Gender in World Englishes

edited by Tobias Bernaisch (2021)

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 254 pp.

Reviewed by Hang Su


Hang Su


Centre for Foreign Languages and Literature, Sichuan International Studies University, China

email: [email protected]

There has been a plethora of studies that have investigated either gender differences in language use (e.g. Baker 2014; Taylor 2017) or the structural/grammatical differences across varieties of Englishes (e.g. Musolff 2020; Schützler 2020). Studies combining the two, however, are rare. Gender in World Englishes, edited by Tobias Bernaisch, is a timely contribution that bridges this gap. It presents a collection of studies that investigate linguistic phenomena that were typically examined either in genderlectal research or in the paradigm of World Englishes (hereafter WEs). Therefore, it aims to expand research into both gender and WEs, and to refine existing models of WEs by exploring language use with a special focus on gender.

The volume comprises an introduction (Chapter 1) and eight case studies (Chapters 2–9). In Chapter 1, Bernaisch introduces relevant concepts and methods in the areas of WEs, gender studies, corpus linguistics and statistical modelling techniques, showcasing that the integration of these seemingly isolated areas marks a big step forward in research into gender and WEs. Chapters 2 to 9 present the case studies, with each delving into one particular linguistic or structural phenomenon.

Overall, the volume is a valuable addition to the existing literature of genderlectal and World English studies. It presents a comprehensive collection of work that covers a wide range of linguistic phenomena and shows how genderlectal studies and WEs can be effectively integrated. Specifically, phenomena examined in the volume include quotatives (Chapter 2), intensifiers (Chapter 3), tag questions (Chapter 4), hedges (Chapter 5), the genitive alternation (Chapter 6), the dative alternation (Chapter 7), colloquialisation (Chapter 8) and gender and editorial practices (Chapter 9). That is, Chapters 2 to 5 explore genderlectal variation within the research paradigm of WEs, whereas Chapters 6 to 9 examine those structures which have been regularly examined in WEs while including a specific focus on gender. In general, the findings of studies in this volume suggest that, in the WEs paradigm, language users’ gender is of peripheral importance in accounting for linguistic variation across Englishes. For instance, in Chapter 3, Fuchs reports that the universal assumption that women use more intensifiers than men is not supported by her investigation into intensifiers in Indian English; and in Chapter 7, Röthlisberger argues that Jamaican women’s preference for the double-object construction may be largely due to language-internal factors such as the coexistence of a standardised Jamaican English and an English-lexified Jamaican Creole.

The volume’s second merit relates to methodology, especially the use of corpus linguistics techniques and multifactorial analysis. Previous studies, such as Baker (2012, 2014), have argued that corpus methods can facilitate the study of gender, which this volume demonstrates. Moreover, most studies collected in this volume draw on data taken from the subcorpora of the International Corpus of English (Kirk and Nelson 2018), such as ICE-India, ICE-Hong Kong, etc. Given that these corpora are freely available to the public for academic purposes (, readers can replicate the analyses and/or statistics presented in these studies. This not only adds ‘a high degree of analytic and argumentative transparency’ (6), but also can guide novice researchers to practice similar research.

The use of multifactorial analysis is also worth highlighting in particular. Scholars have increasingly recognised the usefulness of multifactorial analysis in exploring similarities and differences between groups of language users, and, as shown in this volume, investigation adopting multifactorial analysis can provide more accurate and useful insights into genderlectal variation across varieties of Englishes. This in turn suggests that, methodologically, future studies could employ multifactorial analysis to explore genderlectal variation across WEs.

Notwithstanding the book’s merits, the editor states that ‘there is still ample room for further sophistication’ (18), such as the development of standards for selecting objects of investigation and the presentation and visualisation of the research results. As well, it would be desirable to further explore ‘additional structural features, additional varieties represented by hopefully additional and larger and more diverse datasets equipped with more ample sociobiographic speaker information’ (19–20). The research paradigm of WEs is certainly useful for such exploration, which would not only contribute to studies on genderlectal variation, but also to sociopragmatic research in the context of WEs.

To conclude, this volume combines the research paradigm of genderlectal and WEs studies, expanding and enriching both research areas. It is characterised by its comprehensive coverage of linguistic or structural phenomena that have been traditionally explored in either genderlectal or WEs studies, as well as the wide use of corpus methods and multifactorial analysis. For these reasons, the present volume is a significant contribution to the fields of genderlectal and WEs studies as well as a valuable source for both experienced and novice researchers in these fields. As such, it is highly recommended.


Baker, Paul (2012) Corpora and gender studies. In Ken Hyland, Chau Meng Huat and Michael Handford (eds) Corpus Applications in Applied Linguistics 100–116. London: Continuum.

Baker, Paul (2014) Using Corpora to Analyze Gender. London: Bloomsbury.

Kirk, John and Nelson, Gerald (2018) The International Corpus of English project: a progress report. World Englishes 37(4): 697–716.

Musolff, Andreas (2020) Political metaphor in world Englishes. World Englishes 39(4): 667–680.

Schützler, Ole (2020) Although-constructions in varieties of English. World Englishes 39(3): 443–461.

Taylor, Charlotte (2017) Women are bitchy but men are sarcastic? investigating gender and sarcasm. Gender and Language 11(3): 415–445.