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Nine The Use of the Epicene Pronoun in Written English: Variation across Genres Alejandro Parini

Universidad de Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Abstract

The fact that the English language lacks a gender-neutral pronoun has prompted the use of forms already existing in the language such as the pronominal alternatives he, he or she and they. The purpose of this study is to analyse the choice of the epicene pronoun in two different corpora: a) a corpus of textbooks on the social sciences covering the period 1995-2005 and b) a corpus of online editions of UK and Us newspapers consulted in the first half of 2007. The analysis has been carried out taking into account the occurrence of the three pronominal variants with three different types of antecedents: definite, indefinite and quantifier. We argue that pronominal choice is sensitive to the linguistic context and to the type of genre.

The results show that there is a direct relationship between the pronominal form used and the type of antecedent and an indirect relationship between the use of the epicene variants and the type of genre.

 
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