- Language, gender, and professional writing: Theoretical approaches and guidelines for nonsexist usage By Francine Wattman Frank and Paula A. Treichler, with contributions by H. Lee Gershuny, Sally McConnell-Ginet, and Susan J. Wolfe (review)
- Linguistic Society of America
- Volume 66, Number 1, March 1990
- pp. 190-191
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- Additional Information
190 LANGUAGE. VOLUME 66. NUMBER I (1990) in (a). This is not implausible, since the definite article must be located prenominally anyway if there is an adjective present; compare den garnie bil 'the old car' and hans garnie bil 'his old car', and note also the slightly more colloquial variants den garnie bilen (lit. 'the old car.the') and den garnie bilen hans (lit. 'the old car.the his'). The book is very clearly written, and since there is much revision at later stages of analyses proposed in earlier stages, it is admirable that the author indicates early on when an analysis will be revised in a subsequent chapter. One topic which F did not attempt to cover, but which (it might be argued) her analysis should cover is dialect variation. For example, (a) is not grammatical in all dialects. Olav T. Beito has observed (Nynorsk grammatikk. Oslo, 1970) that the construction is most used in the west and the north, and placed its point of origin in Bergen. He further suggested that it was borrowed from Low German. This may be relevant to an explanation of why *han Per sin bil (lit. 'he Peter refl car') 'his car' is ungrammatical despite the obligatory presence (in the dialects) of what Fiva calls a 'light determiner pronoun' when the NP is in any other environment , such as i7 liker han Per (lit. 'we like he Peter') 'we like Peter'. [Chet A. Creider, University of Western Ontario.] Language, gender, and professional writing: Theoretical approaches and guidelines for nonsexist usage. By Francine Wattman Frank and Paula A. Treichler, with contributions by H. Lee Gershuny, Sally McConnell-Ginet, and Susan J. Wolfe. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. 1989. Pp. viii, 341. Cloth $32.00, paper $14.50. It would be nice to think that the past twenty years of effort by feminists has largely solved the problems of sexist usage; but this is not the case. A student in my writing class this summer still begins her essay saying that 'Heroes are ordinary men who take extraordinary risks.' The Chronicle of Higher Education (April 26, 1989) still finds it newsworthy that a professor in Texas feels that the generic he is grammatically and stylistically correct because 'a masculine pronoun is by definition without gender when used as a generic pronoun'. And the New York Times Book Review still includes reviews which refer to female writers by their first names. By providing a usage guide that is comprehensive , well-written and easy to use. Frank & Treichler have done a service to teachers, editors, and writers who understand that sexist language is still a concern and who want to promulgate nonsexist alternatives. The five essays in Part 1 of LGPW (35-133) provide theoretical and historical background. McConnell-Ginet, Treichler, and Wolfe focus on different aspects of the production and authorization of meaning, demonstrating how men's viewpoints and interests co-opt women's in language structure, discourse, and scholarly writing. McConnell-Ginet documents the sexual politics of both the semantic and discourse resources of language, analyzing processes of semantic change and of differences in conversational styles and strategies together with their semantic implications. Treichler examines ways in which dictionaries select and create meaning. She demonstrates the tacit 'contests for meaning ' between male and female points ofview that arise in defining such terms as woman, housewife , sexism,feminism, anafamily violence, and in the categorization of words like married (vs. be married). Treichler emphasizes the importance ofchallenging the received view ofculture and language, and convincingly demonstrates the need for such projects as the Feminist Dictionary. Wolfe's essay argues that 'unconscious sexism ' in historical linguistics may have led male linguists to overlook the connection of female words with pejoration and may also have biased the analysis of English pronouns, the reconstruction of Indo-European roots, and customary views of Indo-European culture and society. The papers by Gershuny and Frank contribute important discussion on language-reform efforts by feminists. Gershuny examines thirteen English handbooks published from 1979 to 1985 and analyzes how thoroughly they cover problems of sexist and nonsexist language. Frank's article on language change, planning, and reform briefly surveys the field...