Gender, pronouns and thought

The ligature between epicene pronouns and a more neutral gender perception


  • Caleb Everett University of Miami



Linguistic Relativity, Grammatical Gender, Epicene Pronouns


Previous studies have established that, in languages without epicene pronouns such as English, speakers overwhelmingly construe putatively generic terms such as ‘mankind’ as masculine, and that similar results hold for the construal of referents denoted by supposedly generic uses of masculine pronouns. What has not been addressed in the literature is whether speakers of languages without epicene pronouns exhibit greater androcentrism in the construal of non-gendered stimuli, even without being prompted with gender-biased terms. The results of two cross-linguistic tasks on gender construal are discussed here. Subjects were shown cartoons of non-gendered figures and asked to name the figures after a short linguistically-oriented distracter task. Patterns in the naming task suggest that speakers of English exhibit more androcentrism in their construal of gender-neutral stimuli, when contrasted to speakers of Karitiâna, a language that relies heavily on epicene pronoun usage.

Author Biography

Caleb Everett, University of Miami

Assistant Professor


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How to Cite

Everett, C. (2011). Gender, pronouns and thought: The ligature between epicene pronouns and a more neutral gender perception. Gender and Language, 5(1), 133–152.