From chairman to chairwoman to chairperson

exploring the move from sexist usages to gender neutrality

Janet Holmes, Robert Sigley, Agnes Terraschke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper analyzes data from written and spoken corpora of British, American, Australian and New Zealand English to track social change in patterns of gender-marking. Frequency data for the use of general terms like woman and man are compared across the different regional varieties of written English, and contrasted with spoken corpus data from Australia and New Zealand. Several alternative social interpretations of the data are considered and discussed. The distributional patterns for occupational terms in the corpora are examined with regard to gender pre-modification and post-modification. The results indicate that female roles are often still explicitly linguistically marked, but this could be interpreted as an indication of women's entry into formerly male-centric domains. The most recent Australian data suggests a move towards gender neutrality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComparative studies in Australian and New Zealand English
Subtitle of host publicationgrammar and beyond
EditorsPam Peters, Peter Collins, Adam Smith
Place of PublicationAmsterdam ; Philadelphia
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9789027248992
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameVarieties of English around the world. General series
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing

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