The evolution of gender -neutral language: Can fathers <i>mother</i>?
This dissertation analyzes the linguistic changes around issues of childcare—focused on a five word set: “father,” “mother,” “parent,” “family,” and “home”—which have taken place in American English over roughly the past twenty-five years, the final quarter of the 20th Century. Of particular interest is the impact of four factors: The egalitarian narrative that we can trace back to the Natural Rights philosophers whose work informs and undergirds the founding documents of the United States; economic factors, chiefly the rise of the two-earner household; self-interest, both as a motivation for change and as a motivation for stasis, and; tradition. Using a poststructuralist approach adapted from the work of linguist Norman Fairclough, the five words cited above, and their related forms, are scrutinized through a variety of popular texts, using an examination of the changes in their meanings to explore the conflicting constituencies and conflicting imperatives—what we need as parents vs. what we need as workers—for example-that have sometimes led us and sometimes followed us through nearly three decades of domestic reordering and linguistic rewriting.
Families & family life;
0323: American studies
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships