|This thesis deals with patterns of variation in the usage of gender-inclusive personal nouns in
contemporary German texts. The aim is to examine the existence and shape of such patterns on
the basis of textual analyses. The approach is qualitative; the theoretical point of departure is text
linguistics and reference-semantics. A functional and social perspective on language is crucial, as
well as the notion of relevance.
The main strategies for referring to female and male persons with personal nouns are 1) the
gender-inclusive masculine (der Lehrer = the teacher), 2) splitting forms (e.g. der Lehrer und die
Lehrerin = the male and the female teacher) and 3) gender-neutral forms (e.g. die Lehrenden =
‘those who teach’).
The material consists of texts from different contexts, mainly from feminist and academic
discourses, but also from popular magazines and newspapers. The texts studied contain a
variation between at least two of the three referring strategies.
Two main patterns of variation are proposed in the thesis. The first pattern is described in
chapter 5 and concerns the art of reference of the current personal noun. Two variation subtypes
are distinguished. The first one contains the notion that personal nouns with specific reference
are more likely to appear as a splitting form, whereas personal nouns with non-specific reference
are more likely to appear in the masculine. The second subtype suggests that personal nouns with
reference to the recipients of the current text are more likely to appear as a splitting form. This is
considered as an ambition for explicitly including every reader of the text and furthermore as a
manifestation of the interpersonal metafunction of language (in the sense of Systemic Functional
The second type of variation is described in chapter 6. Here, the concept of relevance is
crucial. Focus is on the relevance of pointing out the gender of the referents. The first variation
subtype concerns the fact that gender-inclusive masculine nouns are used for denoting groups of
people who are stereotyped as male. The second subtype concerns texts where mainly masculine
forms are used for gender-inclusive reference. In these texts, splitting forms occur when women
are thematically important.
The study argues that the patterns found manifest an underlying principle which is central in
verbal communication and rhetoric in general: the tension between closeness and distance.
|gender, feminism, German, language change, text linguistics, reference theory, relevance theory, semantics, pragmatics, media discourse, systemic functional grammar, evaluation
|Geschlechtsübergreifende Personenbezeichnungen. Eine Referenz- und Relevanzanalyse an Texten
|Doctor of Philosophy
|Göteborgs universitet. Humanistiska fakulteten
|University of Gothenburg. Faculty of Arts
|Department of Languages and Literatures ; Institutionen för språk och litteraturer
|Lördagen den 18 september 2010, kl. 10.00, sal T302, Olof Wijksgatan 6