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Two examples from Google:

Doris McCarthy exhibit speaks to the artist as lover of life


A scribble that speaks to wild nature of art

Is this use of 'speaks to' new? I seem to have only started to hear it about a year ago, and now I hear it everywhere. Is it American?

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The second example seems awful without the 'the'. "A scribble that speaks to the wild nature of art", is wonderful English, for me at least. – Charlie Aug 6 '10 at 16:13
You're missing definite articles in both of those examples, actually. – Alan Hogue Aug 7 '10 at 20:18

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This post on Language Log is interesting. It suggests that "speak to [some concept]" has been documented since about 400 years ago, though there's some disagreement about how long it's been used in news publishing.

Personally, I think it feels awkward, as though there must be some neater, more established verb we could drop in instead, but I just can't think of one.

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The verb address can often be used for the sense of 'speak to' when it is being used to mean 'evoke / reflect / represent'. – Erik Kowal Jul 10 '14 at 6:37

The Wiktionary mentions 3 usages:

1/ (idiomatic) To give evidence regarding something; to attest for.

2006 Staff of Vault, The College Buzz Book, page 176:

This definitely speaks to the fact that at Georgetown, beginning at the admissions process, you're not a number but a real person.

2/ (idiomatic) To address a particular topic.

1981, McGill journal of education

Education for being speaks to what grows within the person himself

3/ (idiomatic) To resonate with, to strike a chord in.

His music really speaks to me.

All three usages don't seem particularly new.

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This is a good answer, antedating the OP's questioned usage to 1981, but your links are all to Wiktionary, not Wikipedia. – nohat Aug 6 '10 at 15:16
@nohat: thank you. Fixed. – VonC Aug 6 '10 at 15:17

protected by Andrew Leach Sep 28 at 15:00

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