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Gender Language and
empowerment
Giuliana Giusti
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
Sexism
= discrimination by sex
discrimination: the practice of treating one person
or group in an unfair way and different...
Can a language be sexist?
Italian
signora, signorina
signore, #signorino
English
Mrs, Miss vs. Ms [mız]
Mr
titles of court...
Can Language be discriminating?
Saussure: there is an arbitrary
relationship between form and meaning
 Meaning can be sex...
Today we will talk about
1. reference to generic human beings
2. job titles
3. different grammars
4. stereotyped metaphors...
1. Reference to human beings
1.1. honorifics: madam, sir / doctor, professor
1.2. job names and qualifications: doctor, nu...
1.1. women honorary titles
(1) a. C’è una signora al telefono
b. There’s a lady on the phone
(2) a. Parlo con la signora M...
signora is not symmetric to signore
(1) a. C’è una signora al telefono
b. C’è un signore al telefono
(2) a. Parlo con la s...
first vs. last names
signora vs academic titles
(1) a. C’è la signora Maria al telefono
b. C’è il signor Rossi al telefono...
1.2. job names are used asymmetrically
• ostetrica /ostetrico
• segretaria /segretario
• direttrice / direttore
• maestra ...
grammar vs use
• impiegata / impiegato
• cameriera / cameriere
• direttrice / direttore
• maestra/ maestro
• insegnante
• ...
job titles in English
chairman /chairwoman
steward/stewardess
fisherman
laundress, laundryman
foreman/forelady
director/di...
1.3. Man and uomo as false generics
• l’uomo della strada
• la fratellanza
• l’uomo dell’età della
pietra
• i padri della ...
A little history
Old English
man = human being
cf. German Mensch
Latin
homo = human being
wer = male
werman = male human b...
language change
man  male human
(wer(man) desappear)
wifman  woman
wif  wife
homo  uomo =male human
(vir desappears)
m...
1.4. pronominal reference
(1) a. God send everyone their heart’s desire.
b. God send everyone his heart’s desire.
(2) a. I...
Sexist biases in English
from: C. Miller and K. Swift. 1980/2001 The Handbook of
Nonsexist writing. iUniverse.com Inc.
“Ne...
some examples in Italian
from: A. Sabatini. 1985. Il sessismo nella lingua italiana.
Presidenza del consiglio dei ministri...
2. different developments in
women’s studies
• As regards the English language, the feminist
movement started to be intere...
Links (Italian)
“Sessismo e linguaggio”
http://www.uni-duisburg.de/FB3/SILFI/SILFI2000/abstracts/papers/Ricci_co094.html
h...
Links (English)
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/general/gl_nonsex.html
(Purdue Univ.)
http://www.friesian.com/langu...
3. DIFFERENT GRAMMATICAL
SYSTEMS
3.1. grammatical gender on nouns:
bambino, bambina, bambini, bambine
vs. children
3.2. ag...
4. STEREOTYPES IN LANGUAGE REFLECT
STEREOTYPES IN CULTURE  Metaphors
4.1. Man is species, woman is a subspecies.
(unmarke...
5. Language change
5.1. Is language change legittimate?
Language is an autonomous system, which develops
independently fro...
Some change is possible
• Lexical change is often possible and is asked
for by “political correctness”, e.g.:
– negro  bl...
Rephrasing is the key!
“Nevertheless, everyone, the fastidious queen
included, resigned himself sooner or later”
“A man or...
THANK YOU!
Co-workers
Breaking the glass ceiling
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EQUAL-IST Webinar Gender Sensitive Communication Presentation N.2 of the four EQUAL-IST Webinars series: “Towards the implementation of Gender Equality Plans”

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Gender, language, empowerment, Giuliana Giusti (UNIVE)

This presentation provides insights on how linguistic structures are formed by gender bias: drawing mostly on examples from English and Italian.
In General, it will explore the multiple ways in which language interacts with the construction of gender identity since linguistic meta – competences can enhance language use in an equal opportunity perspective.

Giuliana Giusti, is Professor of Linguistics at the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice, where she has been the president of the Equal Opportunity Committee. Her principal research interests lie in the field of comparative linguistics of Germanic, Romance, and Balkan languages, to enhance linguistic awareness and support language learning in an innovative perspective. She has been researching and teaching extensively on Gender and Language issue, among others delivering the first teachers’ training course promoted by UNIVE within a FSE -EQUAL project in 2007 and more recently in 2016/2017 a dedicated MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on Gender and Linguistics.

Published in: Education
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EQUAL-IST Webinar Gender Sensitive Communication Presentation N.2 of the four EQUAL-IST Webinars series: “Towards the implementation of Gender Equality Plans”

  1. 1. Gender Language and empowerment Giuliana Giusti Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
  2. 2. Sexism = discrimination by sex discrimination: the practice of treating one person or group in an unfair way and differently from another based or partly based on prejudices on their race, colour, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental handicap. On the other side, discrimination can adversely effect privileges, benefits, working condition and result in disparate treatment, or has a disparate impact on employees or applicants. (Longman dictionary of contemporary English 2005, p. 446)
  3. 3. Can a language be sexist? Italian signora, signorina signore, #signorino English Mrs, Miss vs. Ms [mız] Mr titles of courtesy Why should a woman of our time be addressed according to her marital status OR AGE?
  4. 4. Can Language be discriminating? Saussure: there is an arbitrary relationship between form and meaning  Meaning can be sexist, form cannot. the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: language can shape thought (doubtful)  Sexist USE of the language reinforces sexist stereotypes
  5. 5. Today we will talk about 1. reference to generic human beings 2. job titles 3. different grammars 4. stereotyped metaphors 5. language change
  6. 6. 1. Reference to human beings 1.1. honorifics: madam, sir / doctor, professor 1.2. job names and qualifications: doctor, nurse 1.3. Man as a false generic: the average man 1.4. pronominal reference: he, she, they
  7. 7. 1.1. women honorary titles (1) a. C’è una signora al telefono b. There’s a lady on the phone (2) a. Parlo con la signora Maria? b. Am I speaking to Maria? (3) a. Scusi, signora! b. Excuse me, ma’am / madam! (4) a. la signora dei mari b. the mistress of the see (5) a. Porti la sua signora b. Bring your wife lady is too formal no correspondence BUT cf. Miss Scarlet ma’am/madam is not currently used in middle class spoken register N.B. Mistress has a very different meaning in other contexts why doesn’t Italian say moglie????
  8. 8. signora is not symmetric to signore (1) a. C’è una signora al telefono b. C’è un signore al telefono (2) a. Parlo con la signora Maria? b. Parlo con il signor Giovanni? (3) a. Scusi, signora! b. Scusi, signore! (4) a. Chiedilo a quella signora. b. Chiedilo a quel signore. signore is more formal, more old- fashioned, less used signore is used only by children not really by adults
  9. 9. first vs. last names signora vs academic titles (1) a. C’è la signora Maria al telefono b. C’è il signor Rossi al telefono (2) a. Parlo con la signora Maria? b. Parlo con il geometra Rossi? (3) a. Scusi, signora! b. Scusi, professore/dottore! (4) a. E’ arrivata la Rossi. b. E’ arrivato Rossi. Women are more often addressed by their first names. Men are more often addressed by their last names. Men are more often addressed by their job titles than women. Last names referring to women are generally introduced by an article.
  10. 10. 1.2. job names are used asymmetrically • ostetrica /ostetrico • segretaria /segretario • direttrice / direttore • maestra / maestro • presidente / presidentessa • vigile / vigilessa • soldato /soldatessa • avvocato / avvocatessa • assessore • ministro • architetto • pretore • casalinga • lavandaia • bambinaia
  11. 11. grammar vs use • impiegata / impiegato • cameriera / cameriere • direttrice / direttore • maestra/ maestro • insegnante • cantante • presidente • giudice • avvocata / avvocato • ingegnera/ ingegnere • pretrice / pretore • ministra / ministro • architetta/architetto • casalinga/o • lavandaia/o • bambinaia/o
  12. 12. job titles in English chairman /chairwoman steward/stewardess fisherman laundress, laundryman foreman/forelady director/directress salesman watchman congressman freshman chair, moderator, head flight attendant fisher laundry worker supervisor director sales agent guard representative first year students
  13. 13. 1.3. Man and uomo as false generics • l’uomo della strada • la fratellanza • l’uomo dell’età della pietra • i padri della patria • un uomo di mondo • il genere umano • i diritti dell’uomo • the average man • brotherhood • the stone age man • the Pilgrim fathers • a man-about-town • mankind • human rights
  14. 14. A little history Old English man = human being cf. German Mensch Latin homo = human being wer = male werman = male human being wif = female wifman = female human being vir= male human being mulier = female human being Cic homo nata fuerat=era nata umana (human vs beast)
  15. 15. language change man  male human (wer(man) desappear) wifman  woman wif  wife homo  uomo =male human (vir desappears) mulier  moglie «wife» domina  donna «woman» cleaning lady, a young lady, ladylike, a lady doctor (Dizionario Sansoni 1975) la signora delle pulizie, una signorina,
  16. 16. 1.4. pronominal reference (1) a. God send everyone their heart’s desire. b. God send everyone his heart’s desire. (2) a. If a person is born of a gloomy temper (...) they cannot help it. b. If a person is born of a gloomy temper, (...) he cannot help it. (3) a. Each of them (...) should make themselves ready. b. Each of them (...) should make himself ready. Shakespeare Lord Chesterfield 1759 William Caxton 15th c.
  17. 17. Sexist biases in English from: C. Miller and K. Swift. 1980/2001 The Handbook of Nonsexist writing. iUniverse.com Inc. “Nevertheless, everyone, the fastidious queen included, resigned himself sooner or later.” “A man or woman must learn to feel an emotional response before he is ready to undertake the dreadfully difficult problem of giving his love, to a being of the human kind.” (talking abouth Southeners in the US) “Who are these people? What are they like? Do they have any pastimes besides fighting, hunting, drinking and writing novels? Do they really sleep with their sisters and bay at the moon?”
  18. 18. some examples in Italian from: A. Sabatini. 1985. Il sessismo nella lingua italiana. Presidenza del consiglio dei ministri, Direzione generale della editoria e della proprietà letteraria artistica e scientifica. “Mosca: l’uomo delle nevi esiste e non è aggressivo ...” (N.B. The article is about a female human being!) “Napoli operaia, ma anche studenti, donne, disoccupati, pensionati, movimenti” “Festa mondana, tra i presenti si sono mescolati uomini politici, banchieri, grandi funzionari, lavoratori ‘tout court’ e soprattutto una moltitudine di bellissime donne.”
  19. 19. 2. different developments in women’s studies • As regards the English language, the feminist movement started to be interested in language and language use in the US since 1970s in Italy the issue has never been raised by feminist researchers. • In Italy, some guidelines have been proposed in the 1980s by initiative of the presidenza del consiglio dei ministri, but they have never really been applied.
  20. 20. Links (Italian) “Sessismo e linguaggio” http://www.uni-duisburg.de/FB3/SILFI/SILFI2000/abstracts/papers/Ricci_co094.html http://www.women.it/lilith/sito/firmamen/linguag.htm http://www.cirass.unina.it/eventi/programma%20preliminare/giornate/abstract/Il%20sessismo%20nella%20lingua %20italiana.htm http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4RNWN_en___IT217&q=sessismo+e+linguaggio
  21. 21. Links (English) http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/general/gl_nonsex.html (Purdue Univ.) http://www.friesian.com/language.htm (against) http://www.apa.udel.edu/apa/index.html (America Philosophical Society) http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=201 (International reading association) http://www.linguarama.com/ps/195-9.htm (Linguarama - A EFL school) http://www.ucc.ie/equalcom/language.html (University College Cork) http://www.keene.edu/pcsw/nsl.cfm (Keene State College) http://www.trinity.edu/departments/academic_affairs/hb/instrpol/nons exst.htm (Trinity University, S. Antonio TX) ….
  22. 22. 3. DIFFERENT GRAMMATICAL SYSTEMS 3.1. grammatical gender on nouns: bambino, bambina, bambini, bambine vs. children 3.2. agreement for gender and number le brave atlete sono arrivate prime vs the good athletes were first 3.3. Motion: la delfina, la cammella, il casalingo the dolphin, the male dolphin, the female dophin
  23. 23. 4. STEREOTYPES IN LANGUAGE REFLECT STEREOTYPES IN CULTURE  Metaphors 4.1. Man is species, woman is a subspecies. (unmarked masculine gender) 4.2. Man is adult, woman is child. 4.3. Man is creator, woman is created. 4.4. Man belongs to the world, woman belongs to the house. 4.5. Man is a leader, woman is a caretaker. 4.6. Man is strong, woman is weak.
  24. 24. 5. Language change 5.1. Is language change legittimate? Language is an autonomous system, which develops independently from the intentions of the community of speakers. 5.2. Is language change possible? Deliberate language change is often as unsuccessful as is language conservation 5.3. How can we enhance language change? We should start with media, school text-books, advertisements, official documents and forms
  25. 25. Some change is possible • Lexical change is often possible and is asked for by “political correctness”, e.g.: – negro  black  African-American – marocchini  immigrati  migranti – handicappato  disabile  diversamente abile • Syntactic and morphological systems cannot be changed BUT must be used according to meaning.
  26. 26. Rephrasing is the key! “Nevertheless, everyone, the fastidious queen included, resigned himself sooner or later” “A man or woman must learn to feel an emotional response before they are ready to undertake the dreadfully difficult problem of giving their love, to a being of the human kind” (talking abouth Southeners in the US) “Who are these people? What are they like? Do they have any pastimes besides fighting, hunting, drinking and writing novels? Do their men really sleep with their sisters and bay at the moon? Do their women wear crinolines and … ”
  27. 27. THANK YOU! Co-workers Breaking the glass ceiling

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