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Gender in occupational titles with focus on medical fields

A corpus based analysis

Hausarbeit 2018 40 Seiten

Anglistik - Linguistik


Table of contents

1. lntroduction

2. "Female" occupational titles and quantities
2.1 Gender quantities in medical occupation titles

3. Connotation of medical occupation titles
3.1 Interpretation of the gender connotations

4. Conclusion



1. Introduction

Different to many other languages in general the English language does not always show a distinction of gender in most nouns. If we talk about our ,friend" the counterpart can not know the gender in question. Some nouns variate in the form or even the word according to whether they are female or male and of those distinct words even show gender neutral options. Just as .man" qualifies male and ,woman" female sex the neutral option would be ,person". The same phenomenon counts for ,father'', ,mother'' and their neutral variant .parent" as well as ,boy'' for male, ,girl" for female their neutral option being ,child". Another example provide .husband", .wife" and the gender neutral term ,spouse". Those gender variations, however, are exceptional and the gender marking suffixes -ette, -ine, -enne, (as in actor/actress, hero/heroine) are only available for rare cases and -which is the crucial point and reason for the investigation being mentioned as follows - ,signalling women's secondary status [as it is deviating] from the male norm" (Holmes 1993: 358). This implies that if we want to properly gender without first and secondary status the two appropriate options would be either to not mark gender at all (e.g. "professor'') or to put the gender markers ,male" and ,female" in front the implied noun. This paper investigates the incidence of the two aforenamed lexemes with focus on occupation titles from the medical field and their usage according to the authors' sex. Using the BNC I suspect the result being more female figures using the gender markings ,male" and ,female" and more men using no gender markings at all.

In addition a connotation analysis is conducted with the aim to examine some general gender associations which accompany the occupational titles in question.

2. "Female" occupational titles and quantities

In order to find appropriate nouns which provide significant numbers to support the thesis in question,the BNC is searched fer any noun in combination with the gender marking lexeme "female" In front of lt.

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As a result 5098 matches appear in the BNC. By grouping the query according to how many of the authors which used the expression were male and how many female,the group command can be utilized: group Last. text._aut.hor_aax..

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It shows us 914 tagged female users and 1110 tagged male users which makes believe that there are 1.2 times more male tagged authors who use the expression rfemale" plus noun].However, as mentioned in the Appendix {Note 2) if we consider the ratio and put up the number of female speakers in this case relative to the overall numbers of female authors we find out that there is an even higher number of female authors using "female" in front of nouns, specifically 1,7 times more than the authors tagged as male.

The count command allows to see the number of each type resp.word which comes together with female: count Last by hw on matchend.

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By searching through this query {see Appendix: "frequency list_nouns following femalf;nand eliminating any noun that Is not a tftle of job, occupaOon or profession a ranking of the most widely used "female• job titles in the BNC can be established. The following list {table 1) shows the most 50 frequent types and their number of occurrence in the BNC.

It is noticeable that none of these types rtemale" + noun] OCC\Jrs more than fifty times and more than half of the types In the list occur even less than ftve tfmes.

After 6 further types each one occurring two times in the BNC {see table 2} every following match for ["female" + noun] is a hapax as seen in table 3.

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table 1: 50 most frequent "female" job titles

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table 2: types occupying twice between first 50 hits and hapaxes (see note 4)

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table 3: first 12 examples for continuing list of hapaxes

In order to find some patterns which can be applied to the jobs listed in table 1 the list can be divided into eight subgroups of occupations, namely:

1. Medical jobs: psychologist (27), gp (15), doctor (11), carer (9), nurse (7), therapist (4), and gynaecologist (3).
2. Artistic jobs: artist (15), singer (14), compositor (11), writer (10), vocalist (6), musician (4), poet (4), author (3), novelist (3) and acrobat (2).
3. Academic jobs: teacher (13), journalist (7), priest (4), reporter (3), editor (2), preacher (2).
4. Leading or highly academic positions: executive (10), manager (9), judge (4), politician (3), president (3), scientist {3), associate (2), chairman {2), director (2) and governor (2).
5. Non-academic jobs: assistant (11), clerk (6}, secretary (4), chef (3), and bodyguard (2).
6. Low-status jobs: servant (14), prostitute (7), dealer (4), and fieldworker (3).
7. General position titles: employee (47), worker (39), staff (26) and apprentice (2).
8. Police or army jobs: officer (10), detective (7), soldier (3), and cop (2).

2.1 Gender quantities in medical occupation titles

The subdivision into these groups shall simplify further research as it would be difficult provide an organized base for data with mixed up lines of business. This way a specific comparison can be drawn in order to find out if "representations from role names [...] are influenced by gender stereotypes" (Gamham et al. 2008: 482). Without any proof of scientific research it is not certifiable that the job title "nurse" for example is associated with women, however, answering intuitively most people would give it a female connotation.

Additionaly, "a male-nurse or a female-surgeon points to the need to categorize, in language, which gender generally pursues which occupation, and to mark the exceptions with marked names" (Prewitt-Freilino et al. 2012: 270).

During the observation of medical occupations a closer comparison can be drawn among high-status and low-status jobs. The provided frequency list (table 1) presents 7 occupational titles that appear together with "female": psychologist, gp, doctor, carer, nurse, therapist and gynaecologist. At this point a closer look will be drawn to the "female" and "male" matches compared to the matches of the same noun without the gender marker.


A "female psychologist" receives 27 matches in the BNC, all authors tagged as female (see note 4).

A "psychologisf' gets 1380 intervals. Here the female authors add up to 860 (ratio) and the male ones to 363. 11 matches are found for "male psychologist", again all authors tagged as female.


A "female gp" gets 15 hits, no sex of an author tagged.A genreral "gp" receives 1607 which is 107 times more than the female one. The number of female authors is 395 (ratio), 3 times more than the male tagged authors with 127 times.

The "male gp" receives 9 hits, no author tagged as either sex.


The "female doctor" in the BNC amounts to 11 matches, 9 (ratio) tagged female authors, 1 male.

A general doctor, however, sums up to 14540 intervals, which is 1321 times more than a doctor with female connotation. The ratio for the tagged author sex in this case is 5,226 female ones and 4,726 male authors.

There are 14 matches for "male doctor", 8 (ratio) authors tagged as female and one as male.


"Female carers" show up 9 times, the ratio of author sex being 4 (ratio, female) to 1 (male).

An only "carer'' makes 1676 intervals, 186 times more than the "female carer'', and again with a number 1,081 the authors tagged as female sum up to a 25 times higher amount than the male tagged authors (43).

A "male carer'' exists 12 times in the BNC, 10 (ratio) female tagged authors, and no male author.


The BNC shows 7 "female nurses", three male authors and no female one.

A "nurse" gets 4583 intervals with 3,882 (ratio) female authors and 824 male ones. There are 33 "male nurses" from 9 male and 7 female authors.


The BNC provides 4 "female therapists", 2 female tagged authors (ratio) and 1 male author.

The "therapist" amounts to 906 intervals with 367 (ratio) female and 383 male tagged authors.

The BNC shows 1 match for "male therapist" by an author tagged as male. Gynaecologist

There are 3 "female gynaecologists", no female and one male author.

In comparison we find 138 "gynaecologists" without the "female" marker, the authors being 53 (ratio) female and 12 male ones.

And one "male gynaecologist" can be found in the BNC, whereas no gender is tagged among the authors.

To sum up the above mentioned figures, there is a large discrepancy between the regular expression of a job title that does not reveal the person's gender and the explicit expression of a female or male person in the concerned job. According to the main thesis of this essay there should be more female authors using the gender markings ,male" and ,female" and more men using no gender markings at all. The following table shows each match and its corresponding author's sex. The result that would have been needed to proof the main thesis would have been a larger amount of female authors in each hit for ["female" + noun] or ["male" + noun] while the author's sex of the neutral forms [noun] should be either equal or feauture less female authors. Admittedly, there is no single case in this examination where the desired result applies. On the contrary, except for "female nurse", "female therapisf', "therapist", "male therapist" and "female gynaecologist" all of the queries present a higher amount of female tagged authors

Strikingly, there are occupations that can be applied to the medical field which are essential and did not show up in the query: a "surgeon" for example receives 1647 hits in the BNC. No "male surgeon" in the BNC and only one "female surgeon" show up which is in this case used as a metaphorical expression and cannot be referred to a real human being. This makes 1647 times more matches for a general "surgeon" than for a female one. Again the number of female tagged authors (514: ratio) exceeds the one of the male ones (492) while the same applies to the general "surgeon" with 504 tagged female authors and 492 tagged male ones.



ISBN (eBook)
Institution / Hochschule
Freie Universität Berlin – Institut für Englische Philologie
Language and Gender Occupational Titles Gender marks in English Language Gender connotation female marker male marker language and prejudice language and status Title and Gender




Titel: Gender in occupational titles with focus on medical fields