A linguistic analysis of ‘woman’

Originally posted at Purple Sage

What is a woman? Until recently, the word woman has unambiguously meant an adult human female, where female means the sex that produces ova and can bear young. But males are now being called ‘woman’ too. The word woman has been expanded to mean either an adult human female, or an adult human male who would like to be referred to as female. The only way that males can be called ‘woman’ is if ‘woman’ is a social category to which anyone can belong rather than a biological category based on observable criteria. However, even if ‘woman’ is a social category to which anyone can belong, we still need to define what is meant by ‘woman,’ in order to understand who is included in this category. We can change the meanings of words, but we still need to agree on what they mean in order to communicate effectively.

It is normal for words to change meaning over time. Language changes as new words come into being and as people use old words in new ways. Lots of people study the use of language and the way language changes. Here I’m going to contrast the fields of lexicography and terminology in order to demonstrate the way two different approaches to the word ‘woman’ give us two different outcomes.

Continue reading…

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s