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The Gendering of Language: A Comparison of Gender Equality in Countries with Gendered, Natural Gender, and Genderless Languages

Abstract

Feminists have long argued that sexist language can have real world consequences for gender relations and the relative status of men and women, and recent research suggests that grammatical gender can shape how people interpret the world around them along gender lines (Boroditsky 2009). Although others have theorized about the connection between grammatical gender in language and societal gender equality (Stahlberg et al. 2007), the current work tests this link empirically by examining differences in gender equality between countries with gendered, natural gender, and genderless language systems. Of the 111 countries investigated, our findings suggest that countries where gendered languages are spoken evidence less gender equality compared to countries with other grammatical gender systems. Furthermore, countries where natural gender languages are spoken demonstrate greater gender equality, which may be due to the ease of creating gender symmetric revisions to instances of sexist language.

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Correspondence to Jennifer L. Prewitt-Freilino.

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Prewitt-Freilino, J.L., Caswell, T.A. & Laakso, E.K. The Gendering of Language: A Comparison of Gender Equality in Countries with Gendered, Natural Gender, and Genderless Languages. Sex Roles 66, 268–281 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0083-5

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Keywords

  • Grammatical gender
  • Gender equality
  • Gendering Language