Seminar February 15th – Michal Jahns ‘Debating Gender and Language’

This Tuesday 15th February, 1-2pm, Silvertone Building Room 317. All welcome.

Speaker: Michal Jahns (Linguistics, Roehampton University) – ‘Debating Gender and Language’ – Chair: Dr. Olu Jenzen

Abstract: Drawing on my doctoral research on the feminist debate on language in Poland, the aim of my presentation will be to raise questions about the epistemological status of feminist cultural critique. I will briefly discuss the specific features of the debate on linguistic sexism in the Polish context. The characteristic will be based on examples from three sources of data: (1) gender and language academic literature; (2) in-depth interviews conducted with members of the Feminist Critique Research Centre at a Polish university; and (3) from essays on the subject of gender and language written by secondary-school pupils. The feminist interpretation of masculine bias of the Polish language will be then compared with critical analyses of other cultural phenomena: advertisement campaigns based on gender stereotypes and patriarchal images of the world present in the Bible. Irvine and Gal’s (2000) notion of fractal recursivity will be used to show how similar interpretations resurface in analyses of substantially different phenomena. I will argue that interpretations drawn from the reflection on linguistic structure are a widespread common-sense way of negotiating social norms and values, and as such, are a promising and under-researched field of study. However, I will be critical of the cases in which feminist scholars present one particular interpretation as “self-evident”, as it happens in example (1). I will conclude by pointing at some possible consequences that my argument may have for feminist, or otherwise critical, analysis of cultural phenomena other than the language.


Michal Jahns is a first-year student of an MPhil/PhD course in Linguistics at Roehampton University in London under the supervision of Prof. Tope Omoniyi and Dr. Annabelle Mooney. His research project investigates the interplay between linguistic ideologies and linguistic practices in the context of the feminist debate on language in Poland. He received an MA in Linguistics form Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland and is working on completing an MA these in Sociology form the same institution. His research interests include gender and language, language ideologies, applied linguistics and sociology of religion.


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