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Some of the most important linguistic changes affecting English since the 1960s have arisen from the way society has come to look differently at the practice and consequences of sexism. There is now a widespread awareness which was lacking a generation ago, of the way in which language covertly displays social attitude towards men and women. The criticism have been mainly directed at the biases built into English vocabulary and grammar which reflect traditional male – oriented views of the world, and which have been interpreted as reinforcing the low status of women in society. All of the main European languages have been affected, but English more than most, because of the early impact of the feminist movement in the U.S.A.
In vocabulary, attention has been focused on the replacement of “make” words with a genetic meaning by neutral items – chairman, for example, becoming chair or chairperson, or salesman becoming sales assistant. In certain cases, such as job descriptions, the use of sexually neutral language has become a legal requirement. There is continuing debate between extremists and moderates as to how far such revisions should go – whether they should affect traditional idioms such as man in street and Neanderthal Man, or apply to parts of words where the male meaning of man is no longer dominant, such as man-handle. The vocabulary of marital status has also been affected – notably in the introduction of MS as a neutral alternative to Miss or Mrs.
In grammar , the focus has been on the lack of sex – neutral singular pronoun in English – a gap which becomes a problem after sex – neutral nouns (such as student) or indefinite pronouns (such as somebody).The difficulty can be seen in the following sentences, where the blanks would traditionally be filled by the pronoun he or his.
If a student loses (….) key, (….) should report the loss to the bursar.
To avoid the male bias, various alternatives have been suggested, but all have their critics. He or she or she or he is sometimes used, but this is often felt to be stylistically awkward. In writing, forms such (s)he can be convenient, but this device does not help with his or him. In informal speech, they is widely spread after such words as anyone, but this usage attracts criticism from those who feel that a plural word should not be made to refer back to a singular one. Many writers therefore choose to recast their sentence structure to avoid the problem, for example by turning the singular noun into a plural (If students lose their key….). A radical solution, so far unsuccessful, is to invent a completely new pronoun to act as a neutral third person.
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(David Crystal. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 1995)
Give the summery of the article. Be sure to name the sexist terms and their neutral equivalents.
See some illustrations of old – fashioned and modern non – sexist languages.
Old –fashioned sexist language Modern non-sexist language
“What does he want?” “What do they want?”
A child needs to feel that he is liked A child needs to feel that he by his friends is liked by friends. Man /mankind are polluting the world. People are /Humanity is /Humankind is
Man is not the only animal that uses tools. Human beings/Humans are
not the only animals……..
This is the largest man – made lake in Europe. This is the largest artificial
lake in Europe.
The teacher must not be late for his classes. Teachers must not be late
for their classes.
A mother should never leave a baby alone in Parents should never leave
the house. babies alone in the
He might hurt himself. house. They might hurt
Male words are almost always put before
female words in common combinations.
men and women; brothers and sisters;
husbands and wives; his and her; him and her
a) Ted and Angela are husband and wife.
b) Angela and Tod are wife and husband.
a) I have three girls and two men working
b) I have three women and two men working
for me. .
a) Mr. Lewis and Miss Masters.
b) Ms. Masters and Mr. Lewis
Say what you think of sexist and non – sexist languages. Which one is your preference?
Render the article in English
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