Gender Shifts in the History of English

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How and why did grammatical gender, found in Old English and in other Germanic languages, gradually disappear from English and get replaced by a system where the gender of nouns and the use of personal pronouns depend on the natural gender of the referent? How is this shift related to "irregular agreement" (such as she for ships) and "sexist" language use (such as generic he) in Modern English, and how is the language continuing to evolve in these respects? Anne Curzan's accessibly written and carefully researched study is based on extensive corpus data, and will make a major contribution by providing a historical perspective on these often controversial questions. It will be of interest to researchers and students in history of English, historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, language and gender, and medieval studies.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Those who pick this book up expecting a dry study of inflection ... will be delighted to find the Curzan has made linguistic research both accessible and relevant.... This volume is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of English, sociolinguistics, or language and gender. Essential." Choice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521117265
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 7/30/2009
  • Series: Studies in English Language Series
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Curzan
Anne Curzan is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Michigan. She has written extensively on the history of English, lexicography, and pedagogy, and is co-author of First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student's Guide to Teaching (2000). Professor Curzan is also co-editor of the Journal of English Linguistics.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Defining English gender 11
2 The gender shift in histories of English 31
3 A history of gender, people, and pronouns: the story of generic he 58
4 Third-person pronouns in the gender shift: why is that ship a she? 83
5 Gender and asymmetrical word histories: when boys could be girls 133
6 Implications for nonsexist language reform 180
App. 1 Background on early English personal pronouns 189
App. 2 Helsinki Corpus texts and methodology 195
References 204
Index 218
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