What is it about?

Linguistics has a long-standing tradition of excluding social issues from the study of language, on the grounds that the field is a science. I was educated in this tradition and for many years approached my teaching the same way. The rapidly-changing status of singular 'they' is an example of a grammatical issue that cannot be isolated from the social issue of the rights of non-binary people. Using singular 'they' as a starting point, I've expanded my teaching to consider social factors that are intertwined with language such as gender, race and disability. This change has made my teaching more relevant and interesting to students and more rewarding for me.

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Why is it important?

Calls for the field of Linguistics to address its colonial roots and its still-current attitude of exclusivity are growing ever more urgent. One important way for the culture of a field to change is by changing how we teach the students who are just entering the field. This essay gives an example of one instructor's efforts to dismantle some of the traditional boundaries in an introductory course.


My intro linguistics course had been getting a little stale. Updating it to show how pressing social issues are intertwined with questions of language and linguistics made my teaching better, more fulfilling for me, and, I think, more enjoyable for my students.

Catherine Anderson
McMaster University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Pronouns and social justice in the linguistics classroom, Journal of Language and Sexuality, August 2022, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/jls.20024.and.
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