The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch 9/19 - Hadas Kotek (Apple)

Speaker: Hadas Kotek (Apple)

Title: Gender representation in linguistic example sentences

Time: Thursday, September 19th, 12:30pm – 1:50 pm

Location: 32-D461

Abstract: This talk surveys two ongoing projects concerned with the representation of women in example sentences in linguistics. (Collaborations with Katharina Pabst, Paola Cépeda, Kristen Syrett, Rikker Dockum, Sarah Babinski, Christopher Geissler.). The first project looks at example sentences in syntax textbooks. Following the adoption of the LSA’s Guidelines for Inclusive Language and the 20th anniversary of Macaulay & Brice (1997: M&B)’s survey of examples in 11 syntax textbooks, we present an analysis of 6 recent textbooks. We sampled 200 examples from each textbook, and found that the gender skew and stereotypes reported in M&B are still present: Among other findings, men are twice as likely to occur as subjects and receive proper names, and examples often perpetuate gender stereotypes. The second project examines example sentences published in all papers that have appeared in Language, Linguistic Inquiry, and Natural Language & Linguistic Theory over the past 20 years. We find many similarities to prior work, but are able to provide much greater detail. Among our findings: a striking imbalance of male to female arguments; women are less likely to be subjects and have names or referring pronouns; they are more likely to be recipients or kin (mother, sister, etc). We discuss many other stereotypes in our talk, as well as trends over time and across journals, and a brief comparison to corpus-based examples published over the past 20 years in Language in Society. I conclude the talk by discussing the importance of this project for awareness-raising among individual researchers and (especially) instructors, as well as how we can improve and do better.