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Language and gender.

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Language and gender. Deborah Cameron claims that the English language "insults, excludes and trivialises women". There is evidence of this in the English Language. "In 1553 the grammarian Wilson ruled that man should precede the woman in pairs. Such as: male/female, husband/wife, brother/sister, son/daughter".(1) Wilson thought that it was more natural, and nobody disagreed with him. Joshua Poole (1646) thought it was more natural and 'proper' as men were the worthier sex. This, women may find insulting. Many books which deal with human beings in general, use male nouns such as men, man, and mankind, these all exclude women. he pronoun that follows these nouns is of course 'he'. Women are therefore not linguistically represented. As the American Writer, Julia Stanley, puts it, they occupy 'negative semantic space'.(2) Meaning that nouns referring to women are only used if they really have to be or where men aren't referred to at all. ...read more.


The extent of their identity is one they share with their husbands. Which to some may be seen as degrading the woman. In the workplace women are not always given the same gender free title as their male counterparts: doctor, lawyer, solicitor, constable. The appropriate noun is used, but prefaced by lady or woman. In the same way, women are not given job titles such as waiter or steward. The diminutive -ette or -ess is added. The makes women seem less important. American feminists in the 1960's drew attention to the ways in which the English language both reflects and encourages perceptions of gender. They criticised words which seem to be gender marked such as 'dustman and fireman'. They encouraged the adoption of neutral terms such as 'refuse collector and fire-fighter'.(4) An American survey of textbooks revealed that he/him/his were used five times as often as she/her/hers. ...read more.


Whereas it used to only be used to describe a man as its meaning is: "a decent and responsible guy even your mother would like"(Newman 1994). In Yiddish, mensch actually means 'man' so is naturally a male orientated word. But as it has undergone gender neutralisation it is now accepted as a work to describe women also. Historically, it has been common in English to refer to females with [+male] words if they denote negative characteristics, (e.g. shmuck: literal Yiddish meaning, "penis"; common English meaning, "jerk").(8) The predictions for future changes in this category are for gender neutralisation to apply to other words in which there is no female counterpart meaning. Language however could change even more and there be separate words for men and women (e.g. policeman, police lady) which separate gender fairly. However it would be a lot easier just to use gender free words like police officer which is where we are now. Nowadays due to gender neutralisation and gender free marking, women are included a lot more in the English Language. ...read more.

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