Great men and charming creatures on male and female terms in eighteenth century novels
Abstract: A corpus of terms for human beings collected from 18th century novels is studied from a broad sociolinguistic perspective. A summary of recent linguistic theories and a survey of 18th century culture and society are provided as background.The basic assumption is that the meaning of words is dependent on human beings and their society and that shifts in meaning are linked to changes in attitudes, culture and social structure. Terms used for men and women therefore mirror the concepts of 'male' and 'female' in a society.Gender differences found in various semantic fields are presented and discussed. Prototypes for certain terms are suggested by means of frame analysis. Sense developments are traced and related to societal changes. Differences in male and female usage are discussed.The findings are analyzed in terms of the following contrasts within the concepts of 'male' and 'female': spirit/matter; power/dependency; active/passive; varied/limited.
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