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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2013

Preface

Summary

A lot has happened in the study of language and gender in the decade since we published our first edition – there have been big changes both in the gender and sexual order, and in the study of language and society. We tried in the first edition to do justice to all kinds of diversity as well as diversity's companion, change. With this edition, we have gone further beyond English-speaking white middle-class people and gender-conforming heterosexuals, and beyond those who happened to populate studies of earlier decades, most of whom are now at least middle-aged. In a field that draws on so many disciplines and approaches, there is no possibility of comprehensive coverage. We have tried instead to articulate a framework growing from our own research programs and then to find relevant work from other scholars to help us develop a fuller picture. Because gender is above all an ideological construct, we encourage our readers to question the foundations of their beliefs about gender and about how it emerges in language use. We hope that readers will take away a robust ability to appraise claims they hear about language, gender, and sexuality, and be better equipped to articulate and explore questions in this area, recognizing that definitive answers are probably not in the cards. This book is very much a collaborative effort. As in all our joint work, our names are listed alphabetically.

Like the first edition, this one is structured around the use of language in gender practice rather than around the linguistic resources themselves. Chapter 1 offers an introduction to gender and pays more attention than in the earlier edition to some of the complex connections of gender to sexuality. Its basic message – that gender is socially constructed – is unchanged, but new research and continued thinking have helped us develop our picture of how that happens. Chapter 2 sets the stage for the rest of the book by offering a quick overview of research on language and gender, with attention to some of the pitfalls. In Chapter 3, we present the linguistic resources on which people draw in constructing gender and sexual identities, and we conclude the chapter by considering gender in grammar, i.e., places where a language's grammar constrains how a speaker (or writer) invokes gender.