Natural language processing (NLP) systems are now ubiquitous. Yet the benefits of these language technologies do not accrue evenly to all users, and they can be harmful; NLP systems reproduce stereotypes, prevent speakers of "non-standard" language varieties from participating fully in public discourse, and reinscribe historical patterns of linguistic stigmatization and discrimination. In this talk, I will draw together literature from sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, education, and more to provide an account of some of the relationships between language and social justice, paying attention to how grounding ourselves in these relationships can help us understand what system behaviors and research practices are harmful, who is harmed, and how. I will argue that orienting ourselves to this literature opens up many directions for thinking about the social implications of NLP systems, and share some of my early thinking on some of these directions.
Su Lin Blodgett is a postdoctoral researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics (FATE) group at Microsoft Research Montréal. She is broadly interested in examining the social implications of NLP technologies, and in using NLP approaches to examine language variation and change (computational sociolinguistics). Previously, she completed her Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was also supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.