10. Say "Oui" to "We": A Longitudinal Analysis of Gendered Pronouns in French and English

Colleen Wilkes Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Eloise Sureau-Hale Butler University
Modern English only uses gender in personal, reflexive, and possessive third person singular pronouns. Modern English also does not use gendered articles, which extends to not assigning an arbitrary gender to inanimate objects. This study examines how recent this aspect of grammar is, and to what degree did cultural interaction with the French throughout history influence the use of gendered pronouns. One written text in British English is selected from the each of the eras of Old English, Middle English, and Modern English, and one written text in French are chosen to correspond with each English text from approximately the same century, for a total of six texts. The geopolitical influences on incorporating gender into language were also considered. This study found that gender is altogether more present in all three eras of French; Old English is found to have more gendered articles and pronouns than other later evolutions of English. Interactions between Norman pirates and Celtic Britons up through French words being fashionably borrowed by English nobles are evidence of geopolitical and international relations impacting the evolution of the English language.
Modern Languages, Cultures, & Literatures
Poster Presentation

When & Where

Irwin Library 2nd Floor