Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kids show cultural gender bias

Could language be a significant factor that determines gender bias?  All nouns have a conventional grammatical gender in French, Spanish, and many other languages. For example, in French, the grammatical gender of personne (person) and victime (victim) are always feminine, even when the person or victim is a man! In Spanish, jardín (garden) and libro (book) have a grammatical gender of male, but universidad (university) and revista (magazine) have a feminine grammatical gender.

English assumes most nouns are masculine or have no gramatical gender at all and feminine versions of nouns are used only when specifically identifying a female person or animal. For example, English often refers to both genders of humans as "mankind" or "men" and we often say "he" when we really mean "he or she". A flight attendant might say, "Every passenger is encouraged to wear his seatbelt when he is seated in case we encounter unexpected turbulance." Or a teacher might say, "Every student must put down his pencil when the time for testing has expired".  English speakers would probably never think of inanimate objects as masculine or feminine because the language does not require us to do so.

By contrast, is very important in French and Spanish to learn a noun's gender along with the noun itself because articles, adjectives, some pronouns, and some verbs have to agree with nouns; that is, they change depending on the gender of the noun they modify. I only learned English as a child, so I was a bit confused when I studied Spanish in high-school because I was used to congigation but I had to learn to use the correct grammatical gender for nouns, articles, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs.

So, it seems logical that children who only speak English think of most objects as masculine while children who speak French and Spanish would associate masculinity with some objects and femininity with other objects. It also seems logical that this gender association might also increase the probability that people who only speak English would be sexist, and people who speak French or Spanish might be less likely to be sexist.

Source: Science Daily

Researchers showed objects or images to the children participating in the study and asked them whether the objects seemed to be masculine or feminine in nature. While the unilingual children seemed to identify most objects as masculine, many younger bilingual children were willing to consider that, globally speaking, some objects could be feminine in nature even though "their categorizations didn't correspond very well to whether the objects were masculine or feminine in French."

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at Sciencce Daily

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment Guidelines: Please be respectful of others at all times. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments!