Lexical change, discourse practices and the French press

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Widespread demands for women&#8217;s greater &#8216;linguistic presence&#8217; in the Frenchspeaking world have resulted in policies of feminising professional nouns such as <i>la d&#233;put&#233;e</i> &#8220;deputy-FEM&#8221; or <i>la ministre</i> &#8220;minister-FEM&#8221;. The feminisation policy has proven successful, as evidenced in the recent journalistic discourse of major French newspapers referring to women in politics (Fujimura 2005). However Pauwels (1998) and Cameron (2003) argue that the tendency to equate vocabulary with language leaves other language choices unchallenged, as, while use of feminine occupational terms may destabilise the use of the male generic, it may not make any difference in the discourse about women politicians. This paper addresses this concern through content analysis of a corpus of print media during the year 2006, focusing specifically on the discourse related to the two main presidential candidates, Royal and Sarkozy. We suggest that &#8216;social gender&#8217; i.e., stereotypical expectations about who will be a typical member of a given category, may still affect linguistic representation of female leadership, despite any achievement of congruency between referential and grammatical genders.


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