language, reform, feminism, linguistics, rhetoric, epicene pronoun, sexist language
As people become aware that society treats women unfairly, they also perceive related shortcomings in the way that Modern English references women. For example, many have objected to the so-called generic he, the third-person masculine pronoun employed to refer to a person of unknown gender, and provided several alternatives, few of which have been widely adopted. Nonetheless, change is evident in the case of they becoming an increasingly common solution to refer to a person of unidentified gender. The intentional reform of the Modern English language, both in the past and present, has been a result of people's reactions to what is often perceived as a bias or a deficiency with what is possible to say given the words at their disposal. The rhetorical significance of reform is profound, and scholars continually broach the subject from the perspective of different disciplines. Explored here are the approaches of three of those fields, feminism, linguistics, and rhetoric; how each reacts to and even influences reform is an important part of the study. What is evident is that, regardless of the particular field, reform remains a force of change, even while it may not be broadly recognized. Further, traditional grammatical rules provide an insufficient means for tackling inequalities in Modern English, and are in part responsible for such imbalance. As such, writers must be aware of the present expectations of their audience and the situation of particular words.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Dorner, William, "Feminist, Linguistic, And Rhetorical Perspectives On Language Reform" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4373.