ERIC Number: ED240454
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-Oct-28
Reference Count: 0
Our Perception of Woman as Determined by Language.
Recognition of gender as a significant factor in the social parameters of language is a very recent phenomonon. The external aspects of language as they relate to sexism have social and political ramifications. Using Peirce's definition of sign, which encompasses the representation, the object, and its interpretation, sexually stereotypic language can be assessed. On the first iconic/metaphorical level, substituting "woman" (object) with various other terms, e.g., chick, girl, doll, fox (representation), characterizes woman as irresponsible, childish, small, useless, and deceitful. On the second level of indexical sign, the language patterns of females, which tend to avoid swearing and rough language, have also helped to foster women's societal position as secondary to men. Legislation in this area, which makes it a criminal offense to talk in a vulgar or obscene manner in the presence of women, actually furthers subjugation by equating women with children. Differences in male and female adjective selection, females' use of a question intonation in assertive utterances, modal constructions signaling doubtfulness or uncertainty are all examples of sex-related language patterns. Peirce's model allows us to be aware of relationships and underlying themes within such speech habits which, thus, cannot be easily dismissed as trivial. That "man" and "he" as symbolic signs fail to represent males and females equally, has been documented in several empirical studies. The prolific use of "man" in the generic sense has served to exclude women from professions, education, and government. If Peirce is right, the outcome of the feminist struggle to bring about language changes may determine their success in instituting changes in all areas. (BL)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Peirce (Charles S)
Note: Paper presented at the annual Woman Researcher conference (Kalamazoo, MI, October,l983).