Will Ms ever be as frequent as Mr?
A corpus-based comparison of gendered terms across four diachronic corpora of British English
Keywords:corpus, gender, representation, diachronic, variation
In order to investigate frequency and context of usage of gender marked language, four equal sized and equivalently sampled corpora of British English in a range of written genres (press, fiction, general prose, learned writing), from 1931, 1961, 1991 and 2006 were compared. Terms that were investigated included male and female pronouns, man, woman, boy and girl, gender-related profession and role nouns such as chairman, spokesperson and policewoman, and terms of address such as Mr and Ms. Some reductions in frequencies of male terms were found over time, particularly in terms of decreases of male pronouns and Mr. However, equal frequencies did not necessarily equate with equal representation. A qualitative analysis of man and woman found that while there had been some reductions in gender stereotypes, others were being maintained (such as a lack of adjectives like successful or powerful being applied to words like woman). Additionally, the term girl was still more likely than the term boy to refer to adults, and it was often used in a disparaging or sexual way. The article concludes with a discussion of the sort of linguistic strategies that appear to have been successful in terms of equalising gender representation.
Baker, Paul (2008) Sexed Texts: Language, Gender and Sexuality. London: Equinox.
Baker, Paul (2009) The BE06 Corpus of British English and recent language change. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 14(3): 312–337.
Biber, Douglas (1988) Variation across Speech and Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Biber, Douglas., Johansson, Stig, Leech, Geoffrey, Conrad, Susan and Finegan, Edward (1999) Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. London: Longman.
Brown, Jennifer, Hegarty, Peter and O’Neill, Darragh (2006) Playing with numbers: A discussion paper on positive discrimination as a means of achieving gender equality in the police service in England and Wales. Unpublished paper. University of Surrey. www. bawp.org/assets/file/Playing%20with%20Numbers%20Extract.doc.
Cameron, Deborah (1995) Verbal Hygiene. London: Routledge.
Fairclough, Norman (1989) Language and Power. London: Longman.
Fairclough, Norman (1992) Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Fairclough, Norman (1994) Conversationalization of public discourse and the authority of the consumer. In Russell Keat, Nigel Whiteley and Nicholas Abercombie (eds) The Authority of the Consumer 253–268. London: Routledge.
Fairclough, Norman (1995) Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London: Longman.
Francis, Winthrop Nelson and Ku?era, Henry (1979) Brown Corpus Manual, Revised Version. Brown University. Accessed from http://icame.uib.no/brown/bcm.html.
Harrington, Kate, Litosseliti, Lia, Sauntson, Helen and Sunderland, Jane (eds) (2008) Gender and Language Research Methodologies. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hartman, Pat and Judd, Elliot (1975) Sexism and TESOL Materials. TESOL Quarterly. 12(4): 383–393.
Hunston, Susan (2002) Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kennedy, Graeme (1998) An Introduction to Corpus Linguistics. London: Longman.
Kilgarriff, Adam (2001) Comparing corpora. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 6(1): 97–133.
Kilgarriff, Adam and Tugwell, David (2002) Sketching words. In Marie-Helène Corréard (ed.) Lexicography and Natural Language Processing: A Festschrift in Honour of B. T. S. Atkins 125–137. Grenoble: EURALEX.
Kjellmer, Goeran (1986) ‘The lesser man’: Observations on the role of women in modern English writings. In Jan Arts and Willem Meijs (eds) Corpus Linguistics II 163–176. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Lakoff, Robin (1975) Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Harper and Row.
Leech, Geoffrey (2002) Recent grammatical change in English: Data, description, theory. In Karin Aijmer and Bengt Altenberg (eds) Proceedings of the 2002 ICAME Conference 61–81. Gothenburg.
Mair, Christian (1997) Parallel corpora: A real-time approach to the study of language change in progress. In Magnus Ljung (ed.) Corpus-Based Studies in English: Papers from the Seventeenth International Conference on English Language Research on Computerized Corpora (ICAME 17) 195–209. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Mair, Christian (2006) Twentieth Century English: History, Variation and Standardization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McEnery, Tony and Wilson, Andrew (1996) Corpus Linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
McEnery, Tony, Xiao, Richard and Tono, Yukio (2006) Corpus-Based Language Studies: An Advanced Resource Book. London: Routledge.
Pearce, Michael (2008) Investigating the collocational behaviour of MAN and WOMAN in the British National Corpus using Sketch Engine. Corpora 3(1): 1–29.
Oakes, Michael (2009) Corpus linguistics and language variation. In Paul Baker (ed.) Contemporary Approaches to Corpus Linguistics 159–183. London: Continuum.
Pauwels, Anne (2003) Linguistic sexism and feminist linguistic activism. In Janet Holmes and Miriam Meyerhoff (eds) The Handbook of Language and Gender 550–572. Oxford: Blackwell.
Rayson, Paul, Leech, Geoffrey and Hodges, Mary (1997) Social differentiation in the use of English vocabulary: Some analyses of the conversational component of the British National Corpus. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 2(1): 133–152.
Romaine, Suzanne (2001) A corpus-based view of gender in British and American English. In Marlis Hellinger and Hadumod Bußmann (eds) Gender across Languages Vol. 1 153–175. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Rudd, David (2000) Enid Blyton and the Mystery of Children’s Literature. London: Macmillan.
Schmid, Hans-Jörg (2003) Do men and women really live in different cultures? Evidence from the BNC. In Andrew Wilson, Paul Rayson and Tony McEnery (eds) Corpus Linguistics by the Lune. Lód? Studies in Language 8 185–221. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Schwarz, Juliane (2006) ‘Non-sexist Language’ at the Beginning of the 21st Century: Interpretative Repertoires and Evaluation in the Metalinguistic Accounts of Focus Group Participants Representing Differences in Age and Academic Discipline. PhD thesis. Lancaster University.
Sigley, Robert and Holmes, Janet (2002) Looking at girls in corpora of English. Journal of English Linguistics 30(2): 138–157.
Sunderland, Jane (1996) Gender in the EFL classroom. In Tricia Hedge and Norman Whitney (eds) Power, Pedagogy and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sunderland, Jane (2004) Gendered Discourses. London: Palgrave.
Tognini-Bonelli, Elena (2001) Corpus Linguistics at Work. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.