Pronouns and Gender in Language

Conrod, K. (2020). Pronouns and Gender in Language. In K. Hall and E. Barrett (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190212926.013.63

Abstract: Pronouns are a grammatical element that take the place of full noun phrases, and in many of the world’s languages, pronouns also convey social information such as the gender of a referent. This chapter surveys the literature on the linguistics of pronouns from a broad array of disciplinary perspectives, focusing on the way social categories of gender interact with linguistic factors. The first section reviews gendered pronouns through the lens of performativity and speech act theory, discussing how pronouns and misgendering can be used for impoliteness and politeness. The second section surveys some semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic analyses of pronouns, including debates on the semantic and syntactic category of pronouns in the grammar. While the bulk of this chapter focuses on gendered pronouns in English, the third section provides a cross-linguistic perspective of gendered pronouns and inflectional morphology, and more interactional data is discussed.

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