Gender Bias in the English Language

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Several studies have been investigating the differences between men and women's use of the English language. The problem with studies of this kind, according to Romaine (1999), is that the differences are taken for truths and no further investigations are made as to why these differences exist. The differences could be a reflection on gender issues in society, or even the cause of them. There is seemingly little argument against the fact that English is male-biased as a construction. When investigating male bias in the English language, a few factors should be taken into consideration: words that are in themselves discriminating, that women are not as visible in the language as men, the connotations of each word that reflects on gender issues and they way language is used against women in a discriminatory fashion. One of the main issues when dealing with male-bias in English is the resistance to reform rather than acknowledging that there is a bias. In this paper I will explore how the male-bias in English is both a linguistic as well as a social issue, and that both need to be addressed in order to create a more equal language, as well as society. One issue regarding male-bias in English is the resistance towards change. The English language is “constantly changing, constantly being renewed” (Miller and Swift, pp. 4, 1988). Otherwise, the people of today would still be speaking Olde English. Words change in semantic meaning as well as grammar. Such is the case with words such as gentleman and lady. Earlier, the meaning would be similar, a person of a higher class. The word changed in semantic meaning however, during the Victorian era, and instead referred to women of lower class according to Romaine (1... ... middle of paper ... ... in society. It is important not to contribute to stale ideas and use language in a manner that demeans anyone in striving for a more equal society. Works Cited DeFrancis, J. (1994). On Degendering English. Biography, Volume 17, Number 3, 1994, pp. 296-300 (article) University of Hawaii Press DOI: 10.1353/bio.2010.0312. Hamilton, M. C. Masculine bias in the Attribution of Personhood. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15 (1991) 393-402 Printed in the United States of America. Miller, C & Swift, K. (1988) The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing: For writers, editors and speakers. 2nd edition. Harper & Row, New York. Romaine, S. (1999) Communicating Gender. Oxford University Lawrence Erlbaum Associates publishers, Mahwah New Jersey, London. Trudgill, P. (2000) Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society. 4th edition. Penguin books, London.

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