The end of dialect fieldwork

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The title and following paragraph of this post are from a genuine, serious, highly experienced, and well-published dialectologist who wishes to remain anonymous (he is quoting from a communication by the Practicum Education Department of USC's Suzanne-Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California):

As we enter 2023, we would like to share a change we are making at the Suzanne-Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to ensure our use of inclusive language and practice.  Specifically, we have decided to remove the term “field” from our curriculum and practice and replace it with “practicum.” This change supports anti-racist social work practice by replacing language that could be considered anti-Black or anti-immigrant in favor of inclusive language. Language can be powerful, and phrases such as “going into the field” or “field work” may have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers that are not benign.

This statement was published in this article:

Notable & Quotable: ‘Field’

‘In solidarity with universities across the nation, our goal is not just to change language but to honor and acknowledge inclusion.’

WSJ (Jan. 12, 2023)

The original source is reproduced here. Remember that it might not be authentic.  Nevertheless, the appearance of this statement in WSJ is fair indication that once again something disconcerting is afoot at USC, as was previously chronicled in Language Log here and here.

 

Selected readings



73 Comments »

  1. M. said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 8:47 am

    Presumably, the baseball terms infield and outfield must also go, as must many, most, or all other uses of the word field (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/field). At what point do reasonable changes stop?

  2. Lydia Williams said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 9:57 am

    Putting aside the rationale for the decision, which at any rate is clearly focused on phrases like "field work" in particular (not just the word "field", as another commenter suggests), this hardly seems newsworthy in the first place. The only thing that strikes me as disconcerting is how the name change of a single department within a single university (in fact, per the coverage of NPR, the *Office* of Practicum Education is not even a department) is being construed as tantamount to "the end of dialect fieldwork".

    Personally I daresay that even in the highly unlikely case that this name change catches on in universities across the world, dialect fieldworkers will continue their work unperturbed by the new moniker. They can even carry on calling themselves fieldworkers, because the USC is not censoring the term "field work", merely replacing it in their own usage (indeed, this is where Victor's comparison to the 那個 case falls flat). But I suppose there are those who see "slippery slopes" everywhere they go.

  3. Mark P said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 10:08 am

    It may be a flash in the pan, but sometimes this sort of thing makes its assumption true, even if it was not true in the beginning.

  4. Jenny Chu said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 10:51 am

    Since this is Language Log and not Politics Log … are there other languages where "fieldwork" or "to study a certain field" could be taken as having associations with agricultural labor by enslaved people? If so, will this move extend to those languages when they are used at USC?

  5. David Marjanović said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 11:06 am

    In German we've been calling practical courses (as well as internships outside academia!) Praktikum for a long time. "Going into the field" would strongly suggest the field of battle in German…

    The headline is misleading. I thought the practice of fieldwork is going to end. Turns out there's just an attempt to rename it.

  6. Scott P. said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 11:41 am

    In archaeology, fieldwork means going out and studying/surveying/excavating/documenting new materials, often in actual agricultural fields (since those areas often will have been exploited in the past).

  7. Seth said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 12:17 pm

    Linguistically, it seems to me this is all about cultural taboos and associated social practice. Of course it's well-studied topic in general, but I wonder if people know of serious analysis applied to the last few years in specific. There's two issues (not to assume moral equivalence) of a taboo here:

    1) Why does this person at USC think this is a good idea?

    2) Why is there a national media freakout over an obscure person thinking it's a good idea?

  8. Jim Breen said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 2:04 pm

    The word "field" is polysemous. I wonder if the physicists at USC will be relabeling magnetic fields?

  9. Chester Draws said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 2:12 pm

    But I suppose there are those who see "slippery slopes" everywhere they go.

    If this was the first instance of such preciousness you might have a point, but we are clearly well down the slope now and accelerating.

    In any case, slippery slopes are everywhere.

    When it was "three weeks to flatten the curve" that was actually the start of quite a prolonged slope. Whether lockdowns were warranted or not, those who said it would not end there were 100% correct.

    My country is about to ban tobacco products. Those who cried "slippery slope" at the first introduction of smoking bans were 100% correct.

    The "slippery slope fallacy" is itself a fallacy.

  10. Anthony said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 2:26 pm

    I hope the term "field" as used in algebra is above suspicion.

  11. Ben said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 2:52 pm

    "Practicum" is frequently used in universities to refer to an experience meant to replicate real work post-graduation, but that is completed for credit. That seems quite different to how linguists and other social scientists use "fieldwork." Fieldwork is something that is not done in a lab, or in an office, but in normal society with no artificial set-up. Whether or not the term "fieldwork" ought to be replaced, "practicum" is ill-suited as a replacement.

  12. Olaf Zimmermann said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 4:29 pm

    @David Marjanović:
    Your knowledge of German is found wanting – there's a bit of a difference between Feldforschung and Feldzug. Veuillez-vous débrouiller ailleurs. Wrong blog. Why don't you try twitter?

  13. Chester Draws said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 4:44 pm

    "Practicum" is frequently used in universities to refer to an experience meant to replicate real work post-graduation, but that is completed for credit.

    This was what my classroom placements were called when I did my teaching qualification in NZ.

    Field work was what the Masters and PhD students did. Very different indeed.

  14. David Eickhoff said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 6:10 pm

    @Olaf Zimmermann

    I suppose David Marjanović was referring to “ins Feld ziehen”, which does have the military connotation

  15. Maxwell Martin said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 6:43 pm

    @Olaf Zimmermann.

    Why the verbal aggression?

    You could have made your point without "Your knowledge of German is found wanting […]. Veuillez-vous débrouiller ailleurs. Wrong blog. Why don't you try twitter?"

  16. murawaki said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 6:58 pm

    As a non-native speaker, I don't grasp the connotations 'field' supposedly carries. Adding a speech norm to such a basic word turns language use into a mine field and marginalizes non-native speakers who don't have full-fledged taboo sensors.

  17. Haun said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 7:17 pm

    Who says field work was carried out only by enslaved people and disadvantaged minorities? If you go a few generations back, practically everybody's ancestors were out there working in the dirt. Even if you have a Norman pedigree reaching to the twelfth century, your eleventh-century ancestors plowed, sowed and reaped. Does this person's exquisite sensitivity not disguise a demeaning attitude toward farm work in general?

  18. Chris Barts said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 7:28 pm

    @murawaki,

    As a native speaker, I don't see the harmful connotations, either. "Field" means any place outside of a town or, with a bit of a stretch common to language use, any place outside of campus or even the linguistics department. Thinking it's at all insulting seems like a deliberate misunderstanding in order to find fault, like thinking the astrophysics term "black hole" is racist, which was another manufactroversy some time ago.

  19. Seth said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 8:22 pm

    @murawaki This is far, far, down the "mine field" (pun intended?) of potential taboo violations. It's one obscure department of a school saying they are making a change in their usage, in a specific context. They don't say everyone else has to make this change, or that it applies to the word in all contexts (that's a misleading implication of some versions the media freakout). You're much more likely to run afoul of new norms such as removing use/mention distinction for slurs, or the very convoluted and complex way one is supposed to talk about (human-only?) biological sex. Those have significant social penalties attached to transgressing them in many "educated" groups.

    The massive pile-on reaction to this incident is striking me as far more interesting than the incident itself.

  20. R. Fenwick said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 10:04 pm

    @Chester Draws: The "slippery slope fallacy" is itself a fallacy.

    Without wanting to embark on an endless regression of fallacies, I respectfully suggest that this itself is engaging in a fallacy, a mixture of confirmation bias and post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    This isn't Politics Log, but to address the specific examples you mention: public attitudes against smoking tobacco have been souring for decades in the face of its clear health impacts, and the bans themselves aren't much more than the formalisation of societal abhorrence and the recognition of the public health risk, just as other toxic, noxious, and dangerous substances are banned outright. As for the "flatten the curve" slippery slope, I don't know what country you live in, but one can't help but wonder if it was the US, where ferocious opposition to COVID lockdowns was in place from the very first and from the very highest levels of politics and so were doomed to failure even before they began. Such a situation of course demanded even more stringent measures be introduced further down the line, and of course that'll look like a slippery slope after the fact, but only because people's actions before the fact aggressively set the stage for such a trend. In my Australian home state of Queensland, by contrast, we largely followed the initial couple months of lockdowns and state-level border closures with little complaint; as a result we were back to mostly normal lives within six months, new major lockdowns were few and brief, and our total COVID death toll over the two years from 1 January 2020 to 1 January 2022 was seven people. The subsequent, much higher, death toll is the direct result of the disease being re-imported from other jurisdictions that took less responsible approaches. And even so, with widespread vaccination and continuing personal vigilance, the curve has been successfully flattened and we've not had a single day yet across the entire pandemic where as many as 40 people have died.

    True examples of slippery slopes exist, for sure, but they're not actually very common and it absolutely is all too common to see them where they don't. And as a trans person who's had to deal with more than sporadic episodes accusing LGBTQI+ people of building a slippery slope ending in child abuse, I'm especially disinclined to be sanguine about the idea that there's no such thing as a slippery-slope fallacy.

  21. Michael Watts said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 10:06 pm

    They don't say everyone else has to make this change

    But they do say that everyone else who continues to use the word "field" is a racist:

    This change supports anti-racist social work practice by replacing language that could be considered anti-Black or anti-immigrant in favor of inclusive language.

    —–

    [make this change, ] , or that it applies to the word in all contexts (that's a misleading implication of some versions the media freakout)

    They do say that, actually, by saying that it applies to the word in the context in which it's used in the School of Social Work. The two senses are unrelated; if their use of the word "field" causes any problems at all, every other use of the word, in every context, must cause the same problems or worse.

  22. Seth said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 10:38 pm

    @Michael Watts

    Isn't that a heavy use of the Excluded Middle fallacy? Under your formulation, there would seem to be no way anyone to the "left" of you could say they are doing something themselves for anti-racist reasons, without you deeming that an accusation of racism if you did not do it – i.e. anti-racism must stop at your specific views! Do you grant a problem there, in a world with so many different views? Maybe this explains part of why there's such an outpouring of anger at this so trivial (in my view) bit of posturing.

    They explain why they think there is a relationship in a particular context. But that wouldn't cover "mine field" or "fielding a ball" or anything else like that. That's just a Straw Man fallacy.

  23. Lucas Christopoulos said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 10:57 pm

    Seems like a religious ban to forbid certain words…the Hui people (Huizu 回族) are not allowed to say "pork" (zhu 猪) and replace it with…"black" (Hei 黑) when they talk about it.

    Maybe for a deeper "field" —>Tian 田, Dantian (cinnabar 丹田) or (liandan 煉丹 – liansha 煉砂)

  24. Chester Draws said,

    January 22, 2023 @ 11:25 pm

    I'm unconvinced a thing is not a slippery slope because you personally think the changes over time are warranted. To many kristallnacht was justified, but it was still a start of a slide into terror.

    Once you start restricting liberty, it is far easier to keep on going, and many were adamantly opposed to even the start on that basis. And those people warned that the infringements of liberty would expand mightily right from the start — to the vociferous opposition of others who said they were foolish to worry — so it certainly are not cases of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

  25. Peter Grubtal said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 12:08 am

    I've noticed in the past that English seemed to have no one word equivalent for German "Practicum" or French "stage" and to adopt the German word for this period of training is a sensible move. But as others have noted above, to apply it to fieldwork is a complete misnomer.

    VM did add a warning about the authenticity of this piece, and there's something about it which arouses in me a slight suspicion of a Sokal.

  26. Thomas Rees said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 12:53 am

    Consider the source… the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal has more than a few ideological irons in the culture-war fire

  27. Michael Watts said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 12:55 am

    the Hui people (Huizu 回族) are not allowed to say "pork" (zhu 猪)

    The ordinary word for pork is 肉 [literally "meat"], and the formal word is 猪肉 ["pig meat"]. 猪 cannot mean "pork"; it means "pig".

    @Michael Watts

    Isn't that a heavy use of the Excluded Middle fallacy? Under your formulation, there would seem to be no way anyone to the "left" of you could say they are doing something themselves for anti-racist reasons, without you deeming that an accusation of racism if you did not do it

    No, there's no fallacy there. When someone says "I don't do X, because I am not a racist" that will be taken as — and actually is — an accusation that people who do X are racists. Since this is Language Log, you should be familiar with Grice.

  28. Michael Watts said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 1:02 am

    VM did add a warning about the authenticity of this piece, and there's something about it which arouses in me a slight suspicion of a Sokal.

    This is already known not to be a hoax. You can read the school newspaper's reporting on it here: https://dailytrojan.com/2023/01/11/dworak-peck-language-change-draws-mixed-reaction/

    That article notes that USC justifies this, fairly reasonably, by pointing to several other universities that have already made the same change. They link the much less prestigious CSU Northridge, which makes this official statement on its own website:

    s we continue our anti-racist work combatting anti-Blackness, CSUN's Social Work Department Field Education Program has decided to no longer use the term "field" to refer to internships. "Field" and "fieldwork" connote the antebellum south, where slaves and indigenous people were sent to work for free on behalf of their owners. We recognize and honor the contributions made by Black and indigenous people in building our society and we refuse to be complicit in perpetuating white supremacy. Standing in solidarity with activist Joyce McMillan, we want to be mindful and considerate on how we send social workers into the field to police rather than liberate. We want to stand in conviction by implementing this language shift which will demonstrate our refusal to be complicit in perpetuating colonialism.

    (I'm not linking this one because I assume a comment with two links will be swallowed. But the link appears in the Daily Trojan piece.)

  29. Lucas Christopoulos said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 1:09 am

    @Michael Watts

    yes indeed, Zhurou (猪肉) as in 猪肉白菜水饺

  30. Peter Grubtal said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 1:49 am

    Michael Watts
    l was forgetting for a minute the enormous appetite of many in the social sciences for outsize horse manure.
    And when they themselves come out with :
    "..we want to be mindful and considerate on how we send social workers into the field to police rather than liberate"
    parody becomes superfluous, impossible even.

  31. Erica said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 2:32 am

    There were also house slaves.

    And a slave trade.

    The US' House Committe on Trade may have to change its name twice to keep up.

  32. Keith said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 5:06 am

    Well, well, well, what a surprise.

    First of all, as a native speaker of British English, I want to point out that we have several words corresponding to "Practicum" or "stage": depending on the context it could be "placement", "work experience", "internship" and probably a few others that I can't remember at the moment.

    Secondly, I find it a bit condescending to assume that people are incapable of discerning the difference between enslaved people working in agriculture and social scientists conducting research outside the lab.

    It seems to me that there are far too many people actively seeking out eggshells to walk on.

  33. JJM said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 6:38 am

    "Secondly, I find it a bit condescending to assume that people are incapable of discerning the difference between enslaved people working in agriculture and social scientists conducting research outside the lab.

    It seems to me that there are far too many people actively seeking out eggshells to walk on."

    Yes. Imagine the fate awaiting the hapless USC employee who says: "I'm sorry I couldn't join you for coffee this morning. With all the work I'm doing lately, I'm pretty well chained to my desk these days."

  34. Taylor, Philip said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 7:13 am

    Keith — as a fellow native speaker (may one still say "native" ?!) of British English, I would challenge your assertion that "internship" is in our British lexicon. I am strongly of the belief that this is a very recent adoption from American English, which occurred at around the time that a former American president was accused of an extra-marital relationship with a so-called "intern", and that prior to that point, the word was unknown in British English in that sense. The first British usage which the OED reports is dated 2010 — "Independent 14 Sept. 19/1 (headline) 'MPs should pay us as employees', say Parliament's revolting interns."

  35. Peter Grubtal said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 7:36 am

    Taylor, Philip
    yes, as you say about intern….and as for Keith's other suggestions, they don't (for me) contain the implication that it's about experience in one's field of study.

    But most of my professional experience was not in the UK, and it's possible I'm not up-to-date on this.

  36. Christine Bothmann said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 7:53 am

    Famous last sentences (Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest):
    "Ach, Luise, lass … das ist ein zu weites Feld"
    (Ach, Luise, let it be … that is too wide a field)

  37. Philip Anderson said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 8:03 am

    Internship may be a recent import to the UK (or at least to the City), but it is well-established now. However, I think it’s mainly a role for newly-qualified graduates who need to get practical experience on their CV, rather than a practical component of a course. For that, there are terms like teaching practice or industrial placement.

  38. Seth said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 9:21 am

    @JJM – I've seen documents with elaborate discussions about, for example, when and in what contexts one can use "master" or "slave". Again, it's about taboo.

    @Michael Watts – But do you then truly mean that nobody can promote anything more liberal than you do, without effectively accusing you of being a racist? How can a society function under such a perspective? This seems to me very similar to the idea that atheists are _per se_ insulting believers. As in, if someone merely says they don't believe in any god, obviously then to them, those who believe in any god are deluded. Down that path lies very extreme polarization. What is your solution, as it's utterly unworkable to expect everyone in the whole world to have exactly your values?

  39. ~flow said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 11:27 am

    Since 'campus' also means field, we should find another word for that concept, too, while we're at it. And of course, 'camping'.

  40. Taylor, Philip said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 12:06 pm

    Steady on, old boy — you can't go interfering with a drag artist's inalienable right to camp, don'tcha know ? You'll have the whole of Equity tearing at your throat if you try …

  41. Bloix said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 1:32 pm

    But the supposed fact that "[f]ield' and 'fieldwork' connote the antebellum south, where slaves and indigenous people were sent to work for free on behalf of their owners" is simply false. In the pre-Civil War period, the word "field" was used in reference to agricultural land generally, whether farmed by enslaved people or by free people, and whether in the North or the South. Here's an example in a letter from a rural New Yorker traveling through Ohio (a free state) in 1840 or '41:

    “It was not exactly a sea, but it was a pretty fair lake of corn spread out before me… and as to pumpkins, they were as thick in the fields as stars in the skies.”
    http://www.farmanddairy.com/columns/rusty-iron/columnist-recounts-visit-to-ohio-in-mid-1800s/20030.html

    Anyone with the patience can find as many similar examples as they'd like.

    And here's a metaphorical use from the 1848 platform of the Free Soil Party – a party founded to prevent the extension of slavery into western territories:

    Resolved, That we accept the issue which the Slave power has forced upon us; and to their demand for more Slave States, and more Slave Territory, our calm but final answer is, no more Slave States and no more Slave Territory. Let the soil of our extensive domains be kept free for the hardy pioneers of our own land, and the oppressed and banished of other lands, seeking homes of comfort and fields of enterprise in the new world.
    https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/free-soil-party-platform-1848

    So the whole basis for the prohibition of "field" is based on a falsehood that was imagined by someone who adheres to the maxim, "if I think it, it is true."

  42. Bloix said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 1:56 pm

    PS- there was a similar but more meritorious public debate over the word "plantation," which in the 18th c meant a colonial settlement but in the 19th c did come to mean an agricultural estate worked primarily by enslaved people.

    Recently the issue came to the fore due to the usually ignored formal name of the state of Rhode Island, which from its founding had officially had been "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." The colony resulted from a merger of settlements on the island in Narragansett Bay then known as Rhode Island, and today known as Aquidneck Island, and the mainland settlement then known as Providence Plantations – all founded by religious dissenters from Massachusetts, the last sort of people who would have countenanced slavery.

    Due to the widespread belief that the name came from slave plantations, opposition arose, leading to a successful referendum in 2020 to shorten the state's official name. Although the belief was false, it's true that in our time "plantations" does imply slavery, and in any event there's no benefit to the state to the longer name and no harm in eliminating the confusion it caused.

  43. Taylor, Philip said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 2:08 pm

    With respect, Bloix, « in our time "plantations" does imply slavery » is, as a generalisation, simply false. Indonesia and Malaysia are covered in rubber plantations, none of which are worked by slaves. See https://www.fao.org/3/y0153e/Y0153E05.htm for other countries which also have rubber plantations. Elsewhere can be found sugar plantations, tea plantations, coffee plantations and so on — "plantation", like "field", may, at some point, have carried connotations of forced labour and slavery, but today that would be very much the exception rather than the rule.

  44. Bloix said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 2:46 pm

    Philip Taylor – I should have said that in the United States, the word plantation evokes the antebellum South. I don't doubt that elsewhere it means a large-scale commercial agricultural operation.

  45. David Pattison said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 4:59 pm

    Erica – re: slave trade and the House Committee on Trade –

    There's also the Majority Whip. And the House Oversight Committee. An Oversight Committee is a bunch of overseers, and I see from googling that "overseer" has already run into trouble.

  46. Michael Watts said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 7:58 pm

    But do you then truly mean that nobody can promote anything more liberal than you do, without effectively accusing you of being a racist?

    Of course not, only an idiot would be able to reach that conclusion. If someone goes around saying "we need a 100% marginal income tax above [whatever], because it is evil to be rich", what would the accusation of racism be? That's an accusation of "evil". There are many liberal positions; only some of them are related to racism.

    It's when you go around accusing people of racism that you start making accusations of racism.

  47. Seth said,

    January 23, 2023 @ 8:43 pm

    @Michael Watts

    Please read with charity. I obviously meant "promote anything more liberal than you do WITH REGARD TO RACIAL ISSUES …" rather than the technically valid but not reasonable in context ""promote anything more liberal than you do WITH REGARD TO ANY TOPIC …". Language Log, not Pedant Log. Again, don't you see a problem here? Do you have a way of addressing it, since there are so many people in the world who will have different views than you (e.g. about how to address fighting racism), many more liberal/left?

  48. GH said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 7:12 am

    @Bloix:

    It seems to me that the arguments for why "plantation" has connotations to slavery today render invalid your arguments that "fieldwork" does not. Even if the word was used for all sorts of outside agricultural work, whether by free or enslaved workers, that does not imply that it has not acquired an association with slavery over time—just as "plantation" has.

    My intuition is that there are some contexts where "fieldwork" can have connotations of antebellum slavery, but personally it's not something that would come to mind in a research context, much like discussing "old masters" in an art context would not make me think of slave masters. But of course, such connotations can vary a lot between people, depending on their experiences and what is top of mind for them (and are very sensitive to prompting). Actual, non-anecdotal evidence would require some sort of survey, a quantitative word-association test, or corpus analysis.

  49. Rodger C said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 1:11 pm

    Was the objection to "fieldwork" originally made by "descendants of slavery"? USC's statement doesn't make this clear, but if so, I can certainly understand why it might have an unpleasant ring. It has an antebellum ring to this white (15/16) Southerner.

  50. Shannon said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 2:14 pm

    @Michael Watts
    @Lucas Christopoulos

    Don't mean to derail this conversation back to a previous side topic but on the topic of the Chinese word for meat meaning pork by default, I've heard people with varied opinions here.

    For example, searching online (also from what I've heard others say), many people say that pork is the default meat on Chinese menus but not necessarily that the word for pork is literally the same as that for meat.

    https://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/32612/does-the-word-%E8%82%89-always-mean-pork-unless-preceded-by-another-word-which-means-a

    Is there an easy way to distinguish between X has a wider meaning but in practice, culinarily (or otherwise) the most common or default option is a more limited subset of X, therefore it also means X.

    For example, many English speakers in a country like the US and others would think of chicken eggs as the default "eggs" in a menu, vs. say duck or goose eggs (or for that matter, fish eggs or caviar/roe etc.). But it would it make sense to have one definition of egg as being "chicken egg" specifically because the default American eats chicken eggs most commonly as eggs. Or say, wheat bread being the default bread (as opposed to rye bread, corn bread), but it would still be kind of odd (to my ears, conceptually) to say that bread is a synonym for "wheat bread" in many contexts. Furthermore, even going back to the pork examples, there are many European countries where pork is the default meat, but would one also say that pork and meat are synonymous?

    Is the Chinese word for meat and pork being polysemous comparable to these cases, stronger, weaker in connotation of defaultness than the examples I gave or something different?

  51. Lucas Christopoulos said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 4:15 pm

    @ Shannon
    In French "le cochon" (Zhu 猪) c'est la viande et l'animal… un cochon, du cochon, quel cochon!

  52. Lucas Christopoulos said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 6:14 pm

    In the Swiss countryside we also say "du cochon," but the proper French word for pork is "du porc." It is "bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet" ..as with "du porc," "un porc" (the animal) de la cochonnaille etc. For the Huizu of China they cannot say both the word for the beast (zhu) and the meat (zhurou). All is changed with "black" (Hei). But I remember them to call the "fried chop rice cake" (lǘ dǎ gǔn 驴打滚) in the Niujie street of Beijing also as (lǘda guan er 驴大管).

  53. Michael Watts said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 7:04 pm

    For example, searching online (also from what I've heard others say), many people say that pork is the default meat on Chinese menus but not necessarily that the word for pork is literally the same as that for meat.

    […]

    Is there an easy way to distinguish between X has a wider meaning but in practice, culinarily (or otherwise) the most common or default option is a more limited subset of X, therefore it also means X.

    Well, I think there are a few questions here. I don't have the knowledge of Chinese to answer them definitively in that context.

    So, the questions:

    1. You want to say "pork". What comes out of your mouth? (Or, analogously, out of your brush, phone, or word processor?)

    2. Someone just said 肉. What does that mean?

    3. You just asked someone what 肉 means. How do they respond?

    All of these are sensitive to context. I conjecture that 肉 is an unlikely form to use when you wish to draw a contrast between your feelings on pork and your feelings on mutton. It is also true that "pork" is certainly not the primary meaning of 肉. But it can be simultaneously true that (1) "pork" is not the primary meaning of 肉, and (2) 肉 is the primary way to express the meaning "pork".

    For example, many English speakers in a country like the US and others would think of chicken eggs as the default "eggs" in a menu, vs. say duck or goose eggs (or for that matter, fish eggs or caviar/roe etc.). But [] would it make sense to have one definition of egg as being "chicken egg" specifically because the default American eats chicken eggs most commonly as eggs. Or say, wheat bread being the default bread (as opposed to rye bread, corn bread), but it would still be kind of odd (to my ears, conceptually) to say that bread is a synonym for "wheat bread" in many contexts. Furthermore, even going back to the pork examples, there are many European countries where pork is the default meat, but would one also say that pork and meat are synonymous?

    These are good points. I would make the following observations in a chaotic response:

    1. If a menu says "eggs", that does in fact mean chicken eggs. If the eggs are not chicken eggs, the menu must note that information or it's not using the language properly.

    2. Goose eggs (for example) are close enough to chicken eggs that a customer who ordered "eggs" and received goose eggs would (correctly) feel they had been scammed, but might feel that they didn't quite have grounds to accuse the restaurant of lying.

    3. Fish eggs also fall into the category of "eggs", but they are so remote from the culinary concept of "eggs" that a customer would feel no shame in outragedly demanding what they had ordered, if they had ordered "eggs" and been delivered fish eggs.

    4. If a Chinese student of English asked me what the English word for 鸡蛋 was, I would tell them "eggs" or "egg". I would likely accompany that with some kind of qualification — maybe I would say "we just say 'eggs'" or, more explicitly "for chicken, we just say 'eggs'" or the like — but I wouldn't tell them that the word was "chicken eggs", which is a form that hardly ever occurs in any English context. (I just did some searching for images of commercially packaged eggs – sometimes there are prominent illustrations of chickens, and sometimes not, but the product is always identified as "eggs".)

    5. I think of "bread" a little differently; I agree that bare "bread" means wheat bread by default and that corn bread is excluded as a possibility. But if a restaurant offered "bread" and provided light rye bread, or pumpernickel, or bread made from an exotic grain like spelt, I would feel they were in an unusual but acceptable part of the space indicated by "bread". This contrasts with goose eggs being unacceptable to fulfill an order of "eggs".

    6. In a country where (1) pork is generally referred to as "meat", but (2) there is also a word for "pork", I would not claim that the isolated words "pork" and "meat" were synonymous. But I would be happy to claim, where appropriate, that an instance of "meat" meant "pork" rather than meaning "meat".

    Is the Chinese word for meat and pork being polysemous comparable to these cases, stronger, weaker in connotation of defaultness than the examples I gave or something different?

    Again, my knowledge of the particular details is poor. But I would say that you appear to me to be in the right area, that bare 肉 on a menu is (probably) comparable to "eggs" in that there's really only one thing it can mean, and that bare 肉 in general speech is much weaker in connotation of defaultness than "eggs" is, since people really do sometimes refer to 猪肉. Maybe it's more like "bread", or maybe it's stronger or weaker than that.

  54. David Marjanović said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 8:10 pm

    Yes, I forgot about Feldforschung – what can I say, my field is entirely in English nowadays – and yes, I was thinking of ins Feld ziehen. I confirm that Feldforschung is entirely neutral and unremarkable.

  55. Wells Hansen said,

    January 24, 2023 @ 11:48 pm

    It is interesting that no one seems to have complained about the phrases mentioned. The USC Practicum Education Department appears to have taken a close look at words and phrases that "could be" considered offensive without asking whether in fact they are. This is surely well intentioned, and perhaps quite wise. But it is also interesting.

    The effort seems to be replacement of language that "could be " considered anti-black or anti-immigrant with inclusive language, and the elimination of phrases that "may have" not-benign connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers. The email from the USC Practicum Education Department claims that the name change "aligns with" two documents and a website focused on antiracism in social work. I imagine this alignment is in the broad sense of examining potentially offensive language critically, which is probably salutary.

    Still, the two documents referenced use the world "field work" without apology, and mention no concerns about the term. The Council on Social Work Education "2022 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards" contains a lengthy section (3.3) titled "Educational Policy: Signature Pedagogy—Field Education" in which no mention is made of concern with the terms "field" or "field work". Neither can I find any mention of this concern in the National Association of Social Workers "Undoing Racism through Social Work" (2021), with which the USC Practicum Education Department also claims alignment. The Grand Challenges site does not mention "field work", and this may be intentional.

  56. Shannon said,

    January 25, 2023 @ 6:44 am

    @Michael Watts

    Interesting points! So to use your analogy with my examples of eggs and bread, and how shocking/unexpected vs. ordinary and unsurprising it would be to swap or receive a similar substitute, if someone ordered something with "肉" on a Chinese menu and got chicken, beef etc. not pork would it be only quite suprisingly in a slight or moderate way comparable to the rye-bread-as-substitute-for-wheat-bread example rather than the goose egg replacement for chicken egg?

    Another comparison one can make is European languages and countries where pork is the most common meat. I guess in the US/UK, meat generally is one of either beef, pork, chicken and sometimes lamb/mutton but other examples seen atypical and would receive surprising responses if they were revealed to be the "meat" on the menu.

    But in cases where pork is as close to being the default meat in a western country (let's say off the top of my head, much of Germany, Austria, Poland, maybe some places in the Iberian peninsula), would we say Fleisch is more or less overlapping with Schweinefleisch in the same way as the Chinese case, or what about mięso, carne etc.

    Or is the Chinese case just stronger than any European language in its association of meat with pork (seems like "one meat as default" is by no means restricted to one country, so we would expect vocab to adjust accordingly)?

    I guess I'm not aware of cross-cultural comparisons but it would be interesting to see which places do have or don't have semantic narrowings in this way. Maybe not the same for meat but in many places the local grain/carbohydrate source/starchy meal (e.g. rice, bread) is polysemous for meal in general or sustenance and (economic) livelihood (e.g. daily bread, "man does not live by bread alone", breadbasket/rice bowl). So, perhaps there might be a similar thing for meat (though in many places widespread meat consumption daily no longer being a luxury was likely much later than "traditional" vocabulary, e.g. related to dietary staples)?

  57. Bloix said,

    January 25, 2023 @ 1:53 pm

    Rodger C-

    A little exploration with ngram and google books tells us that at least as early as 1730, the word "fieldwork" was a surveyor's term, see, e.g., Samuel Wyld, "The Practical Surveyor, or The Art of Land-Measuring Made Easy," at 110. It's clear from context that the meaning is the measuring of property lines in fields, and has nothing to do with working those fields as a laborer.

    Later citations from the early 1800s show the word used for various engineering projects involving the measuring and laying out of works on sections of land, including railroads, roads, and the like. These meanings, along with a specific military meaning of defensive earthworks, predominate, although the meaning of agricultural work (by both free and enslaved people) does exist in parallel. Later in the 19th c you begin to see it in contexts such as information-gathering projects undertaken by the Census and the Dept of Commerce, and after that, to investigations by all sorts of scientists and social scientists, from geologists to entomologists to linguists.

    I suspect that the modern science/social science meaning is an extension of the surveyor's term, first expanded to the closely related context of civil engineers who make measurements in literal fields, and then to the work of others who make measurements and gather information in metaphorical fields (that is, at multiple locations away from the office or lab). I think this meaning has little or no connection to the "agricultural work" meaning.

    If you disagree, perhaps you might do a little research and report back to us.

  58. RfP said,

    January 25, 2023 @ 2:29 pm

    And then there's this New York Times article from 2004:

    You don't eat meat? Have some prosciutto!

    A man walks into a bar and asks for a sandwich, no meat. The waiter brings back a bun with ham and cheese. "I said no meat," the man objects. The waiter replies: "That's not meat – that's prosciutto."

    And then, later in the article:

    "It's enough to know that in our local dialect, pigs were once known as 'the animal,"' a title "now reserved for cats or dogs," Tramelli said.

    I'm not sure how directly relevant this is, but it does seem to be in the same ballpark.

  59. RfP said,

    January 25, 2023 @ 2:37 pm

    P.S. I probably should have mentioned that this article is about Italy.

  60. David Morris said,

    January 25, 2023 @ 6:18 pm

    'Fieldwork' is terminologically inaccurate anyway. Most fieldwork doesn't actually take place in fields.

  61. Michael Watts said,

    January 25, 2023 @ 6:33 pm

    Another comparison one can make is European languages and countries where pork is the most common meat. I guess in the US/UK, meat generally is one of either beef, pork, chicken and sometimes lamb/mutton but other examples seen atypical and would receive surprising responses if they were revealed to be the "meat" on the menu.

    But in cases where pork is as close to being the default meat in a western country (let's say off the top of my head, much of Germany, Austria, Poland, maybe some places in the Iberian peninsula), would we say Fleisch is more or less overlapping with Schweinefleisch in the same way as the Chinese case, or what about mięso, carne etc.

    I don't think it really matters how common the meat is. The question is what the word "meat" means when you encounter it, or whether a particular meat can be described as just "meat". Commonness of the meat would be a historical fact explaining how the usage arose, but it wouldn't itself be an element of the usage.

    An American menu would not say "meat". You always have to specify what kind of meat is used, either by including it in the description of the dish ("Each Quarter Pounder with Cheese burger features a 1/4 lb. of 100% fresh beef") or by noting that a dish is prepared with the meat or meat substitute of the customer's choice. (Common in certain restaurants.) If you just describe a dish as containing "meat"†, you're not conveying any information about what kind of meat that is. So far as I understand the situation in China, it is different: when you describe a dish as containing "meat", you are conveying that the meat is pork, and this is commonly done where most of the dish consists of meat. (Which is a contrast with my lengthy footnote.)

    if someone ordered something with "肉" on a Chinese menu and got chicken, beef etc. not pork would it be only [surprising] in a slight or moderate way comparable to the rye-bread-as-substitute-for-wheat-bread example rather than the goose egg replacement for chicken egg?

    I'm not sure how Chinese customers would think about this. I can provide the opening of the Chinese wikipedia article on 红烧肉:

    红烧肉,是指通常以猪肉与酱油为主原料制做而来的一种华人家常食品,也可用其他哺乳动物的肉体来做主原料

    [Hong shao rou, is a kind of ordinary Chinese food that usually uses pork and soy sauce as the primary ingredient(s), [it] can also use the meat of other mammals as the primary ingredient.]

    It seems worth observing that if you feed this into Google Translate, the translation of 红烧肉 comes out as either "braised pork" or "braised pork in brown sauce", leading to the obviously incoherent translation "Braised pork in brown sauce refers to a Chinese home-cooked food that is usually made from pork and soy sauce. It can also be made from the flesh of other mammals." So the encyclopedia article is prepared to acknowledge that if you make 红烧肉 from a sheep, you can still call it 红烧肉, but this appears to be actually done so rarely that automatic translation refuses to admit the possibility that the meat might be anything other than pork.

    † I can see such an example here: https://palermosj.com/dinner-menu/ . This menu refers to "meatballs" without explaining what they're made of — which strikes me as a minor deviation from the norm — and also describes its tortellini and ravioli as being "stuffed with meat", no further elaboration given, which is a major deviation. (One variety appears to be stuffed with both "meat" and "ham"…) Were I eating there, I would not be able to make an assumption about the nature of the "meat" – if I wanted to know, I would need to ask the waiter.

    Looking at that and at the menu of Giorgio's Italian Food also in San Jose, I see that what I might describe as "meat dishes" always identify the meat ("veal piccata" / "delicate pieces of filet mignon" / …), but "processed foods that consist substantially or entirely of meat", when included in a larger dish, are generally not elaborated on ("meatballs" / "italian sausage" / "meat sauce" / "meat stuffed ravioli"). There is less elaboration than I am really comfortable with, but I definitely wouldn't expect "sausage" or "pepperoni" to elaborate further. I would have expected that of the stuffed pasta and I guess I'm not surprised to see meatballs and meat sauce go either way.

  62. Taylor, Philip said,

    January 26, 2023 @ 4:46 am

    Many years ago (too many to count), I went to an Indian butchers on the outsklrts of Birmingham to buy meat in order to make a curry. I was looking for lamb, but when I asked the shop owner what the meat on display was he simply answered "meat". I offered some possibilities (beef, lamb, etc) but he was seemingly unaware of their specific meanings and just went on saying "meat". With neither of us understanding the other's language, I managed to convey how much I wanted and the fact that I wanted it chopped, and went away to make my curry. It turned out to be goat meat, and a follow-up conversation with another Indian gentleman who spoke rather better English revealed that, in that part of Birmingham at least, "meat" meant "goat-meat" to the vast majority of the population originating from the sub-continent. Anything other than goat-meat would be given a more specific name.

    And I have never seen meatballs glossed, anywhere.

  63. Victor Mair said,

    January 26, 2023 @ 8:50 am

    In many parts of China, the default understanding of the expression "dàròu 大肉" ("big meat") is "pork".

  64. David Marjanović said,

    January 26, 2023 @ 12:20 pm

    But in cases where pork is as close to being the default meat in a western country (let's say off the top of my head, much of Germany, Austria, Poland, maybe some places in the Iberian peninsula), would we say Fleisch is more or less overlapping with Schweinefleisch in the same way as the Chinese case, or what about mięso, carne etc.

    In German at least, Fleisch works exactly like meat does in AmEng as explained by Michael Watts. And in Austria, the default for ground (AmEng) | minced (BrEng) meat is 50 : 50 pork and beef.

    A colloquial reduction of Schweinefleisch does exist in Austria, but it goes in the other direction: it's Schweinernes. (That looks like an adjective for "made of", e.g. hölzern "made of wood", but it exists only as a noun.)

  65. Rodger C said,

    January 26, 2023 @ 1:20 pm

    Bloix: My remark was based on experience and oral transmission. That is what the word "fieldwork" immediately suggests to many Southerners, especially but not exclusively Black. This is simply the case. It's an unfortunate association, but real. I don't suggest that the term should be avoided for that reason, but nothing you point out has any relevance to the fact.

    More generally, I intervened in the discussion because it seemed to be wandering off into irrelevancies (like yours) in a way I've seen more than once in this forum, which is dominated by bourgeois white folks with no inherited experience of some important history.

  66. Bloix said,

    January 26, 2023 @ 10:02 pm

    Rodger – so it's an irrelevancy to point out that the word fieldwork when used by social workers has no connection with slavery or even with agriculture. I suppose social workers won't use blackboards anymore (or whiteboards either), and they will no longer wear shirts made of cotton. Goodness, I'm not even sure that they should refer to themselves as workers.

  67. GH said,

    January 27, 2023 @ 3:38 am

    @Bloix:

    Earlier on you pointed out that we cannot determine the present-day meaning and connotations of a term simply by looking at how it was used hundreds of years ago:

    there was a similar but more meritorious public debate over the word "plantation," which in the 18th c meant a colonial settlement […] it's true that in our time "plantations" does imply slavery

    You're right, of course. That would be a variation of the etymological fallacy. And you even recognized that the connotations of a term vary across different groups of people:

    in the United States, the word plantation evokes the antebellum South. I don't doubt that elsewhere it means a large-scale commercial agricultural operation.

    Given those insights, I don't understand why you are unable to apply them to the case of "field work," and see that your arguments, if not entirely irrelevant (if "field work" in its scientific sense had originated as a figure of speech referring to slavery, I don't think there would be much controversy over ditching it), are far short of dispositive.

    Since the term "field work" was used, among other things, for work done by enslaved people (just as "plantation" was used, among other things, for enterprises based on slavery), an initial association could easily develop. This association could then strengthen over time, as negative connotations of this particular sense cause people to increasingly avoid it in other senses, resulting in a process of pejoration. And importantly, this process would not necessarily be universal or homogeneous across all English speakers, but could take place within particular speech communities.

    So the question becomes, has this actually happened? You flatly claim that the term has no such connotations. Rodger C states that in his experience it does. It seems likely to me, then, that it does for some speakers but not others.

  68. Rodger C said,

    January 27, 2023 @ 1:50 pm

    Thank you, GH, that's exactly what I meant to convey. I can only add that this thread seems to have become about whether the term "fieldwork" should be abolished everywhere. For the record, I don't think it should, and I can't tell whether USC's school of social work is really proposing it (I don't think it is), just as I can't tell whether they've actually observed the word to have negative connotations for "descendants of slavery and immigrant workers," though, as I tried to say, I don't find that at all implausible. (In a school of social work, the matter may be more salient than elsewhere.)

  69. Rodger C said,

    January 27, 2023 @ 1:53 pm

    By the way, this reminds me of when linguistic fieldworkers, a good while ago, found themselves (when working with English-speakers) having to replace the word "informer" with "informant," only to land on the euphemism treadmill.

  70. Michael Watts said,

    January 27, 2023 @ 7:53 pm

    And I have never seen meatballs glossed, anywhere.

    It happens. https://vasilisgreekrestaurant.com/menu/ has "keftethakia" (Κεφτεδάκια) with the gloss "Four beef and pork meatballs finished with lemon juice, olive oil, and Greek spices".

  71. Philip Anderson said,

    January 28, 2023 @ 5:57 am

    It should be obvious that some words can have different meanings and associations to different speech communities, even when they speak the same (basic) language. And that one speaker may not be aware of all those. So it’s important to listen, to broaden one’s knowledge, and accept other people’s experience as valid. Maybe a word like fieldwork doesn’t need to be avoided, but clearly defined in context (after all, praktikum must need to be explained).

    For me in the UK, plantation means, chronologically:
    The C17th Plantation of Ulster, when Protestant colonists were “planted” on land confiscated from Catholics. The plantation of Rhodes Island would presumably have had the same meaning of an organised colony on land taken or bought from someone else; so not slave plantations, but not necessarily something to be that proud of either.
    Large crop-growing plantations: sugar in the British Caribbean, coffee, tobacco and cotton elsewhere. Being labour-intensive, they were posited on slave labour (or forced native labour in the original Brazilian rubber plantations).
    The rubber plantations in Malaysia only started after the abolition of slavery, but were generally worked by cheap, imported Chinese workers – exploitation didn’t cease with the abolition of slavery, it just changed form; when the slaves were freed in the South, did they still continue to work on the plantations? They certainly weren’t legally equal to their former masters.
    And most recently the plantation of trees across parts of the UK, often compulsorily-purchased from farmers – this isn’t labour-intensive, but the effect on local communities can still be seen as exploitation.

  72. Peter Taylor said,

    January 28, 2023 @ 3:30 pm

    Shannon wrote:

    But in cases where pork is as close to being the default meat in a western country (let's say off the top of my head, much of Germany, Austria, Poland, maybe some places in the Iberian peninsula), would we say Fleisch is more or less overlapping with Schweinefleisch in the same way as the Chinese case, or what about mięso, carne etc.

    Actually, in Spain carne without elaboration is often taken to mean beef, especially in a restaurant context. I remember back in 2007 eating in a restaurant with a party which included a vegetarian. There wasn't anything acceptable on the menu, so she asked whether they could make something vegetarian because she didn't eat meat, and the waiter's reply was along the lines of the prosciutto reference above: he offered her a ham salad. (For what it's worth, the concept of vegetarianism is somewhat better understood in Spain now).

  73. Philip Anderson said,

    January 29, 2023 @ 5:56 am

    @Philip Taylor
    That’s the same in Brazil, and presumably Portugal. So for my wife ’meat’ means beef. Originally it just meant food, as in “meat and drink”, now it’s more restricted, and restaurants distinguish between poultry and meat.

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