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ERIC Number: ED345560
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 9
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Sex, Ecology, and the Epicene.
Newsham, G. S.
The concept of gender in language encompasses three ideas: (1) sex, or classification as masculine, feminine, or neuter; (2) epicene, a proform (substitute word) whose referent is masculine or feminine; and (3) ecology, the relationship between organisms and their environment. Gender classification in language indicates that original speakers of the language divided phenomena into classes based on some criteria, varying widely with language group. English has a gender system based on the animate/inanimate distinction, even though this classification is inconsistent with current understanding of the natural environment. We could revise the gender classification system so all things in nature take the pronoun "who," and the singular and plural epicene pronoun would be "they." The only additional adjustment would be a change in restrictive/nonrestrictive pronoun use. Just as feminists have engineered some changes in language use to make people revise their views of men's and women's roles in society, ecologists could work toward changing the English language to reflect a new concern, that of a healthy relationship between humans and the rest of the world. Gender classifications are an expression of a deep cultural reality inherited from the past, and it is argued that this should not influence the understanding of the present. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Gender (Language)