He or She or They : Generic pronoun use among Finnish and Swedish L2 speakers of English

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen

Abstract: The use of pronouns by native Finnish and Swedish L2 speakers of English was tested in order to discover a possible cross-linguistic transfer. The participants were tasked to refer to gender-ambiguous antecedents in both oral and written form as well as report their attitudes towards issues regarding gendered language and gender in society. The hypotheses were that either the gender-neutrality of Finnish would cause the Finnish participants to use more neutral pronouns or that the Swedish speakers would be more neutral because they are more familiar with the issue of gendered pronouns than the Finns. No statistically significant difference was found between the groups regarding the neutrality of pronouns, but there were some statistically significant differences between the occurrences of gender neutral pronouns (p=.0001). There was also a statistically significant difference in the attitudes (p=.0016); the Swedes were more in favor of gender-inclusive language and aware of gender discrimination in society. The results of the study bear implications to the importance of early gender inclusive language education.

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