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Liberte, egalite, sororite: a new linguistic order in France?
Women and Language. 25.2 (Fall 2002): p1+. From Literature Resource Center.
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Abstract: The paper places the question of Women and Language in France in its historical context. This demonstrates how it is manifested in a top-down intervention in keeping with national policies of linguistic interventionism. The paper focuses on the reasons for the opposition to the feminisation of the French language and the role of the Ministry for Women's rights in the 80's. It also touches on the problems of eradicating sexism from a romance language like French. A corpus of contemporary written French from the national press forms the basis of the analysis. The following issues are addressed." whether the officially recommended forms have entered usage, whether women in France are still being discriminated linguistically and to what extent the language is in the process of being modified.


Background to the Position of Women in France

152 years ago, in 1848, at Seneca Falls, an important meeting was held to demand universal suffrage for all Americans. Although French women had become citoyennes (women citizens) during the 1789 French Revolution, their achievements remained minimal. During the 1848 Revolution, French women voiced their claims more stringently in papers like "La voix des femmes," thus acting as precursors of the suffragettes, and the MLF (Mouvement de liberation des femmes) in the 20th century. Some men also championed a new social order and argued for women's rights, i.e. Victor Hugo, in 1849, at the French National Assembly and, later John Stuart Mill, in a seminal speech to the House of Commons, suggested replacing "man" by "person" in all official documents. (1)

It is common knowledge that the post-war (post second world war) period in France is associated with women's emancipation. French women lagged behind in all walks of life, due to social edicts that prevented them from voting, having access to education, employment, public office and also from exerting control over their own body. After years of fighting for their electoral freedom, they were given the vote by De Gaulle in August 1944. In the wake of this unexpected victory, women continued to focus their struggle on a number of issues: the right to paid work outside the home, equal work for equal pay, access to all areas of education, and acquiring financial independence. In the sixties, legislation was passed which affected women's personal life (new marriage laws in 1968, the legalisation of contraception in 1967). Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan's influence permeated the thinking of the new generation of post' 68 feminists who gathered under the banner of the MLF, created in 1970. French philosophers like Lacan, for whom women merely exist in the patriarchal discourse, and Derrida, for whom reality does not exist outside of discourse or language, were also influential on the MLF. The movement was characterised by intellectual preoccupations of this kind. Although it immersed itself in ideological thought, it played a strong part in bringing about the 1974 Loi Veil, legalising abortions. In the same year, for the first time a Secretary for Women's Affairs was created. This government post was to become a Ministerial one when President Mitterrand instituted a Ministry for Women's Rights in 1981.

The question of women and language usage only came to public attention, in France, in the early 80's, following the appointment of Yvette Roudy, the first Minister for Women's Rights. Two decades later, it seems relevant to examine whether the French language has changed and whether the official language 'recommendations ', made in the eighties as a result of her action, have entered common usage. Have newspapers taken on board these language proposals or do they still display an aversion to change? Are they in a state of flux with no editorial policy in this issue? The evidence suggests that they still rely on a mixture of both new and old forms for feminine professional designations.

Women and Language in France: The Beginnings

Following her visit to Quebec in 1982, Y. Roudy tackled head-on the question of lexical designations for female job titles. Quebec was way ahead of France and work was well under way to eradicate sexism from the French language there. By contrast, this concern had never been brought to the forefront of French politics before. In the 1980s this issue of 'women and language' began to permeate the national consciousness. Albeit with a different locus, the question of language and women emerged as an item on the agenda of women's demands: it was not a grassroots' claim, rather a top-down intervention in keeping with national French policies of linguistic interventionism. As a result, the debate shifted from the confines of a rarefied feminist intelligentsia to the public domain. It rapidly became apparent that the focus for action went beyond the question of lexis, or the preservation of the purity of the French language (i.e. against pernicious American or English influences!) The problem began to be couched in social and political terms. Roudy (2) argued that semantic gaps, resulting from the absence of feminine forms to designate female job titles, constituted a veritable obstacle to social progress and the full emancipation of French women. In 1983, the Law for professional equality was introduced to remedy inequalities in female/male remuneration. This legislation re-defined the concept of "work of equal value" and introduced measures to facilitate women's employment. The law made it illegal for an employer to stipulate a preference for a man rather than a woman. For low-status posts, there had never been any difficulty in formulating a non-discriminatory advertisement:

"societe recherche vendeurs/vendeuses" (company seeks salesmen/saleswomen) or "societe recherche employe(e)s"(company seeks male/female employees).

In spite of the new legislation, women continued to encounter obstacles in the climb to posts of high responsibility, particularly so in traditionally male-dominated spheres of employment. Could this be in any way related to the fact that, often, these more prestigious posts did not have a feminine form to designate them? For example: un professeur (a teacher), un ingenieur (an engineer), un depute (a Member of Parliament), un docteur (a doctor), un ministre (a Cabinet Minister), un maire (a Mayor) and many more. Notice that in all these cases the masculine suffix in eur or in d includes women within it. In the case of epicene words like Ministre, the masculine determiner un or le was always used. In the case of maire, the feminine form la mairesse did exist but was semantically different: it referred to the wife of the Mayor! This was the case in French for a number of top jobs (especially in the army) where the wife of the incumbent was accorded her husband's title.

In the 1980's in France, women were overtly encouraged to enter non-traditional women's areas, to move away from the arts and humanities and to embrace such male bastions as law, medicine, sciences and politics. Concurrently, women were rendered invisible as there were no attested forms to designate women members of professions from which they had formerly been barred or to which their access had been restricted. How could women become more prominent in public life, or penetrate this man's world whilst social occultation was perpetuated through the language. By constituting an obstacle to egalitarian ideology, French linguistic conservatism was seen as being directly responsible for the resulting inequality and linguistic discrimination.

Opposition to Feminisation of the French language

Women occupying senior posts were divided on the question of how they should be referred to linguistically; thus Christine Ockrent, perhaps the most famous of all women newsreaders in France in the eighties, stated:

"On devrait m'appeler redactrice, mais cette forme feminine ne correspond pas a mon travail, on penserait que je redige un magazine feminin. Donc, je suis redacteur, il n 'y a rien a faire" (3). (I should be called a woman editor but this feminine form does not correspond to my job, people would think I edit a women's magazine. Therefore, I am an editor, and that's it)

Simone Veil, the former French Cabinet Minister, echoed this view, declaring:

"Personnellement, je ne suis pas pour la feminisation des noms de professions, car je pense que grammaticalement ce sont des substantifs et non pas des adjectifs, et qui n'ont pas besoin d'etre feminises". (4)

(For my part, I am not in favour of the feminisation of job titles as, grammatically they are substantives and not adjectives and therefore there is no need to feminise them)

Perhaps even more importantly, society was not made aware that women did and could assume such responsibilities since their female identity tended to be subsumed, or even say obliterated by the male grammatical gender. A woman was: un professeur (a teacher), un docteur (a doctor), un ministre (a Cabinet Minister), un maire (a Mayor) etc. The social rather than the morphological rigidity of the French language created and reinforced this handicap, which was all the more unacceptable because it affected women in precisely those positions which they were encouraged to aspire to. They became token women, anomalies to be rectified by the adjunct of the word "femme" antepositively: une femme-professeur, or postpositively: un professeur-femme (a woman teacher), since the word professeur, with its masculine suffix, is not an epicene as professor and teacher are in English.

The Ministry for Women's Rights was asked to look into these questions of feminine nomenclature for job titles in order to facilitate the task of those civil servants who had to enforce the law. In the Spring of 1983 a "Commission de terminologie" was set up, with the following aims:

1) To establish acceptable rules for the formation of the feminine;

2) To identify problem areas;

3) To propose neologisms where necessary;

This legally set up government body encountered considerable opposition, in the media, from ministers, Members of Parliament, and particularly from the Academie frangaise which thought the effect of the committee was to debase the French language and to damage it. It was so concerned about the Commission's interference in this field that it went as far as sending an official "avertissement" (warning) to this Committee. Amidst a public outcry (5), the Committee, composed of educationalists, linguists, journalists, etc., completed its work in January 1986 and published its recommendations in the Journal Officiel of 16th March 1986. It is worth noticing that like the OLF in Quebec, the "Commission" rejected the use offemme followed by a masculine noun e.g. Femme policier (a woman police officer). The French word for 'police officer' in not an epicene word, as it has the ier masculine suffix ending.

In France, language is slow to reflect social change. This is, in my view, due to three main factors: the perceived impossibility of change which is presented as a morphological obstacle in itself; social resistance to linguistic change on the part of the language community; and deliberate obstruction on the part of regulatory bodies (in charge of linguistic prescriptivism) like the French Academy.

In the case of French as spoken in France as opposed to the varieties of French spoken in other francophone countries, all three factors seemed to have contributed to this reluctance to feminize. As a result, the process of feminisation has been noticeably slower than in Quebec and other French-speaking countries.

French Women and Parity

In the 90's, French women endured deterioration in their position in the work place: Female unemployment rose steadily, accompanied by low wages and increasing insecurity of tenure and precarity. Moreover, there was a growing backlash to women's freedom in the shape of anti-abortion movements and new immigration laws. Simultaneously, more women than ever before reached the higher echelons of public office, and became prominent in the political arena, in top positions. The percentage of women MPs in the French National Assembly has remained low ever since women were first elected to the Chamber, in 1945, and is currently at 10.4% (6). In an unprecedented speech, in March 1997, a French Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, made a plea in favour of positive discrimination and argued in favour of a change in the French Constitution to ensure that women should cease to be under-represented in politics. His aim was to initiate a "decade of parity." Since political debate still rages on the question of "quotas" for women, the purpose of my fieldwork is to investigate whether or to what extent women have achieved linguistic parity since the official recommendations were promulgated in 1986.

As far as prescriptive use is concerned, the rules of feminisation have hardly been modified as a result of the ministerial decree. Most French course books still reiterate pre-1986 rules, i.e.: women holding posts that are still referred to by the masculine name are still addressed as if they were a man e.g.: Madame le Ministre (using the masculine determiner: le). The following survey of descriptive use aims to establish whether women's identity continues to be erased by the morphologically marked masculine form or whether any signs of overt feminisation are beginning to emerge.

The Corpus

These questions will be answered by examining a corpus from the written press. The corpus chosen is from Le Monde, the internationally respected Parisian daily newspaper. This daily is proud of its editorial independence and is seen as a serious, left- of- centre publication, read mainly by educated readers. Its densely printed 32 pages were scrutinised, over a period of 7 days in 1997 and over the same number of days in 1998. In each edition, all substantives with a human female referent were systematically recorded: all the (+ human) and (+ female), without exception. On average, about 70 feminine nouns were listed in each issue. No part of the paper was omitted except the travel supplements, which yielded hardly any relevant data. The data were sifted from circa 70,000 words per edition, producing a visible woman's presence of the order of 0.1%. This under-representation was particularly noticeable in the business and financial pages but much less so in the political pages, due largely to the number of elected women MPs and recently appointed women Ministers in the socialist Government of the Prime Minister M.L. Jospin.

This linguistic data have been classified into five categories:

1. Normal Feminization,

2. Masculine,

3. Feminized,

4. Epicene,

5. Maximal Feminization.

These categories are defined as follows:

The first category represents the forms, which follow the normal morphological rules of feminization. They are the straightforward, problem-free types of feminisation, feminine forms currently attested in dictionaries and in common usage, i.e. words which do have a feminine form that is in use. Some define women by their family and domestic life: fille (daughter, girl), femme (woman), mere (mother), epouse (spouse), etc. Others define women by their professional or social life: cliente (client), actrice (actress), employee (employee), chanteuse (singer) etc. In French the normal rule of feminisation is to replace the masculine suffix ending by a feminine ending, for example: chanteur becomes chanteuse in the feminine, the eur masculine suffix becomes euse in the feminine. In some cases a different lexical item is used, for example: homme (man) versus femme (woman).

The second category refers to the masculine words (and determiners) used to denote women's jobs: le professeur (the teacher), le maitre de conference (associate professor), le chef de service (the head of a department), le ministre (the Minister), le juge (the judge), le directeur de recherche (the thesis supervisor), le president (the president), le depute europeen (the Euro MP), le maire (the Mayor). In all these cases, the masculine determiner le (as opposed to the feminine la) is used, followed by the masculine or epicene form of the noun, not by the feminine, i.e., you do not have la presidente in this category. Although this is morphologically possible it is not socially acceptable to some speakers of the language.

The third and fourth categories refer to feminized nouns: They are all preceded by the feminine determiner la (the) or une (a). Both these categories include words which both now, and traditionally, occur in the masculine form. In the third category, one finds attested morphologically marked forms, which are chosen in preference to the maculine form, for example:

   la presidente in preference to le president (the president) or la
   directrice in preference to le directeur (the director) or la
   realisatrice in preference to le realisateur (the producer).

What is happening here is that these feminine forms (feminine determiner and feminine suffix) are being used to refer to prestigious occupations, whereas in the past, they were reserved for more mundane positions such as the head of a primary school, the president of a low status organisation or the director of a children's TV /radio programme.

The fourth category is reserved for epicene terms that are also preceded by the feminine determiner ia: la ministre (the Minister); la philosophe (the philosopher); la porte parole (the spokesperson); la journaliste (the journalist); la garde des Sceaux (the Minister of Justice) etc. The feminine marker here (in French) is to be found only in the determiner and is therefore lost in the English translation, as the article "the" is unmarked for gender unlike the French one which is marked feminine or masculine.

The last category, category 5, refers to fully-fledged feminised forms which, so far, have not had a feminine form attested in the dictionary. It is worth noting that these forms are now in use and have been for a decade or so, in other francophone countries, particularly in Quebec: une chirurgienne (a woman surgeon), une ecrivaine (a woman writer), une matin (a woman sailor), une medecin (a woman doctor), une professeure (a woman teacher), une auteure (a woman author), une maitresse de conferences (a woman assistant professor), une doyenne (a woman dean).

In order to illustrate the different levels of feminization, one can look at the following illustrative table:

2. masculine un auteur le depute le ministre le metteur en scone

3. feminised une auteur la depute la metteur en scone

4. epicene la ministre

5. maximal fern une auteure la deputee la metteure en scone une autrice la metteuse en scone

So, a French woman MP can be either: le depute (masculine determiner and masculine noun), or la depute (feminine determiner followed by masculine noun) or, la deputee (feminine determiner followed by feminine noun). She may insist on how she wishes to be referred to and she will be referred to differently in the media according to the views taken by particular broadcasters, editors and journalists. Such discrepancies indicate that this is a sensitive issue in France as are nearly all matters pertaining to language change.

Epicene words are the least problematic in terms of feminisation, as they simply require a change of determiner from le to la or un to une. The next category in terms of ease of feminization is category 3, that is to say words like directrice (headmistress) which have been attested and used in the feminine form for a considerable time, usually to designate the incumbent of a less prestigious occupation e.g.: headmistress of a junior school. Next come words like depute (MP) where, morphologically, the feminisation can be effected by adding an "e", giving depute. However, usage is slow to change and only one case of deputee was recorded in our sample. Finally, the bone of contention remains those words ending in cur which do not have a feminine form in the dictionary. The morphological process is nonetheless rich and varied and allows for a good deal of flexibility. One can say une auteure (author); une metteure en scene (film director); une autrice; une metteuse en scone (by analogy with: une actrice: an actress; and une vendeuse: a shop assistant) or une auteur or une metteur en scene.

But in spite of this flexible morphological resource, which is most fully utilised in Quebec, social resistance to feminization prevailed for a long time in France.

Summary of the Results: 1997

Apart from the low figures overall (0.1% of feminine presence), the most striking feature of the survey was the preponderance of feminine nouns in the first category, words that have an attested form in current use. These words followed the common morphological rules for feminisation and were not subject to any kind of social resistance. Very few of them apply to prestigious occupations.

For 1997, it is striking to note that Category 2 is consistently higher than 3 and 4 added together. This indicates that, in the perceived difficult/grey areas of feminization, the most prevalent solution is to resort to using a masculine word, in order to adhere to the conservative norm, in conformity with traditional usage. Women are thus suffocated by a linguistic mechanism, which is indicative of society's refusal to acknowledge their right to occupy certain socio-economic positions. Predictably, this recalcitrance vis a vis language change is found particularly in nouns referring to high- level positions occupied by women.

Active resistance can be broadly classified into eight areas, in decreasing order, out of the seventy-eight occurrences of masculine terms in 1997. Thirty eight occur in the field of politics: e.g., le ministre (the minister), le depute (the MP), le secretaire d'etat (the Secretary of State), le maire (the Mayor), etc. Ten entries for education follow, e.g., le professeur (the teacher), le recteur (chief education officer), le chancelier (University Chancellor) (7) le maitre de conferences (associate professor). Then follow general instances, (ten entries) where the main stumbling block is the word directeur (director). The field of law has eight entries, the main resistance being the word juge (judge), while medicine with words like docteur en medecine (medical doctor), chirurgien-dentiste (dental surgeon) and the press, redacteur (editor), editeur (publisher), auteur (author) both have four entries. Finally, there are two entries for the field of religion: le pasteur (minister/priest) and le rabbin (rabbi) and only one for the police: inspecteur de police (police inspector). However, one should be wary of concluding that there is little or no resistance in these domains, as the evidence shows that these words are remarkably absent from categories 3, 4 and 5 too. It is precisely in these posts that difficulties occurred since, traditionally, either only the masculine form was used (there was no feminine form in use) or only the masculine form conveyed the prestige associated with the post. If one examines the 45 nouns in categories 3 and 4, a similar pattern can be observed. In decreasing order, one finds: politics, general terms, the press, law, education, and, no entry for the police, religion and medicine. In fact, it is the case that women have achieved greater prominence in the field of politics in the sense that they are more often found in high office (one PM in 1991, 10 current Ministers, 60 MPs, and several mayors) and this is therefore widely reported in the national press. The same words found in category 2, in the masculine form, can also be found in the feminine. Thus a French woman can be and is reported in the press either as la ministre or le ministre (Cabinet Minister); la realisatrice or le realisateur (film/TV director); la presidente or le president (the president). In other words, she may be portrayed either as a woman or as a man, since there are far fewer epicene terms in French than in English and it is, in any case, necessary to use a determiner which, in French, is marked grammatically for gender, every substantive in French being either feminine or masculine, something frequently lamented by people who are learning French.

The nil result in category 5 can be explained in two ways. Partly because the maximum level of feminization, for a large proportion of nouns, has already been achieved at level 3 and 4, there is no morphological scope for further feminization. That is, words like la directrice (the director), la presidente (the president), la ministre (the Cabinet Minister), la conseillere (the advisor), can in any case go no further in the morphological process of feminization. There are only a few cases where achieving the maximum level of feminisation remains problematic in French (in France), not because it cannot be achieved morphologically but because usage is uncertain due to the various possibilities offered by the language. This adds to the prevailing social resistance which, in France, is reinforced by the institutions that control language, itself, as previously mentioned. Paradoxically, sociolinguistic resistance is often due to social hesitation or mere blocking. Purists take refuge behind the Academie francaise and adopt the conservative attitudes of prescriptive grammarians. They argue, on spurious grounds, in favour of maintaining the status quo. Some educationalists and grammarians approach the question from a morphological standpoint and argue that the education ministry's rules are contradictory and lead to confusion in the classroom, in spite of the fact that a recent ministerial circular stresses that equality between men and women in the civil service should automatically accompany changes in contemporary society.

Summary of the 1998 Results

The analysis of the 1998 corpus points to nearly the same conclusions as for 1997 (8). In all cases, the largest entry remains for category 1 (normal feminisation) and category 2 (masculine) also remains higher than categories 3, 4 and 5 put together. The only overt difference between the 1997 sample and the 1998 is that the latter has a few occurrences of nouns in category 5 (maximal feminization), although they are still statistically insignificant. They may be a sign that there is an emerging trend, albeit only in its gestation period, toward bolder types of feminization in French, feminizations which have, for several years, been acceptable and accepted in other francophone countries. The 3 occurrences in category 5 are: la deputee (the woman MP) which occurred twice and la metteuse en scone (the woman film director). The most unexpected one, because of its problematic suffix in eur, was the feminisation of metteur en scone (film director). Paradoxically, it is where there is an embarras de richesse, morphologically speaking, to feminize, that feminisation is less likely to occur. Thus the masculine le metteur en scone can become in the feminine either: la metteur en scone (using the feminine determiner) or la metteure en scene (with the feminine determiner and the eure suffix, thus retaining the same phonological pattern in the masculine and in the feminine) or la metteuse en scone (feminine determiner and the euse suffix). The latter is still perceived as either bold, simply un-French or awkward by native speakers consulted on the subject. Using the neologism la metteuse en scene and, even more audaciously, teaching it, appears at present, because of its problematic suffix in eur, as a marked transgression of prescriptive usage, what the French call le bon usage. The other significant difference between 1997 and 1998 is that the gap between the number of masculine forms and feminised forms appears to be slowly reducing. Thus, in 1997, one found 33 more occurrences of masculine forms (category 2) than feminine forms (categories 3, 4, and 5) to refer to women; by 1998 this gap had narrowed down to 9. There were only 9 more occurrences of masculine forms (category 2) than feminine forms (categories 3, 4 & 5). In other words, one can infer that the process of feminisation, based on a sample of written French extracted from one source in the national French press, namely Le Monde, is already under way, though only at a fairly slow pace. One notices that a substantial percentage of masculine forms is still being used to describe women's positions, especially when they are in the higher echelons of their professions. It would seem that the top-down method of enforcing language change, the traditionally used method in France since the French Revolution, is largely ineffectual. An interventionist policy of linguistic reform by ministerial decrees and official circulars seems to have had only a limited effect. The 1986 recommendations were ignored for a decade and it was only in the late 90's in France that, under the impulse of several women Cabinet Ministers who insisted on the feminization of their titles and on the use of feminized titles in their Ministries, that the momentum of change began to accelerate.


In the specific case of legislation on language, one is confronted with a doubly sensitive issue at the core of a sociolinguistics debate. On the one hand, there is the familiar resistance to 'tinkering' with the language (preserving linguistic norms, safeguarding its purity against foreign influences). At the same time, the language is also being changed pro-actively. One is asked to take on board neologisms which have not yet acquired fashionable connotations, unlike the modish American and English indents into French which are definitely 'in' and which are conveyed relentlessly by the press, by the advertising agencies and the media generally in France, as these words are connotated with cachet and style and facilitate the transmission of the message. By contrast, feminizing the language is overtly linked with changes in contemporary society regarding the position of women particularly in high office. In that society, these changes are still perceived as threatening by some sections of the population. So the sociolinguistic change is sluggish, the social reticence hinders the linguistic move forward, in a society that is still described by foreign observers as racist and sexist, and where the debate on political correctness remains largely a subject of derision. Some women take offence when they are called for example: Madame le gendral, and others are exasperated when they are referred to by a feminine form such as Madame la generale as this is the form that used to designate the wife of the general. (9)

A romance language like French presents a more complex task than for example English when trying to eradicate sexism from the language. As in Latin America, the emphasis is on making women linguistically visible. Although much has been written on the generic pronoun "he" (il) and the generic use of "l'homme" (man), no empirical research has so far been carried out in this field which has been somewhat neglected. This is probably due to the fact that it is not yet perceived as a major issue, even in French universities where students are referred to as les etudiants ... ils and not les etudiant(e)s ... ils/elles (ils is the masculine plural of "he" and elles is the feminine plural of "she", the English translation by "they" is insufficient to illustrate the point).

The literature on the subject of women and language in French is fairly extensive by now, especially if one includes the work carried out in other francophone countries, and therefore cannot be recorded in detail here. A selected reference list is appended in the hope that it may be useful to readers working on women and language in an international perspective. Suffice it to say that the first major publication in France on the subject, (which is still a point of reference for researchers) appeared in 1979 (10). Mention should also be made of the fact that there is a paucity of published research on the feminization of the French language in the media, especially in France. In France, the first corpus of women's magazine was examined in 1974 and 1984 by Galeazzi (11) who focused much more on the social representation of women than on their linguistic designation. Although recent publications refer to the avant-garde role of the press (12) in the process of feminisation in French, to the best of my knowledge, only a few systematic surveys of the French press were carried out quite recently. (13)

It was only in 1948 that women were allowed to graduate at Oxford University and in the late 70's that they were allowed to become members of the Stock Exchange. The picture in France was even bleaker:

The 1983 French legislation by which employers were obliged to monitor their workforce re. recruitment, promotion, wages etc. by sex, has rarely been enforced and largely ignored. Like the USA, there is no "Glass Ceiling Act" in France and affirmative action suggestions do not produce a consensus. In France, women are still being discriminated against by language practices and change remains a low priority, still at the bottom of the political agenda. Perhaps at long last, it is on this political agenda at the start of the new millennium


Aebisher, Verena ed., 1983, Parlers masculins, parlers feminins?, Delachaux-Nestle, Paris.

Aebisher, Verena, 1985, Les femmes et le langage, PUF, Paris.

Becquer, Anne, et al, 1999, Femme j'ecris ton nom ... Guide d'aide a la feminisation des noms de metiers, titres, grades et fonctions. Centre national De La Recherche Scientifique/Institut National De La Langue Francaise, La documentation francaise, Paris.

Commission Generale De Terminologie Et De Neologie, 1998, Rapport sur la feminisation des noms de metier, fonction, grade ou titre, Paris.

Gervais, Marie-Marthe, 1993, "Gender and Language" in The French Language Today: A sociolinguistic description of French, ed. Carol Sanders. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gervais, Marie-Marthe, 2001, "Le Monde et la feminisation des titres: etude comparative 1997-98" in La langue francaise au feminin, Eds. N.Armstrong, C.Bauvois, K.Beeching. L'Harmattan: Paris

Houdebine-Gravaud, Anne-Marie, ed., 1998, La Feminisation des noms de Metiers, L'Harmattan, Paris.

Irigaray, Luce, 1990, Sexes et genres a travers les langues, Minuit, Paris.

Labrosse, Celine, 1996, Pour une grammaire non-sexiste, Les editions du remue menage, Montreal.

Le Langage Des Femmes, 1992, Les Cahiers du Grif, Editions Complexe, Bruxelles.

Niedzwiecki, Patricia, 1994, Au feminin! Code de feminisation a l'usage de la francophonie, Nizet, Paris

Yaguello, Marina, 1979, Les Mots et les Femmes, Essai d'approche socio-linguistique de la condition feminine, Payot, Paris.

Yaguello, Marina, 1989, Le Sexe des Mots, Editions P. Belfond, Paris.


(1) The people Bill: Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 16, to leave out the word "man," in order to insert the word "person." In the first Reform Act the word "man" did not occur, but the words "male persons" were used instead. He desired to know why a different term had been used in the present Bill. (Parliamentary Debates, B.S. ref.12.12-290, 1867, 3.5 vol. 187, p. 829 & p. 834)

2 See Gervais Marie-Marthe, 1993, "Gender and Language" in Carol Sanders (ed), The French Language Today: A Sociolinguistic Description of French, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 121-138.

(3) Boel, Else, 1984, "Masculin, feminin et role des sexes", in Medias et Langage, 49, p. 35.

(4) Boel, Else, 1984. Ibid. p. 35.

(5) See Gervais Marie-Marthe, 1993, Op. Cit. p. 132.

(6) In the French National Assembly, there are currently 60 women MPs compared to 517 men, in the Cabinet there are 10 women Ministers compared to 18 men. Sweden has the highest % of women MPs and France is in the penultimate position followed by Greece with only 6.3% of women MPs. Cited in Le Nouvel Observateur, numero 1837, 20-25 Janvier 2000, p.48

(7) If one looks up the word chancelier in the Oxford Hachette French Dictionary one finds the English translation: Chancellor. If one then looks up the word chanceliere one finds two meanings: 1) the chancellor's wife and 2) foot-warmer. Oxford University Press, 1994 edition.

(8) A detailed analysis of this data is to be found in "Le Monde et la feminisation Des titres: etude comparative 1997-98" in La langue francaise au feminin, Eds N.Armstrond, C.Bauvois, et K.Beeching. 2001, L'Harmattan, Paris.

(9) If you look up the word general you find: nm Mil general, but if you look up generale, you find: nf general's wife. The Oxford Hachette French Dictionary, Ibid

(10) Yaguello, Marina, 1979, Les Mots et les Femmes, Essai d'approche socio-linguistique de la condition feminine.: Payot, Paris

(11) Galeazzi, C.1986, "Les denominations des femmes dans deux corpus de presse feminine"(1974 et 1984), in Cahiers de lexicologie, 49,53-94

(12) Yaguello, Marina, 1998, "Madame la Ministre", in Yaguello, Marina, Petits Fairs de langue, Seuil, Paris

(13) See for example, Wilks, C. and Bricks, Nicole, 1997, "Langue nonsexiste et politique editoriale", Modern and Contemporary France, 5 (3), 297-308.

Marie-Marthe was born in France and studied at Nice and Reading Universities. She took her Doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1982. She has taught in various British Universities, specialising in French and Gender and Language. She has also been a visiting Lecturer in English at the Sorbonne. She is a Principal Lecturer at South Bank University, London.

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
Garff, Marie-Marthe Gervais-le. "Liberte, egalite, sororite: a new linguistic order in France?" Women and Language, vol. 25, no. 2, 2002, p. 1+. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 26 June 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A168089249