Gendered Pronouns in Chinese EL2 Speech: The Case of Epicene Pronouns
Keywords:Epicene pronoun, EL2, Spoken English, Singular they, Chinese EL2
This paper presents an exploratory study on the usage of epicene pronouns in the speech of Chinese EL2 students, who were undertaking a Master’s programme in the UK. The reasons for speakers’ use or non-use of epicene pronouns is also explored to provide a fuller picture of the speakers’ usage as well as their perceptions of gender-inclusive pronouns. An elicitation based speaking task was used to gather epicene pronoun usage. This was followed by a semi-structured interview utilizing stimulated recall techniques to gather data on the participants’ reasons for use or non-use of epicene pronouns as well as their perceptions of gender-inclusive pronouns. The findings showed that singular they was the epicene pronoun used most often, with the reason being that the participants were imagining a group of people. The avoidance strategy employed most often by participants was usage of the pronoun you, and the participants’ reasoning was that it made the response more personal for the listener. Regarding the different antecedent types, there was a higher number of avoidance strategies used with notionally plural antecedents. On the other hand, notionally singular antecedents were found to have a higher number of epicene pronouns used. For EL2 educators, these findings can inform the introduction of epicene pronouns to students.
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