Um, we’ve been thinking about ‘um’

So, like, we recently published a chapter about, you know, hedge words.

by Jena Barchas-LichtensteinAlexandra D’Arcy
Dec 11, 2020

We -- Knology researcher Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein and ‘like’ expert Alexandra D’Arcy -- have a new chapter out in the International Encyclopedia of Linguistic Anthropology. We guess it’s about hedges.

In gardening, hedges are shrubs used to create boundaries between one property and another -- and in linguistics, hedges are sort of the same thing. They’re basically ways that speakers can communicate that they’re only partially committed to what they’re saying, or try to tone down its negative social impact. Does that make sense?

Well, hedges are socially important. They help us behave, you know, accountably and politely. We guess we could be wrong, but we're pretty sure that they help us calibrate how accurate or true we think a statement is, and they keep us from getting into trouble when we make promises or requests. Popular writing tends to be critical of hedging, encouraging us to do less of it. But these writers often fail to recognize hedges’ important functions -- and the sexist ways these critiques get applied.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

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