He, (s)he/she, and they

Language ideologies and ideological conflict in gendered language reform



performativity, linguistic relativity, ideology, language reform, anti-sexist language, gender fair language, gender neutral language, anti-cis-sexist language


Gender-focussed language reform movements are underpinned by not only gender but also language ideologies. This study explores the relationship between these ideologies across anti-sexist and anti-cis-sexist reform movements. The movements target differing outcomes and align with differing ideologies, but I argue that they share an underlying goal and underlying ideological tenets. While anti-sexist reform seeks to improve the status and render legible the experiences of a subordinate but legible identity, namely women, anti-cis-sexist reform aims to unsettle cis-sexist assumptions of gender and render greater gender diversity legible. In targeting these goals, anti-sexist reformers cluster around forms of linguistic relativity, while anti-cis-sexist reformers focus on linguistic performativity. Both ideological stances, however, share underlying conceptualizations of language as limiting and as acting in the world, while both goals share an underlying commitment to harm avoidance. This paper highlights the role of language ideologies, in addition to gender ideologies, in gender-focussed language reform.


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How to Cite

O’Neill, B. (2021). He, (s)he/she, and they: Language ideologies and ideological conflict in gendered language reform. Working Papers in Applied Linguistics and Linguistics at York, 1, 16–28. Retrieved from https://wally.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/default/article/view/4