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Chapter 4. Sex-indefinite references to human beings in American English

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Abstract

This paper contributes to the study of effective uses of gender-inclusive pronouns in American English, following the proscription of systematic <i>he</i> and, sometimes, of <i>they</i>, with morphologically singular sex-indefinite antecedents. While a number of studies start from the sex-indefinite <i>anaphors</i> in a corpus, the present paper takes the <i>antecedent</i> as a starting point, for additional results. It focuses on the phrase <i>your child</i>, in COCA and COHA. The masculine is found to remain the default gender compared to the feminine; neutralisation appears more successful than feminisation; degree of individuation (Newman 1998) is confirmed as a relevant linguistic contribution of the pronouns, though it cannot always be predicted from the sole context; finally, the paper warns against potential interferences between gender-inclusive strategies and fundamental anaphora processing mechanisms.

References

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