Women and Language in Transition

Edited by Joyce Penfield

Subjects: Women's Studies, Language
Paperback : 9780887064869, 208 pages, August 1987
Hardcover : 9780887064852, 208 pages, August 1987

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Table of contents



Part I. Liberating Language

This New Species That Seeks a New Language: On Sexism in Language and Language Change

Nancy M. Henley

Linguistic Disruption: He/She, S/He, He or She, He-She

Betty Lou Dubois and Isabel Crouch

Guidelines Against Sexist Language: A Case History

Alleen Pact Nilsen

Appendix: Guidelines for Nonsexist Use of Language

Resources for Liberating the Curriculum

Barbara Withers

Appendix I: Recommendations to Liberate the Curriculum

Appendix II: Resource Tools to Liberate the Curriculum

Part II. Identity Creation

Surnaming: The Struggle for Personal Identity

Joyce Penfield

Renaming: Vehicle for Empowerment

Nan Van Den Bergh

Women Take Back the Talk

Cheris Kramarae and Mercilee M. Jenkins

Part III. Women of Color

The Role of American Indian Women in Cultural Continuity and Transition

Bea Medicine

Language and Female Identity in the Puerto Rican Community

Ana Celia Zentella

Informal Conversation Topics Among Urban Afro-American Women

Kikanza Nuri Robins and T. Jean Adenika


Notes on the Contributors

Index of Names

Index of Topics


This collection of essays deals with the interplay of language and social change, asking the question: How can language and society be made gender equal? The contributors examine the critical role of language in the lives of white women and women of color in the United States. Since language pervades many dimensions of women's lives, this study takes a multi-disciplinary approach to the issues considered.

The volume is divided into three sections. The first, "Liberating Language," focuses on the active role women had in altering the extent of linguistic sexism in English during the 1970s. A second section, "Identity Creation," deals with the alteration of that portion of language which serves to name women and their experiences. The final section, "Women of Color," offers a rare and timely look at the particular problems confronted by minority women. It argues that women of color have different problems and different links to language than white middle-class women.

Joyce Penfield is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University.


"The connections that the book makes among language change, social change, and individual change ("identity") are important contributions to the literature on gender and language. The section on minority women's experiences is significant in suggesting ways in which such changes have differed for different groups of women in the U. S."— Marsha Houston Stanback