Language And Sexism In Language

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Language plays an important role in society. In large extent it is a mirror of it while at the same time it functions as means of constructing and maintaining that society. As a phenomenon of society, language reflects all the perspectives of human society. Sexism in language has been a controversial topic in sociolinguists since its inception. In this chapter, a historical overview will be made and a definition of sexist language will be provided.
Sexism in language exists when language devalues members of a certain gender. Sexist language has many definitions but for the sake of this essay the following definition will be used: ‘[a statement] is sexist if its use constitutes, promotes or exploits an unfair or irrelevant or impertinent distinction between the sexes’ (Vetterling-Braggin 1981:3).
Over the years there have been many concerns about gender and language which can be traced to linguistics and to feminist theory. As a research field it developed side by side with the second wave of feminism during the 1960s and 1970s, despite the fact that gender and language have been a debatable issue for a long time. Around that time many articles and books were written which addressed two questions; the essence and importance of gender bias in language and of gender differences in language use. As Lakoff
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Women’s secondary social status being reflected in language was strongly endorsed by Lakoff (1973, 1975). According to this mirror model, positive words like strong, intelligent, sexually active, independent and negative one just reflected negative attitudes towards women in society (Stanley, 1977). The issue was whether language just reflected men's power or whether it also feeds into it. According to many feminists, language establishes and nourishes negative beliefs towards women and their secondary social status besides the fact that it also reflects men's

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