Gender Inclusivity or 'Grammar Rules OK?' Linguistic Prescriptivism vs Linguistic Discrimination in the Classroom

Anne Pauwels, Joanne Winter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    19 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This paper explores the potential conflict classroom teachers face in their dual roles as ‘guardians of grammar’ and as ‘agents of social language reform’ with reference to third person singular generic pronouns in English. We investigate to what extent teachers (primary, secondary and tertiary) experience tensions between these roles in relation to their own and students’ use of generic pronouns, and if they do, how they resolve the issue. Drawing upon survey and interview data from Australian classroom teachers we find substantial adoption of gender-inclusive alternatives to generic he with a clear preference for and tolerance of singular they in their own and their students’ writing. Remnants of social gender and the use of generic he and generic she are found for the antecedents real estate agent and teacher respectively. Younger teachers are by and large unaware of grammatical prescriptivism arguments while all teachers have awareness of the need to address and reform linguistic discrimination. Female educators lead the way as ‘agents of change’ and intervene in students’ writing to promote the avoidance of gender-exclusive generic he.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)128-140
    JournalLanguage and Education
    Volume20
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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