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The Prevalence of Masculine Expressions in English

The Prevalence of Masculine Expressions in English

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Published by: أحمد صاحب مبارك on Mar 20, 2013
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The Prevalence of Masculine Expressions in English

Prof. Riyadh T. Al-Ameedi, PhD Asst Prof. Ahmed S. Mubarak, MA Department of English/ College of Education for Human Sciences/ University of Babylon The generic use of masculine gender is a universal phenomenon that can be traced back in many languages. Pauwels’ (1998) work proves that linguistic sexism is an “international phenomenon”. Despite the differences between languages, Pauwels (ibid) presents a number of common elements in the linguistic representation of women and men across several languages: a. The man is portrayed as the norm for all human beings; b. The woman’s linguistic invisibility, or, when she is visible, her asymmetry in comparison to man is evident; and c. Some terms denoting women depend on terms denoting men. As for the English language, its history is stuffed full of masculine terms used in reference not just to men but to human beings in general, or to persons of unspecified gender (Newman, 1996: 353). The sexist language in English is manifest in different aspects; however, it is very obvious in pronouns, terms of address and some compound words. The study concludes that: 1. Gender bias towards masculine forms has been universal and rigorous attempts are continually being made to gain linguistic equality. 2. The pronoun system in English has gone through various stages regarding the choice of the generic pronoun: a) They was first used for the singular male and female although it violated number agreement; b) He and him were then used as a more formal option adhering to the grammatically important point of agreement despite their obvious bias to males. c) The phrases he or she, him or her were used as a compromise solution so that language users abide by both gender and number agreements though they have frequently been described as awkward. d) Recently, however, it seems that she and her are regularly used generically to satisfy the demands of the feminist movement! 3. Previously, English manifested gender bias towards masculine expressions (sexist language) but presently there are more tendencies toward replacing masculine expressions by neutral ones (non-sexist language).

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