Gender Shifts in the History of English

By Anne Curzan | Go to book overview

Introduction

“I think she's got it!” exclaimed a participant at the American Dialect Society's annual meeting in January 2000, after the final vote for the “Word of the Millennium.” The early candidates for the honor ranged from the lofty (truth, freedom, justice) to the academic (science), from the political (government) to the seemingly mundane (the). The debate was heated, with members concerned whether the vote was based on the words themselves or on the concepts that the words represented. Rather late in the discussion, the word she was proffered and it quickly began to gain momentum perhaps oddly parallel to what she seems to have done in medieval times when it entered the language. She gathered support from all sides: she represents a linguistic innovation of this millennium (she is first cited in 1154 AD); the introduction of she is change at the very core of the English vocabulary; the mysterious origins of she seem best explained as a combination of distinctive phonological processes in English and the effects of language contact, a crucial force in the history of English; she as a feminine linguistic marker represents a fundamental social category and its ascendance can be seen as symbolic of the gains by women at the end of the millennium; and she allows us to celebrate the pronoun, a type of mundane function word that tends to get taken for granted, albeit a critical linguistic building block. And she did get it. She prevailed over all rivals to be crowned Word of the Millennium.

She is just the kind of word that is the focus of this book.


The study of gendered linguistic forms

With the election of she as the word of the millennium, a personal pronoun gained the kind of recognition and acclaim usually reserved for open class or content words not everyday function words like pronouns. While much of English vocabulary has been studied extensively, the first comprehensive book on Modern English personal pronouns, written by Katie Wales, was not published until 1996. As Wales's book demonstrates, personal pronouns in English are fascinating both linguistically and socially. Take, for example, the current confusion over phrases such as “between you and _ (me?/I?)”: this confusion and the resulting

-1-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Gender Shifts in the History of English
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 223

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.