Language plays a significant role in the society as it facilitates human being’s interactions. However, Sociolinguistics point out that sexism exists in language, which makes women inferior in the society. Notably, women are the most affected by sexism in language, and this is blamed on two key factors. These include the way that women are taught language and the way language is used in reference to women. Thus, Sociolinguistics intimate that the way sexism depicts in language reflects the harsh reality of how it is deeply rooted in the society. It is also essential to note that some features of the English language result to the language been sexist. These features suggest attitudes, which are socially unjust and cultural biases. Socialization is one cause of sexism in language as indicated by various Sociolinguistics. However, syntactic and Morphological features of English aid in understanding how language can be considered as sexist. For instance, derivational morphemes clearly depict sexism in language because of the affixes, which are employed on some sentences. Compound words also considered under morphological features of the English language contribute to language been considered as sexist. On the part of syntactic features, generics nouns and pronouns help in understanding language as been sexist.
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Therefore, this essay utilizes syntactic and morphological features of English to explicate how language can be considered as sexist.
Firstly, language can be considered sexist basing on how words are formed in derivational morphemes. It is essential to note that derivational morphemes allow the formation of new words from the base word through the addition of either suffixes or prefixes. The words that result from derivational morphemes usually possess new meaning, which Sociolinguistics note that is distinct from the original word. For instance, myriad words in English lexicon depict women as derived from male. Such words are usually formed through adding of suffixes that are considered feminine to the masculine form of the word. The feminine suffixes added include “-ess” and “-ette”. For a clear understanding, the word “actor”, which refers to a person who has a role in play or movie, is usually used in the feminine, and this is done through the attaching the word to a feminine suffix “-ess”. This results to the formation of the word “actress”, which refers to woman with the same role as that of the actor. The main issue in this case is that women seem to be derived from men and that they are depended on men besides having a lesser status. Sociolinguistics indicate that there is a triviality in terms of meaning when language is formed in this manner.
Secondly, language can be considered as sexist through exploring compound words. According to Thomas, Singh & Peccei (2004, p. 132), despite the English language possessing many words that can be considered neutral, some professionals can be used to distinguish between males and females. Such professionals include surgeon, doctor, judge, lawyer, professor, and engineer. Notably, some words are employed in distinguishing between the male and female gender in a profession because of stereotypes that people hold regarding the connection between profession and gender. Thus, Klemens (2007) indicates that many professions that denote power or strength are usually seen as a preserve of men, which proves why the professionals holding such positions are referred using words such as “chairman” or “president”. However, when females hold such high positions, the words used to refer to them are usually formed from bound morphemes, which refers to the compound form of linking of the professional term with the female title such as lady, woman or madam. A good example in this case is the compound combination of “Madam chairman”. When language is used this way, it clearly depicts sexism. The other way that language can be considered sexist in this context can be established through examining professions, which involve lower social status, service or patience. Klemens (2007) asserts that the society usually associates such professions with women; thus, the reason for titles such as secretary, nurse, and dressmaker. However, when men hold such positions in society, compound form of masculine is employed in reference to them. This is done through the addition of the title man or male. Examples include fisherman, newsman, and businessman. Thus, there is a clear indication of sexism in the use of language in this context plus it should be noted that the terms employed prove how men monopolize professions of high status. Social conventions are blamed in this case for the differentiation in professions based on sex, and this validates the prejudice inherent in the use of language.
On the other hand, syntactical features such as generic pronouns also indicate how language can be considered as been sexist. This results from the fact that the English language comprises of nouns that are deemed to refer to either male or female. Generic Pronouns are considered under this class as it is indicated by Dirven, Hawkins, & Sandikcioglu (2001) that they refer with equivalent likelihood to men and women. However, the English language does not respect this rule because it permits some masculine pronouns to be used universally in reference to males and human beings generally. The Generic Pronoun “he” features a lot under this argument. For instance, a sentence such as “A teacher should educate his students thoroughly” employs the use of “his”, which is a masculine pronoun. The argument in this context is that Generic Pronouns such as the one indicated above reduces the possibility of the subject to be a woman, which proves how language is sexist in nature. Research by Dirven, Hawkins, & Sandikcioglu (2001) intimates that the proportion of “she” and “he” in literature is 1:4, which highlights social inequality in linguistic.
Generic Nouns such as “man” and “woman” also indicate how language can be considered as been sexist. Thomas, Singh & Peccei (2004, p. 140) assert that the Generic Noun “man” can be used, generally, in reference to the human race, but “woman” cannot be employed in the same. It should be noted this makes woman invisible. A good usage of the Generic Noun “man”, which substantiates the above claims is in the following sentence. “All men must report at the gate”. It should also be noted that when the noun “man” is used in sentences, it is usually in a commendatory and positive circumstance unlike the instances where the noun “woman” is used as it depicts derogatory senses. This is a clear indication of how language is sexist.
In conclusion, four main categories abound that indicate how language can be considered as sexist. These fall under syntactic and morphological features, which include Generic Pronouns and Generic Nouns, and Derivation and compound words respectively. Sexism in language usage is mainly blamed on social conventions that discriminate in terms of profession. The English language is also blamed for sexism as it permits the usage of Generic Noun “man” in reference to all the genders. Derivation in English also promotes sexism as it facilitates female versions of words to be derived from the masculine words. Lastly, compound words also contribute to sexist language as some terms are used in reference to men holding higher positions in professionals while women are referred using compound words that depict their gender.
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