WHAT WE DO WHEN WE SAY ‘MEISJE’

An essay on the relation between word, action and convention

  • Judith van Lookeren Campagne University College Maastricht

Abstract

This paper provides a philosophical reflection on a very common word in the Dutch language. Referring to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s book Philosophical Investigations, this paper explains how the meaning of every word is based on convention. Moreover, by argu-ing that language is an act, this paper shows how using the word meisje in contemporary Dutch perpetuates the convention on which the meaning of that word has been built. From a contemporary per-spective, this convention seems sexist. Despite the fact that this paper is written from a philosophical perspective, it does make an argument that is important for other academic fields, such as cul-tural studies, gender studies, history, and in fact any discipline that makes use of language: that the language one uses is not neutral. Understanding the conventions words are built upon allows one to gain insight into the historically created dynamics which influence societal and interpersonal relations.
Published
2020-09-29
Section
Articles