Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kitties are people too, you know!

We had an interesting discussion in editing class this morning regarding the use of "who" and "which" when referring to animals. Many people believe that language shapes culture; especially when a language labels nouns as being male or female. The same can be said for choice of pronouns.

If we say, "the four kittens, which had always lived together, went to different homes," the kittens are seen as objects. The argument is that if we treat them as objects in language, our culture will reflect that treatment. Giving animals a personal pronoun will give them more rights and respect in the real world. So, if we say, "the four kittens, who had always lived together, went to different homes," they are treated more like people, and this will be reflected in our culture with a more humane treatment of animals.

What do you think? Does language shape culture?


  1. Interesting! I think language does shape culture although its influence might be overstated by post-modernists. One of my pet peeves is people who know every politically correct term there is and then use this language to soften bigoted viewpoints and disguise them as well-intended opinions, i.e. "I have lots of Asian-American friends, but I have to say, Chinese people are the worst drivers." In situations like these language doesn't actually shape the viewpoint--it just makes people more cautious in how they phrase their opinions.

  2. One word: LOLCAT.

    As long as those little gems are around, cats have no hope of being taken seriously.


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