Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Personality, prescriptivism, and pronouns: Factors influencing grammaticality judgments of gender-neutral language

  • Evan D. Bradley
Extract

Because standard English lacks a true a gender-neutral singular pronoun, there has long been debate over how to refer to generic persons whose genders are unknown, or those who reject binary male or female identities. Singular (or epicene) ‘they’ has a long history as a pronoun to refer to individuals of unknown gender (Balhorn, 2004), and has also been adopted as a personal pronoun by those who identify as neither male nor female. Borthen (2010) argues based on a corpus study of Norwegian that, crosslinguistically, plural pronouns allow for vague reference, and that their lexical features (e.g., number, person) need not match their interpretation in context, which makes these pronouns prime candidates to be used in gender-neutral contexts. Chen and Wu (2011) contend that this is true for both singular and plural pronouns, but Borthen (2011) disputes this, arguing that the data show that for definite plural pronouns, but not singular, the antecedent need not be activated in the speaker's or addressee's mind, and thus can be inferred.

Copyright
Corresponding author
References
Hide All
American Psychological Association. 2009. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edn.) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
The Associated Press. 2017. The Associated Press Stylebook (48th edn.) New York: Basic Books.
Balhorn, M. 2004. ‘The rise of epicene they.’ Journal of English Linguistics, 32(2), 79104.
Barron, D. 2010. ‘The gender-neutral pronoun: 150 years later, still an epic fail.’ Online at https://blog.oup.com/2010/08/gender-neutral-pronoun/ (Accessed January 1, 2018).
Boland, J. E. & Queen, R. 2016. ‘If you're house is still available, send me an email: Personality influences reactions to written errors in email messages.PloS One, 11(3), e0149885.
Boroditsky, L., Schmidt, L. A. & Phillips, W. 2003. ‘Sex, syntax, and semantics.’ In Gentner, D. & Goldin-Meadow, S. (eds.), Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Cognition. Cambridge: MIT. pp. 6179.
Borthen, K. 2010. ‘On how we interpret plural pronouns.’ Journal of Pragmatics, 42(7), 17991815.
Borthen, K. 2011. ‘Response to Chen and Wu's paper: Less well-behaved pronouns: Singular they in English and plural ta ‘it/he/she'in Chinese.’ Journal of Pragmatics, 43(1), 411414.
Chen, J. & Wu, Y. 2011. ‘Less well-behaved pronouns: Singular they in English and plural ta ‘it/he/she’ in Chinese.’ Journal of Pragmatics, 43(1), 407410.
Ekehammar, B. & Akrami, N. 2007. ‘Personality and prejudice: From Big Five personality factors to facets.’ Journal of Personality, 75(5), 899926.
García–Cueto, E., Rodríguez–Díaz, F. J., Bringas–Molleda, C., López–Cepero, J., Paíno–Quesada, S. & Rodríguez–Franco, L. 2015. ‘Development of the gender role attitudes scale (GRAS) amongst young Spanish people.’ International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 15(1), 6168.
Glick, P. & Fiske, S. T. 1996. ‘The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism.’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(3), 491512.
John, O. P. & Srivastava, S. 1999. ‘The Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives.’ Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, 2(1999), 102138.
Lee, J. F. & Collins, P. 2010. ‘Construction of gender: A comparison of Australian and Hong Kong English language textbooks.Journal of Gender Studies, 19(2), 121137.
Moulton, J., Robinson, G. M. & Elias, C. 1978. ‘Sex bias in language use: “Neutral” pronouns that aren't.’ American Psychologist, 33(11), 10321036.
Parks, J. B. & Roberton, M. A. 2000. ‘Development and validation of an instrument to measure attitudes toward sexist/nonsexist language.’ Sex Roles, 42(5), 415438.
Prentice, D. A. 1994. ‘Do language reforms change our way of thinking?Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 13(1), 319.
Prewitt–Freilino, J. L., Caswell, T. A. & Laakso, E. K. 2012. ‘The gendering of language: A comparison of gender equality in countries with gendered, natural gender, and genderless languages.Sex Roles, 66(3–4), 268281.
Sarrasin, O., Gabriel, U. & Gygax, P. 2012. ‘Sexism and attitudes toward gender-neutral language.’ Swiss Journal of Psychology.
Sendén, M. G., Bäck, E. A. & Lindqvist, A. 2015. ‘Introducing a gender-neutral pronoun in a natural gender language: the influence of time on attitudes and behavior.Frontiers in Psychology, 6.
Stotko, E. M., & Troyer, M. (2007). ‘A new gender-neutral pronoun in Baltimore, Maryland: A preliminary study.American Speech, 82(3), 262279.
Stout, J. G. & Dasgupta, N. 2011. ‘When he doesn't mean you: Gender-exclusive language as ostracism.’ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(6), 757769.
Strunk, W. & White, E. B. 1972. The Elements of Style (3rd edn.) London: Macmillan.
Strunk, W. & White, E. B. 2000. The Elements of Style (4th edn.) London: Pearson.
Swim, J. K., Aikin, K. J., Hall, W. S. & Hunter, B. A. 1995. ‘Sexism and racism: Old-fashioned and modern prejudices.’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(2), 199214.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

English Today
  • ISSN: 0266-0784
  • EISSN: 1474-0567
  • URL: /core/journals/english-today
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed