Event Title

Empathetic Preference And Criminal Agency: How Syntax Is Altered To Discuss Genocides In Us History Textbooks.

Location

SU 003

Start Date

19-4-2019 9:20 AM

Department

Linguistics

Session

Session 3

Description

This study focuses on how crimes against humanity are discussed within United States history textbooks. Preliminary research indicated that sentence syntax and semantics markedly differed between textbooks sections that presented the Jewish Holocaust, and sections that discussed American slavery. These differences seemingly offered less empathy towards victims of the slave trade. To further pursue these initial findings, several textbooks of varying grade levels and from different publishers, but all published in the 21st century, were analyzed for the syntax used in sentences discussing American slavery and the Jewish Holocaust. Sentences specifically highlighting the atrocities committed against persons during these events were examined. For each textbook analyzed, the index will be reviewed for the key words “Jewish/Jews, Holocaust, slavery/slaves”. All the listed pages will then be reviewed for any sentences referencing genocidal acts; murder, forced servitude, kidnapping, torture. These sentences will then be compiled and analyzed for several key points; the presence of a criminal agent, passive or active structure, agentive verbs without mentioned agents, and the portrayal of victims as experiencers or patients. The prevalence of each of these categories will then be statistically analyzed and compared between textbooks and the two separate genocides. My findings echo the results of my previous research. Primarily the fact that specific sentence structures can be either very rare or very frequent dependent on which genocide is being described by a textbook. I demonstrate that a statistically supported correlation between the syntax utilized and the historical event being discussed exists. My research supports the theory that discussions regarding American slavery utilize sentences without criminal agency far more frequently as opposed to discussions concerning the Jewish Holocaust which rarely utilize these types of sentences. Further research will expand on this finding and support conclusions with more data and statistical analysis. The data gathered from the analyzed textbooks show strong relationships between the syntax used and the historical event being discussed. When the text relates the Holocaust, sentences with criminal agency and victimized patients are frequently utilized. However, when discussing American slavery, a significant percentage of sentences lack this criminal agency that was so prevalent in discussions on the Holocaust. That there are stark syntactic differences between how textbooks relate the Holocaust and how they narrate American slavery (both deeply terrifying events of human history) raises several questions regarding education in the United States. Why would such differences exist and how aware are students of these dissimilarities within their textbooks? The consequences of these variances on the malleable minds of young students could be profound and far-reaching; setting the tone for future interactions within society after graduation. Cycles of hate and misunderstanding could conceivably be nurtured in how students are taught to syntactically refer to different members of society; with empathy or apathy. With the syntactic differences now made evident with my research, future inquiries into this theme should examine the effects of these differences with regards to empathy development and social discourse analysis.

Comments

Lewis Gebhardt is the faculty sponsor for this project.

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Apr 19th, 9:20 AM

Empathetic Preference And Criminal Agency: How Syntax Is Altered To Discuss Genocides In Us History Textbooks.

SU 003

This study focuses on how crimes against humanity are discussed within United States history textbooks. Preliminary research indicated that sentence syntax and semantics markedly differed between textbooks sections that presented the Jewish Holocaust, and sections that discussed American slavery. These differences seemingly offered less empathy towards victims of the slave trade. To further pursue these initial findings, several textbooks of varying grade levels and from different publishers, but all published in the 21st century, were analyzed for the syntax used in sentences discussing American slavery and the Jewish Holocaust. Sentences specifically highlighting the atrocities committed against persons during these events were examined. For each textbook analyzed, the index will be reviewed for the key words “Jewish/Jews, Holocaust, slavery/slaves”. All the listed pages will then be reviewed for any sentences referencing genocidal acts; murder, forced servitude, kidnapping, torture. These sentences will then be compiled and analyzed for several key points; the presence of a criminal agent, passive or active structure, agentive verbs without mentioned agents, and the portrayal of victims as experiencers or patients. The prevalence of each of these categories will then be statistically analyzed and compared between textbooks and the two separate genocides. My findings echo the results of my previous research. Primarily the fact that specific sentence structures can be either very rare or very frequent dependent on which genocide is being described by a textbook. I demonstrate that a statistically supported correlation between the syntax utilized and the historical event being discussed exists. My research supports the theory that discussions regarding American slavery utilize sentences without criminal agency far more frequently as opposed to discussions concerning the Jewish Holocaust which rarely utilize these types of sentences. Further research will expand on this finding and support conclusions with more data and statistical analysis. The data gathered from the analyzed textbooks show strong relationships between the syntax used and the historical event being discussed. When the text relates the Holocaust, sentences with criminal agency and victimized patients are frequently utilized. However, when discussing American slavery, a significant percentage of sentences lack this criminal agency that was so prevalent in discussions on the Holocaust. That there are stark syntactic differences between how textbooks relate the Holocaust and how they narrate American slavery (both deeply terrifying events of human history) raises several questions regarding education in the United States. Why would such differences exist and how aware are students of these dissimilarities within their textbooks? The consequences of these variances on the malleable minds of young students could be profound and far-reaching; setting the tone for future interactions within society after graduation. Cycles of hate and misunderstanding could conceivably be nurtured in how students are taught to syntactically refer to different members of society; with empathy or apathy. With the syntactic differences now made evident with my research, future inquiries into this theme should examine the effects of these differences with regards to empathy development and social discourse analysis.