such as supernatural powers, that were used as the basis for the categorization. A category might be criticized as completely arbitrary, which has been a criticism of the category immigrant, the argument being that the group of people being so classified in Sweden do not have more in common then other people living in the country (not even that they have in fact immigrated, see below). In the case of stable categories, only the first strategic option exists, that is, the denial of the reasons stated for a category being despised.
In the rest of section 4, the aspects of categories here referred to as lexicalization, sense-relations, the place in taxonomies, clearness / fuzziness of category boundaries, and the sort of facts considered the basis of categorization, will be discussed one by one. In each case I will, firstly, explain the aspect, then, secondly, discuss the possible connection directly between the variations in the aspects of categories and contempt and, thirdly, discuss the relevance of the aspects for the stability of categories. What is stated here about the relevance of the aspects for the component of contempt in the model of discursive exclusion, and their relevance for stability of categories, should be considered as hypotheses.
A category is usually given a name in language, either by a single noun or by some other sort of more or less fixed expression.
Lexicalization seems to be of direct relevance for public contempt. It seems a necessary condition for this component of discursive exclusion to emerge. At least it is difficult to imagine a campaign in the public sphere against some group that is not named. A category that is not conventionalized enough to have received a name is unlikely to be sorted out for discursive exclusion. When it comes to stability the existence of a set expression in language should help maintaining the stability of a category.
Part of the sense of a word consists of its semantic relations to other words (Lyons 1977:204). Examples of sense-relations are opposition and synonymity. A sense-relation of particular importance in this context is when the category is seen as the negation of another category which expresses some type of normality standard. Thus the category criminal is the negation of law-abiding (citizen). The categories defined by their deviance from the standard are felt to be more significant and therefore often linguistically marked by being fixed in language by a certain noun or expression, while their counter-parts are not. There are murderers, thieves and drunken drivers, but not their counter-part categories of let-livers, respecting-privat-propertyers and sober drivers.
This aspect is hard to handle abstractly. On the one hand, a standard is connected to norms of what is natural and proper. On the other hand, there are admired deviations from the standard as well: there are heroes, beauties, geniuses, and so on. It seems that what is sorted out as being special also tends to be considered as either especially good or especially bad. A negation-of-the-norm category seems to be at risk.
I can see no reason why this sort of category should be either particularly stable or unstable.
The place in taxonomies
A taxonomy is a system by which categories are related to one another by means of class inclusion. Each category within a taxonomy is entirely included within one other category, unless it is the highest level category, but is not exhaustive of that more inclusive category (Rosch 1978:30). The category dove is included in the category bird, which in its turn is included in the category animal. All categories can probably be constructed as both on a level above and a level below some other category in some hierarchy. dove is likely to be thought of as a category on the level below next to bird in most contexts but might be sorted in under main course on a menu. That taxonomies are constructions that vary with the context is an important fact about them. But also important is that there are standard such constructions that we easily think of. A dove would, from my own cultural horizon, mostly be thought of as a type of bird, but sometimes as a main course. A beagle, on the other hand, would be thought of as a sort of dog and never as a main course.
The theory about basic level categories states that categories on one particular level have a special meaning to us. This has been shown in series of experiments (Rosch 1978). The following list is a summary of in what ways basic level categories are said to be special. The list can also be treated as a list of criteria of `basic levelness'. It is based on Lakoff (1987:46), (even though he does not describe it as a list of criteria). I have sorted the criteria into four groups.
Criteria to do with physical action or motor cognition:
(1) The basic level is the highest level at which a person uses similar motor actions for interacting with category members.
Criteria to do with perceptual cognition of category members:
(2) It is the highest level at which category members have similarly perceived overall shapes.
(3) It is the level at which subjects are fastest at identifying category members.
Criteria to do with prototypical and conceptual cognition:
(4) It is the highest level at which a single mental image can reflect the entire category.
(5) It is the level at which most of our knowledge is organized.
Criteria to do with language:
(6) It is the level with the most commonly used labels for category members.
(7) It is the first level named and understood by children.
(8) It is the first level to enter the lexicon of a language.
(9) It is the level with the shortest primary lexemes.
(10) It is the level at which terms are used in neutral contexts. The example given by Lakoff, to which I will return in the discussion, is that the sentence "There's a dog on the porch" can be used in a neutral context, whereas special contexts are needed for "There's a mammal on the porch" or "There's a wire-haired terrier on the porch".
The examples discussed by Rosch (1978) and Lakoff (1987) and the experiments reported by Rosch (1978) deal with concrete and `simple' examples like animals, trees, furniture, and toys. But there is evidence that basic level categories exist for us when it comes to less concrete and more complex concepts as well. Ungerer & Schmid (1996:104-109) also mention events, properties, states, and locations as entities that might be sorted into taxonomies of categories which can include basic level categories. What is dealt with here, however, is a different phenomenon again: categories of people that are to a large extent cultural constructs and much more abstract than the organisms and concrete objects on which most of the research on basic level categories seems to be based. A difference between categories like animal and tree and those found for example in one of the superordinate categories mentioned above, the one based on the fact that people commit crimes, is that the law-breaker category is abstract, while animal and tree are not. The law-breaker category is abstract in that it is constructed according to an abstract phenomenon, i.e. the law. This means that we use our senses in a much more indirect way when we determine whether or not an individual should be included in the law-breaking category than when we judge whether an individual should be included in a category like tree. This difference between concrete categories and the more abstract categories discussed here makes some of the ten criteria based on Lakoff irrelevant. I will return to this question when I discuss the possible basic levelness of the category deaf person and other related categories.
Basic level categories and categories on other taxonomic levels have different meanings for us. This might be of direct relevance for the component of contempt in the model of discursive exclusion. Basic level categories might be connected to emotion. They are learned early in life when emotions are possibly especially strong. They are connected to the categorizer's body in the sense that they represent typical motor actions. You can make mental pictures of members of basic level categories. In short, they seem real and important to us. When the tendency is that the category be despised, negative emotions might be strengthened by the basic levelness. The superordinate categories, on the other hand, do not have a gestalt for us, they evoke no mental pictures, they are learned later in life, and they indicate no bodily dealing with members of the category. Therefore, categorization at the superordinate level can be seen as the most distanced and least emotional level; emotions go with mental images and bodily reactions. It is much more difficult to have emotions towards the members of superordinate categories since they include so many various sorts of things. You would not as readily be scared of criminals, at least not in the same way, as of murderers or rapists.
There is the possibility that basic level categories tend to be more stable than others. This would be for the same reasons that they might be more emotional to us: they are learned early, have mental gestalt for us, are connected to physical action, we know much about them. They seem more real, hence less arbitrary, than categories on other levels.
Clearness / fuzziness of category boundaries
The boundaries of a category can be seen as more or less clear. When they are seen as fuzzy, they might be unclear in different ways: (a) it might be unclear which criteria are the basis for the category; (b) the criteria might be seen as clear but the problem consist in deciding when a criterion does or does not apply, that is, whom to include in the category. Examples of categories based on relatively clear criteria, in my corpus, are some of the claw-breaking categories. A murderer is a person who deliberately caused the death of another person when this killing was not sanctioned (which it could be for example if it was the carrying out of a death penalty). The application of the criteria in a certain case might be unclear: did the action really cause the death of the other?; was that really the intention of the act? etc. There are also categories for which the criteria are genuinely unclear. A prime example in my corpus is the socially very significant category immigrant. A criterion might be that a person has actually immigrated, but this is not a necessary criterion. People born and grown up in Sweden are often called `immigrants', sometimes, but not always, qualified by the expression `second generation'. But having immigrated is not a sufficient criterion either: children adopted from a foreign country are usually not called `immigrants' and even object to being so classified.
The aspect to do with the clearness/fuzziness of category boundaries could be thought to interact with public contempt in the following way. If a category is despised or, even more important, its members being the victims of arguments in favor of negative treatment, there would exist a strong inclination for people counting themselves to the `normal majority' to make the boundaries as clear as possible between `us' and `them'. This would result in a search for clear and obvious criteria for category membership.
The degree of clearness/fuzziness of category boundaries would be important for the issue of stability as well. Clear criteria and easy application of them should tend to make a category stable. If the criteria are clear, but there is a problem with their application, this should be of less importance for the stability of the category, at least as long as it is not felt that the category boundaries are next to arbitrary. If the criteria for category inclusion are unclear in themselves, this should undermine the stability of a category.
The sort of facts considered as the basis of categorization
It is of special importance whether the category is considered to rest on biological facts, facts about people that have to do with their bodies (such as deaf person), or whether it is considered to be based on social conditions (such as homeless person). The borderline between such facts is disputed and ideologically loaded, but at any point in time during the last centuries, some facts have been seen as clearly belonging to one or the other sort.
The direct relevance of this aspect for the component of contempt is difficult to judge. It could be expected that biological categories should evoke less hard feelings since category membership is obviously not chosen and, therefore, one cannot be held responsible for belonging to such a category. Against this expectation stand the well-known traditions of racism and cruel treatment of physically and mentally handicapped people.
When a category is seen to be biologically based it seems to be prima facie more stable than when it is socially based. This is because of the belief that human biology does not change. We know that society does change and that societies are different. Many facts connected to the human body are also open to perception in a way different from social facts. Hence, they seem to us more natural and therefore less obvious as targets of challenge.
The above discussion of the relevance of the aspects of categories is summarized in Table 1. (A blank cell means that no hypothesis about connections was made in the discussion.)
Table 1. Hypotheses about the relevance of some aspects of categories for the component of contempt in the model of discursive exclusion.
Aspect of category
|Direct relevance for the model of discursive exclusion||
Relevance for stability
|Lexicalized||Necessary condition||Helps maintain stability|
|Negation of normality standard||Risk of exclusion|
|Basic level||Might strengthen existing exclusion||Helps maintain stability|
|Superordinate level||Distance kept, less risk of exclusion|
|Clear boundaries||Might be a consequence of exclusion||Helps maintain stability|
|Fuzzy boundaries||Hinders stability|
|Socially based||Might either enhance or temper exclusion|
|Biologically based||Might either enhance or temper exclusion||Helps maintain stability|
The word `deaf' is used in an identical medical meaning as at the two earlier points in time (see for instance NE 1991:235). None of the three encyclopedias give a common meaning that differs from the medical one, that is, the meaning of total lack of hearing is not qualified as being a special medical sense.
The word `hörselskadad' is still used in two meanings. In meaning (1) a difference is made between people who turned deaf or hard of hearing very early in life and those who did so as adults. The same distinction is made between two categories of deaf people (these two categories are logically also categories included in each distinction of `hörselskadad (1)', respectively, but for the sake of simplicity this is not shown in Figure 3). The possible distinction between people who turned hard of hearing early in life and those who did so as adults, which would be included in the category of hörselskadad (2) is not lexicalized.
The category at the highest level is interestingly both like and unlike the category abnormal person in the first period. In the encyclopedias the word is given a dual meaning:
handicap, in its most general meaning, obstacle, load, disadvantage. (&ldots;) Originally, the handicap was almost exclusively seen as a certain defect or disadvantage to do with the characteristics of the individual, like blindness or lameness.7 Today, there are several concepts of handicap. The handicap is now seen as related to the environment and dependent on the demands of the situation: if the milk packages are difficult to open &ldots; some people get "handicapped" thereby — that is, unable to cope with the demands of everyday life because of this obstacle (BBL 1996:406).
All three dictionaries offer this meaning of the word `handikappad' and they all refer to the distinction made by WHO, World Health Organization, between impairment, disability, and handicap, handicap being something that emerges in the relation between society and the individual. But all of them also use the word `handicapped' to refer to people with some sort of impairment:
To the category handicapped people in Sweden are usually counted people with mobility impairments, people who have impaired hearing or are deaf, people with vision impairments, medically handicapped people, psychologically and cognitively handicapped people and, in some contexts, socially handicapped people (SF 1988:99).
Apart from society creeping in as responsible for the creation of the category there is another difference to the category abnormal: heredity is no more a part of the basis for the category. A handicapped person might suffer from an injury obtained at any stage in life.
There are examples of all the adjectives in Figure 3 being used in the noun-like manner with the noun left out. The notion of injury or impairment being part of all the categories, including the two senses of `handikappad', indicates that they are still based on the negation of the concept of a normal body and mind.
The category deaf person stands out as even more basic level-like than before. It can now be sorted into a taxonomy with superordinate and subordinate levels. In the third period, it can be argued that the category deaf person full-fills all the six criteria of basic levelness that were said to be in principle applicable to this sort of category. What was said about its basic level-likeness in the earlier periods still goes. Since sign language is now a recognized means of communication and it would be widely known that deaf people use sign language, sign language would now be part of a mental image of the category (hence creating new possibilities for the game of charades). Whether this category organizes the most knowledge and is learnt first by children are empirical questions. But it seems intuitively very plausible. The word `döv' is now clearly the oldest one: all the others are of much later origin in Swedish.
The categories still seem to have clear boundaries, that is to say there are no uncertainties as to what is the basis for the categorization. They are also still biological. But society is creeping into one of the meanings of `handikappad'. This category is now based on one biological and one social criterion: people so classified have some sort of impairment and society demands tasks they cannot full-fill.
This far, I have out-laid the relevant categories made at the three points in time in the encyclopedic material and described them in accordance with the aspects of categories listed in Table 1. Summarizing, it can be said that all the categories appearing in the encyclopedic corpus at all three points in time are lexicalized in a way seemingly conventionalized; they are in rather obvious ways negations of normality standards; the all have fairly clear boundaries, and, except for one of the categories lexicalized as `handikappad' in the last period, they are based on exclusively biological `facts'. But they do differ when it comes to their places in taxonomies. The category deaf person appears more basic level-like than the others and would therefore, according to the hypotheses of Table 1, be more stable. The superordinate categories, especially at the highest levels, would be expected to to a lesser extent be spoken of with contempt, than would the other categories. Do these expectations bear out in the encyclopedic corpus?
When I now turn to the issues of contempt and stability the material from the three periods will be kept in focus simultaneously.
Do the encyclopedic texts express contempt for the categories or category members? Contempt for a category might be expressed in written texts at what I call the linguistic, the argumentative and the discursive level. At the linguistic level derogative terms could be used for a category, like `wog' or `nigger'. These terms serve the double function of referring to a certain group and showing contempt for it. Terms might also express contempt without being explicitly derogative.
I have found no evidence that, except for `abnorm' and `defekt', any of the terms were, or are, derogative. None of the dictionaries or encyclopedias indicate that they can or could be used that way. What is derogatory is the use of the words `abnorm' and `defekt'. The use of these words does more than give the information that people so classified lack some sort of capacity which the majority of people develop and that this lack of capacity is congenital. `Abnormal' is not the same as `impaired' or even `born with an impairment'. It implies at the very least that something is found wanting when compared to what is normal and natural, not only in the sense of most common.
What might also be seen as offensive to deaf people is the entire construction and naming of the category deaf and dumb. As was stated above, two out of the three encyclopedias from the second period call the term `dövstum' `misleading'. NE (1991:237) and BBL 2000 (1996:251) both call the expression `erroneous' or `inadequate' and an `obsolete word' for a deaf person, the reason given for the inadequacy of the expression that most deaf people do not have any disorder in their organs of speech. (SF 1988 does not have `dövstum' as an entry.)
The use of the words `misleading', `erroneous', and `obsolete' about the word vaguely indicates that these authors found the concept disparaging to deaf people. But the reason given for the terms being `inadequate' or `erroneous' seems beside the point. The authors of the encyclopedias of the first period did not state that the deaf and dumb had failing organs of speech. What they meant by `dumb' was that a deaf child does not develop `normal' speech and remains dumb in the sense of not being capable of speaking orally. A better argument in favor of the judgment of the category being offensive is that the hearing majority is taken as the standard. To use a spoken language is obviously not a very `natural' way of communicating for a person who cannot hear. The `natural' communication is with the help of producing some sort of visible signs. Hence, to use the disability to communicate the way the majority does as one of the building blocks in the categorization is to show disregard for the way a deaf person naturally communicates. Using signs instead of speech is a different way of communicating, neither a lack of the highly valued human capacity to use language, nor an inferior way of communicating. A parallel makes the point clearer. Belonging to a linguistic minority of a country does not mean to have an inferior native language than the majority, just a different one. To use as a part of the definition of such a minority that it lacks in knowledge of the majority language would seem offensive.8
Contempt might also be expressed at the argumentative level. A category could be associated with negatively evaluated characteristics or patterns of behavior that are not parts of the definition of the category. The association could be made by explicit statements. This is what I call expression at the argumentative level. It could also be visible in the form of a pattern in a discourse, contempt expressed at the discursive level: the category could tend to be mentioned in the context of certain negatively valued phenomenon but the association not being made by explicit statements. In the encyclopedic corpus I have identified no expressions of contempt for categories or category members neither on the argumentative level, nor on the discursive level. The texts by all words and expressions containing `deaf' (and having to do with deafness in the sense of interest in this context) in the eight encyclopedias have been studied. The descriptions from all three periods are rather neutral and talks about, among other things, the physical explanation for deafness, the development of certain methods for educating deaf children, organizations of deaf people.
The texts by the entry `abnorm' are very short. Nothing is stated there, apart from the definitions given. By `handikapp' in the third period I find no expressions of contempt either. This and related entries have long texts and there seems to have been conscious efforts made by the authors to fight prejudice against handicapped people.
Thus, the hypothesis that the superordinate categories would run less risk of exclusion does not bear out in this material. Contempt is shown in the first period for the `deaf and dumb' (by the way the category is named and constructed), but also by the very construction of a category of abnormal people, which functions as a superordinate category. Only a more extensive study of the construction and treatment of different categories could tell whether such `offensive' constructions are really more rare at the superordinate levels or if it is the hypothesis that is at fault.
What about stability? High stability was understood as continuity over time in the definition of a category. A sign of low stability was taken to be when a category would disappear or the category boundaries obviously change over time.
There are lots of changes taking place in the categories and the relation between them over time. A comparison of Figure 1, 2, and 3 shows that in the midst of de- and reconstruction of categories, only the category deaf person remains stable. Deaf person is also the most basic level like category in the material. Thus, the hypothesis stating that basic level categories would be particularly stable bears out in this material.
6. Categories and ideology
The results showing that the category deaf person was more stable than other, related, categories, could in principle be explained in two different ways:
(a) It is more basic level-like than the others; hence `linguistic-cognitive' facts about the category is taken to be the explanation.
(b) Ideological pressure has worked to change the other categories, but there has not been the same pressure on the category deaf person; hence ideology is taken to be the explanation.
As a matter of fact, it seems possible to explain the most important aspects of change and stability in the lexical field discussed by the pressure of ideas. Here, I will just sketch some components of such an `ideological explanation'.
The gradual disappearance of the influence of the ideas of eugenics is important. The strong influence of eugenics in several European countries, in North America, and in other parts of the world at the first point in time, the early 1930s, is well known. This part-corpus and the full corpus give evidence on how the eugenic ideas were understood and used in the debate. The following quotation is an illustration from the encyclopedias:
Racial hygiene (Eugenics), the efforts to improve the human race by practical measures. The word is new but the task ancient; prohibitions against marriage to foreign people or lower classes, the putting to death of weak children — in Sparta and elsewhere — , the liberal use of the death penalty on different sorts of degenerated individuals are measures that have been used. (&ldots;) Negative r. still seeks to stop the multiplication of subnormal individuals through the prohibition of marriage for degenerated and sickly people — epileptics, people suffering from syphilis or tuberculosis—, perhaps also through sterilization (see that word). Positive r. wants, helped by the teachings on selection, to multiply the human qualities, which are considered valuable (NF 1932, 492).
In the second period, these ideas are loosing their force but there are still more than traces of them left (see for instance `Arvshygien' LU 1966:443). In the third period, none of the three encyclopedias has `racial hygiene' as an entry, and they deconstruct the concept of human race, quoting scientists who find the concept as such misleading.
The objectives of eugenics actually presuppose a category consisting of the congenitally `abnormal': if the human stock is to be improved there must be some measurement of better and worse; hence the `subnormal' individuals must be a category. Exactly what is to count as abnormality does not follow from this but it seems close at hand that a congenital lack of one of the five human senses, as they are traditionally understood, would be counted that way. When the eugenic ideas gradually came to lack credibility it was to be expected that this category would also disappear or at least come to lose in importance. The existence and gradual disappearance of the category abnormal person is a clear example of how ideas, in this case a complex set of ideas, including both factual notions about biology, race, and humanity and normative ideas, embed and make necessary or redundant a certain category.
The appearance of the `new' group of handicapped/impaired people in the last period is not quite as easily understood. I think it has to do with the official policy of `normalizing' life for people with different sorts of disabilities and the need to plan those policies, as well as with the development of an international discourse on the matter. The organizing activities that took place by people with different sorts of impairments would also have been of importance.
The deconstruction of the category deaf and dumb should probably be understood in the light of changing ideas about handicapped people in general. With emerging ideas of empowerment of suppressed groups questions about from which angle they should be categorized are naturally posed. A definition of a group based on the fact that its members do not behave as the majority (communicate through speech) is bound to be challenged in the light of such ideas. In this context, the struggle over the status of sign language and its eventual gaining of status as an official minority language would also be of importance.
Thereby ideological pressure in the direction of most of the changes of the categories that actually took place has been identified. Was there any such ideological pressure on the category deaf person or was its stability to be expected from the ideological situation?
An argument in favor of the view that there was no such pressure is that the basis for the category is not offensive in the same way as is deaf and dumb. As a matter of fact, the categorization seems necessary in a struggle for equal rights and opportunities. For deaf and non-deaf people to live together on equal terms, parallel education systems, among other things, are required. Equality presupposes recognition of the needs that only some people have and that implies a classification of people. Therefore, the category deaf person could not be deconstructed without serious consequences for people who cannot hear. Consequently, when ideas shift in the direction of a less exclusive discourse this does not create a pressure towards deconstruction of all categories whose members have been the victims of discursive exclusion, as well as of discrimination in other spheres. As a minority, deaf people have probably also striven for an identity as deaf, thereby guarding the category. What ideological pressure might do, however, is to relativize the importance of the category, so that people tend to be sorted into `hearing' and `deaf' people only in particular circumstances. But the category deaf person would not be deconstructed.
This leaves us with a problem: the ideological embededness of the categories seems to provide a good enough explanation for both change and stability in the lexical field under discussion. That is to say, in this case the aspects of the categories discussed do not seem to add to the explanation. This means that the question posed in the beginning of this paper, `Is there dangerous categorization?' cannot be answered with the help only of the reported study. Still, it is hoped that a number of case studies along the same line will create a basis to tackle this and related questions.
Andersson, Erik (1994) Grammatik från grunden Uppsala: Hallgren & Fallgren
Bauman, Zygmunt (1993) Modernity and Ambivalence Cambridge: Polity Press
Förhammar, Staffan (1991) Från tärande till närande Stockholm: Almqvist & Wicksell
Hellquist, Elof (1993) Svensk etymologisk ordbok Malmö: Gleerups
Lakoff, George (1987) Women, fire, and dangerous things Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press
Lyons, John (1977) Semantics: 1 Cambridge etc.: Cambridge University Press
Pärsson, Anita (1997) Dövas utbildning i Sverige 1889-1971 Göteborg: Historiska institutionen, Göteborgs universitet
Rosch, Eleanor (1978) "Principles of Categorization" in Eleanor Rosch and Barbara Lloyd, eds., Cognition and Categorization Hillsdale/N.J., N.Y.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 27-48
Ungerer, Friedrich & Hans-Jörg Schmid (1996) An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics London, New York: Addison Wesley Longman
Period around 1932/'33
Nordisk Familjebok (NF), `Nordic Encyclopedia for the Family', in 23 volumes, published 1923-1937: defekt; dövhet; Dövstumföreningen i Stocholm; dövstumhet; Dövstumlärarnes pensionsanstalt; Dövstummas allmänna sjuk- och begravningskassa; dövstumpräster; dövstumundervisning; lomhördhet; rashygien.
Svensk Uppslagsbok (SU), `The Swedish Encyclopedia', in 30 volumes, published 1929-1937: abnorm; abnormskola; abnormundervisning; defekt; dövhet; dövstumföreningar; dövstumhet; dövstuminstitutionerna; dövstumlitteratur; Dövstumlärarnas pensionsanstalt; dövstumlärarseminarium; Dövstumläraresällskapet; dövstumpräst; dövstumundervisning; lomhördhet; rashygien.
Period around 1970/'71
Lilla uppslagsboken (LU), `The Small Encyclopedia', in ten volumes, published 1966-1969: abnorm; arvshygien; defekt; dövhet; dövstumhet; dövundervisning; handikappad; Hörselfrämjandets riksförbund; hörselskada; hörselvårdsassistent; rasbiologi.
Data, (D), `Facts', in ten volumes, published 1967-1969: abnorm; defekt; dövstumhet; dövundervisning; handikapp; lomhördhet; rashygien.
Focus (F), `Focus', in five volumes, published 1970-1971: abnorm; dövhet; dövundervisning; handikapp; rashygien.
Period around 1994/'95
Stora Focus (SF), `Large Focus', in 17 volumes, published 1987-1990: handikappad; Handikappförbundens centralkommitté; handikappidrott; hörselskada.
Nationalencyklopedin (NE), `The Swedish National Encyclopedia', in 20 volumes, published 1989-1996: döv; dövas teckenspråk; dövhet; dövkonsulent; dövstum; dövundervisning; handikapp; handikappanpassning; handikappersättning; Handikappförbundens Centralkommitté; Handikapphistoriska föreningen; handikapphjälpmedel; Handikappidrott; Handikappinstitutet; handikappolitik; handikappråd; handikapprörelsen; hörselskada; hörselskadad; Hörselskadades Riksförbund; hörselvårdsassistent; hörselvårdskonsulent.
Bra Böckers Lexikon 2000 (BBL), 25 volumes published so far, being published since 1995: dövhet; dövkonsulent; Dövlärarseminariet å Manilla; döv- och hörselundervisning; dövstum; handikapp; handikappidrott; handikapporganisationer; hörselskada; Hörselskadades riksförbund.