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Shifting social norms as a driving force for linguistic change: Struggles about language and gender in the German Bundestag

  • This paper focuses on language change based on shifting social norms, in particular with regard to the debate on language and gender. It is a recurring argument in this debate that language develops "naturally" and that "severe interventions" - such as gender-inclusive language is often claimed to be - in the allegedly "organic" language system are inappropriate and even "dangerous". Such interventions are, however, not unprecedented. Socially motivated processes of language change are neither unusual nor new. We focus in our contribution on one important political-social space in Germany, the German Bundestag. Taking other struggles about language and gender in the plenaries of the Bundestag as a starting point, our article illustrates that language and gender has been a recurring issue in the German Bundestag since the 1980s. We demonstrate how this is reflected in linguistic practices of the Bundestag, by the use of a) designations for gays and lesbians; b) pair forms such as Bürgerinnen und Bürger (female and male citizens); and c) female forms of addresses and personal nouns ('Präsidentin' in addition to 'Präsident'). Lastly, we will discuss implications of these earlier language battles for the currently very heated debate about gender-inclusive language, especially regarding new forms with gender symbols like the asterisk or the colon (Lehrer*innen, Lehrer:innen; male*female teachers) which are intended to encompass all gender identities.

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Author:Carolin Müller-SpitzerORCiDGND, Samira OchsORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):ArXiv
Publisher:Cornell University
Place of publication:Ithaca, NY
Document Type:Preprint
Year of first Publication:2024
Date of Publication (online):2024/02/07
Publishing Institution:Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS)
Tag:German; gender-inclusive language; language and gender; language change
GND Keyword:Geschlechtergerechte Sprache; Politische Sprache; Soziale Norm; Sprachpolitik; Sprachpurismus; Sprachwandel
Page Number:43
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Program areas:Lexik
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt