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  • Titill er á ensku Gender-Inclusive Language in English
  • Bakkalár
  • Útdráttur er á ensku

    The English language has changed a lot over time and Old English is vastly different from the Modern English written and spoken today. Modern English has lost its grammatical genders with the exception of pronouns and it is considered grammatically correct to use the generic “he” pronoun when it is the sex of the person in question is unknown or unimportant. Feminists have at least since the 60s pointed to gaps and sexist language use in English, and the generic use of “he” has been pointed out to be marginalizing to women and non-binary people. Feminists differ in opinions and approaches on how to achieve a more gender-inclusive language use. These approaches include name-changes, changing the names of job titles, discussing the –ette and –ess endings of words to imply their femininity and a critical approach on how and if you can successfully claim or reclaim words. Furthermore, with increasing knowledge of how rigid the binary category system of man and woman functions in society and how the majority of people have implicit biases towards men and women, even if they actively fight against sexism, it is important to use and understand the words feminine and masculine critically as they are not fixed concept, but vary cross-culturally and change over time. Surveys done on English pronouns show that “they” used as a singular generic pronoun evokes more gender-mixed images than the generic “he” pronoun, and research on the gender-neutral Swedish pronoun “hen” shows that attitudes towards it changing from negative to positive over time and with more exposure. While language change naturally with use and time it remains important to be critical of sexist language use, and be aware that with small conscious changes on how we address each other it might be possible to increase fair gender representation and limit marginalization.

  • 24.1.2017

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