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ERIC Number: ED172252
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979-Apr
Pages: 20
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: 0
Language and Power: English as a Patriarchal Language.
Stanley, Julia Penelope
In an "Esquire" magazine column, John Simon attempts to trivialize, through visual satire, the articulation by Wayne O'Neil of the linguistic position that teaching standard English perpetuates oppression and is itself oppressive; but his attempt provides, instead, a vivid representation of the political relationship between the teaching of standard English and the maintenance of the patriarchal social order. Simon misrepresents standard English as "simply the language that evolved from diverse sources into a norm"; however, no language "simply evolves" into a "norm"--social forces are always involved in promoting those language forms and changes that reflect the interests of its most powerful users. An analysis of changes in the use and semantic range of such words as "she,""he,""husband,""wife," and "man" in Old and Middle English show how specific changes can be traced to male control of the social structure. Sample passages from the work of seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century male grammarians demonstrate that the tradition of prescriptive grammars in English incorporates patriarchal assumptions regarding the superiority of the male sex and the inferiority of the female sex. The consequences of an 1850 Act of Parliament, which designated the masculine pronoun "he" as a "generic," constitute sufficient argument against those who deny the validity of current feminist attempts to emasculate the English language. (GT)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (30th, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 5-7, 1979)