Shifting terminology and confusing representations: An examination of intellectual disability terminology in Dutch newspapers from 1950 to 2020

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In order to gain a better understanding of the debates surrounding language preferences, the shifts in intellectual disability terminology in Dutch newspapers were analysed. Using quantitative and qualitative content analysis, this study examined newspaper articles between 1950 and 2020. The results indicated shifts in intellectual disability terminology in newspapers in the direction of organisations of people with disabilities, scholars’, and the government’s preferred terminology. The use of outmoded terms such as “feebleminded” and “mongol” decreased. However, newspapers continued to use outdated and pejorative terminology and traditional narratives. Intellectual disability terminology, particularly the terms “idiot” and “backward,” is frequently employed in non-disability-related contexts to emphasise negative viewpoints. Consequently, newspaper readers are confronted with a confusing array of terms associated with disparate representations of people with intellectual disabilities, ranging from antiquated and negative to positive and inclusive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages21
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2023


  • The Netherlands
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Language
  • Terminology
  • Disability Representation
  • Newspapers

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