Universität Wien FIND

122250 AR Advanced Course in Linguistics (2021S)

Indentifying gender bias in diachronic corpora

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 25 participants
Language: English



Vorläufig online
Dienstag 12:15-13:45
Beginn: 09.03.2021


Aims, contents and method of the course

In contrast to biological sex, gender is a social construct, and it is constructed verbally. Language use, as reflected in corpora, reveals significant asymmetries in the ways in which genders are constructed. For example, the verb _to kill_ is much more likely to take _he_ as a subject than _she_, while _she_ is much more likely to be the subject of the verb _to dance_. Likewise, the possessive pronoun _her_ is much more likely than _he_ to be followed by the noun _children_, although every child has both a mother and a father. On the other hand, the noun _followers_ is much more likely to be preceded by _his_ than by _her_. In fact, there seem to be very few words use usage does not reveal biased conceptualisations of gender roles. – At the same time, corpus evidence also reveals that usage has become significantly l
less gender-biased during the last 200 years. For example, the nouns _colleague_ and _job_ were hardly ever preceded by _her_ in the nineteenth century. Since the 1960ies, however, _her job_, and _her colleagues_ are about as common as _his job_, and _his colleagues_.

In this course, we investigate the development of gender bias in large diachronic corpora. Each participant will take a set of nouns, verbs, or adjectives and investigate their co-occurrence with gendered 3rd person pronouns and/or nouns that refer to female and male humans.

Our primary goal is to quantify changes in gender bias during the last two hundred years. At the same time, however, we shall also look at our data also qualitatively, in order to avoid being misled by the evidence of mere numbers. For example, the mere frequencies of the phrases _he manages_ and _she manages_ may tell us very little, unless we know what it is that is managed by him or by her. Also, we shall have to discuss what asymmetric frequency distributions mean in each particular case. For example, the fact that the phrase _working mom_ is more frequent than the phrase _working dad_ does certainly not imply that it is considered more normal for mothers than for fathers to be working. Rather, the opposite is more likely.

Thus, the goal of this course is twofold: on the one hand, we try to find out if language use has become more or less gender-biased over time, and on the other hand, we try to find out if corpus evidence is useful for addressing this question.

Assessment and permitted materials

Classroom participation, quantitative corpus study, oral presentation of results and interpretation, submission of analysed data, final 10-page essay.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

(a) regular and active participation in meetings (online or in-person) (max. 2 absences). (10%)
(b) methodologically impeccable quantitative corpus study (30%)
(c) oral presentation and interpretation of results (20%)
(d) submission of analysed data and written 10-page essay (40%)

Examination topics

See 'minimum requirements'.

Reading list

Baker, Paul. 2010. Will Ms ever be as frequent as Mr? A corpus-based comparison of gendered terms across four diachronic corpora of British English. Gender and Language 4(1).
Baker, Paul. 2014. Using Corpora to Analyze Gender. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Baker, Paul. 2015. Language and masculinities: Performances, intersections, dislocations. London: Routledge.
Cameron, Deborah. 1998. Feminism and linguistic theory, 2nd edn. Basingstoke [u.a.]: Macmillan.
Cameron, Deborah. 1998. The feminist critique of language: A reader, 2nd edn. London [u.a.]: Routledge.
Henley, Nany M. 1987. This new species that seeks a new language: on sexism in language and language change. In Joyce Penfield (ed.), Women and Language in Transition, 3–27: SUNY Press.
Konnelly, Lex. 2020. “The woman in the background”: Gendered Nouns in CNN and FOX Media Discourse. Journal of English Linguistics 48(3). 233–257.
Lakoff, Robin. 1973. Language and woman's place. Language in Society 2(1). 45–79.
Motschenbacher, Heiko. 2010. Language, Gender and Sexual Identity (IMPACT: Studies in Language and Society): John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Norberg, Cathrine. 2016. Naughty Boys and Sexy Girls. Journal of English Linguistics 44(4). 291–317.
Pearce, Michael. 2008. Investigating the collocational behaviour of man and woman in the BNC using Sketch Engine. Corpora 3(1). 1–29.
Romaine, Suzanne. 1999. Communicating gender. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Spender Dale. 1980. Man-made language.

Association in the course directory

Studium: MA 812 [2]; UF MA 046/507; UF 344
Code/Modul: MA M04, MA M05, UF MA 4B; 4.2.3
Lehrinhalt: 12-0260

Last modified: We 21.04.2021 11:26