ERIC Number: ED175257
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1978
Reference Count: 0
Patriarchal Paradigms for Language Change.
Wolfe, Susan J.
Studies in the development of sexist language can provide insights into diachronic change in word meanings. Since semantic features are intimately related to the cultural and social matrices they represent, semantic change can be predicted on the basis of cultural constants as well as cultural changes. Prehistoric cultures can be reconstructed by studying prehistoric language, using lexicons to support archeological findings or to draw independent conclusions about cultural values. Evidence from the lexicons of Indo-European languages suggests that Indo-European culture culture may not have been as unremittingly patriarchal as some historical linguists believe. Research on sexism in language and on the sexist bias of linguists suggests that we can increase the predictive and analytical power of historical semantics if we investigate language within a feminist paradigm. For example, the tendency of terms designating women to undergo pejoration can be rendered predictable by examining the pejoration process as a function of the self-image of men who dominate society and therefore its language. Similarly, the emergence of gender-specific pronouns in English may have resulted from male attribution of an inferior state of being to women. (Author/JB)
Publication Type: Collected Works - General; Guides - General
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Expanded version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (New York, December 27-30, 1978)