Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Word of the day: subaltern

The word of the day is subaltern:

  1. lower in rank; subordinate: a subaltern employee.
  2. British Military. noting a commissioned officer below the rank of captain.
  3. Logic.
    1. denoting the relation of one proposition to another when the first proposition is implied by the second but the second is not implied by the first.
    2. (in Aristotelian logic) denoting the relation of a particular proposition to a universal proposition having the same subject, predicate, and quality.
    3. of or pertaining to a proposition having either of these relations to another.


  1. a person who has a subordinate position.
  2. British Military. a commissioned officer below the rank of captain.
  3. Logic. a subaltern proposition.

"subordinate," c.1400 (implied in subalternal), from M.Fr. subalterne, from L.L. subalternus, from L. sub "under" + alternus "every other (one), one after the other" (see alternate). The noun meaning "person of inferior rank" is attested from 1605; as the designation of an army officer, from 1690.


"Rejecting anthropology's status as the handmaiden of colonialism, anthropologists refused to 'collaborate' with the powerful, instead vying to represent the interests of indigenous peoples engaged in neocolonial struggles.  In the words of Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, anthropologists would now speak for the 'subaltern.'" 

- Montgomery McFate, "Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of their Curious Relationship", March - April 2005 Military Review

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