Gender and Language, Vol 12, No 3 (2018)

The origin of sexism in language

Ann Coady
Issued Date: 22 Oct 2018


Although previous work on sexist linguistic structures has identified the causes of sexism in language as stemming from an androcentric world view, it has not described the social and semiotic processes involved in the historic production and reproduction of this kind of linguistic sexism. This article uses the three processes of iconisation, fractal recursivity, and erasure to bring together what appear to be disparate phenomena (such as the masculine generic, and even the very existence of the feminine grammatical gender) into a unifying theory. Iconisation results in the binary division of humanity into females and males; fractal recursivity explains how this division was projected onto language; and erasure demonstrates how certain discourses have been ignored, to the profit of others. A Queer critique of the two concepts of binarity and markedness (which arise as a result of iconisation) opens up exciting new ways to approach sexism in language, and to revitalise research in this area.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.31445


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