Language and Gender Identities

Book chapter

Jones, Lucy (2016) Language and Gender Identities. In Preece, Sian (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity. Oxon: Routledge, 210-224.

Manuscript available here.

This chapter outlines key issues and debates surrounding linguistic approaches to gender. By providing a concise, critical account of central theories, it links major research areas with feminist concerns and linguistic activism. The chapter offers a discussion of biological essentialism and social constructionism, explaining how language produces, as well as reflects, ideological categories such as ‘woman’ and ‘man’. Through a consideration of Butler’s (1990) theory of performativity, key ideas relating to hegemony, patriarchy, indexicality and ideology are critically outlined, allowing for a discussion of feminist conceptualisations of gender. Within this, the notions of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ are problematised in light of gender normativity and trans identities. By considering current issues emerging from research into gender and language, the chapter provides an account of three main foci within the field today: interactional performances of gender (both normative and non-normative); gender identity construction within communities of practice; critical discourse analysis and the representation of gendered identities.

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