Explicit gender stereotyping in bilingualismGreta Mazzaggio
, 2021, published scientific conference contribution abstract
Abstract: A gender stereotype is a mental representation related to gender, according to which certain characteristics are attributed without direct experience (Allport 1954). Many ordinary words present a negative connotation when applied to women compared to men (Lakoff 1973). Do linguistic stimuli influence our bias towards gender stereotypes? We want to exploit the foreign language effect (FLE) to see whether explicit linguistic gender stereotypes are reduced
in a second language (L2) compared to a first language (L1). We asked Italian native speakers (213), English native speakers (105) and Italian/English bilinguals (192) to evaluate words as neuter, masculine or feminine. We presented
a total of 58 words divided into four categories: 14 Power words vs. 14 Weak words and 15 Warm words vs. 15 Cold words. As expected, overall, participants judged Power words much more masculine than Weak words and Cold words much more masculine than Warm words (Rudman et al. 2001). Running a two-way MANOVA (Group*Gender), there was a statistically significant effect of group for Weak words and of Gender for both Weak words and Warm words. Post-hoc analyses revealed that L2 participants behave differently from the L1 ones, with lower masculine scores for Power words, lower feminine scores for Weak words and Warm words. We demonstrated that when presented with words in a L2 participants are less prone to judge them in a gender-biased way. Our results seem to confirm the FLE:
a L2 might trigger cognitive and emotional distance, leading to a lesser gender-biased semantic behavior and language might (mildly) affect how we perceive reality. The take home message is that linguistic behavior might affect our inner beliefs and, thus, how women are represented in everyday language should reflect better equality standards. Gender- free language policies (e.g., gender-neutral language) might be useful in the long run.
Keywords: linguistic sexism, gender, stereotype, psycholinguistics, bilingualism
Published in RUNG: 22.09.2021; Views: 1333; Downloads: 69
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