Grammatical gender as a challenge for language policy: The (im)possibility of non-heteronormative language use in German versus English

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Abstract

The present paper aims to reinvigorate discussions of language policy within language, gender and sexuality studies. It provides initial considerations of a poststructuralist, non-heteronormative language policy for German and English-two languages whose structural make-up differs fundamentally with respect to gender representation. Gendered structure types (lexical, grammatical, social, referential gender; agreement patterns) and their relevance in the two languages are outlined. Three main strands of verbal hygiene in language, gender and sexuality studies (and their language policy strategies) are differentiated: non-sexist, LGBT-friendly and non-heteronormative language policies. The main focus is a specific type of non-heteronormative language policy, namely one which is guided by Queer Linguistic as well as applied linguistic principles. Gender neutralisation is found to be the most useful strategy in this respect. Whereas this strategy is usually unproblematic in English, the existence of a grammatical masculine-feminine contrast in German in some cases renders non-heteronormative language use impossible. It is argued that, in tune with a poststructuralist conceptualisation of language, Queer Linguistic intervention should not aim at changing the language system but at affecting the formation of gender and sexuality at the discursive level. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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Motschenbacher, H. (2014). Grammatical gender as a challenge for language policy: The (im)possibility of non-heteronormative language use in German versus English. Language Policy, 13(3), 243–261. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-013-9300-0

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