quinta-feira, 30 de junho de 2011

Sexism in the English Language

by Shaneka Green Created

Is English sexist? There is no denying it; English is one of the world's most spoken languages. Sociolinguist researches, over the years have shown though that our precious language favors the masculine gender as opposed to the feminine.

Peter Trudgill and Labov, two of the world's most renowned sociolinguists have both concluded, from researches done, that women tend to use more of the standard variety of a language as opposed to men who gravitate to the vernacular form of the same language. You and I would probably conclude that this proves that from their results women seem to be the more intelligent of the two species, but of course there's no such luck. Trudgill and Labov decided to put their own explanations for these results, which favored the stronger sex. When I say stronger, however, I mean physical strength, because although society has chosen our roles for us according to our gender, it is undeniable that women are stronger emotionally. Well, what Trudgill concluded was that because society view women at a lower social status versus men they tend to use language to help them acquire improved status.

Throughout all this, sociolinguists aimed to prove whether or not English is a sexist language. While this may surprise some, others may not be, but results showed that there is evidence that English is indeed sexist.

Sit and think about it for a few minutes. Think about the generic use of he'. He' is used to refer to both males and females when they are being referred to as a collective group and to feminists it is a form that marginalizes women and treat them as abnormal. Take for instance the word man is used to refer to mankind on a whole. So in other words, when the word he' is used women tend to exclude themselves from the conversation, therefore rendering them invisible.

In English speaking countries one can also see that there are far more negative terms for women than there are for men. The semantics of English is also used against women as the metaphors available to describe women are derogatory compared to those that describe men. The use of animal imagery is just one example where the images of women are less positive from that of men. For example a man is a tiger while a woman is a chick (en). Sexism is also said to be engraved in the morphology of the language. The base structure of nouns in English always seems to be the male form. The female form is always a derivative of the male form. Take for example lion the female form is lioness, prince-princess, actor-actress and the list goes on.

Many of us have never really taken the time to think about the effects of the language we use. How it can affect us or our position within society. Think about it for a minute and see if we are just succumbing to societal expectations or are we just more intelligent and more eager to promote change. This could be the explanation but the question is; is English sexist?

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