Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

Communication, Media and Theatre Arts

Committee Member

Jack Kay, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Michael Tew, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sam Shen, Ph.D.


Biased language usage is prevalent within every society and within every level of all these societies. While there are many studies that look at the psychological, physical, and symbolic manifestations of biased language, it is unclear as to when this type of behavior is recalled as being derogatory by people. This study conducted in-depth face-to-face interviews of ten individuals in a medium-sized Midwestern city. Questions focused on the age and context in which interviewees recalled twenty-four different situations of exposure to derogatory and marginalizing language usage or behavior. The study suggests that most language is first encountered within the family and school settings between the ages of 4 to 10 years. Within the environmental aspects of the interviews, it was noted that the younger a child is exposed to the derogatory language, the less sustaining influence it had on the interviewees forming a biased opinion later in life. Some of the results had the opposite effect on forming marginalizing behavior, and, because of the negative experiences that occurred while they were younger, allowed the individuals to become more tolerant and accepting adults with a distinct aversion to derogatory behavior, with the majority of the respondents indicating that any type of marginalizing practices as unacceptable.

Included in

Communication Commons