Language change in L2 academic writing: The case of epicene pronouns

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Charlotte Stormbom
Publication year: 2019
Journal: Journal of English for Academic Purposes
Volume number: 38
Start page: 95
End page: 105


With the increasing demand for gender-fair
language, an important issue to take into consideration in academic writing is
the use of so-called epicene pronouns, i.e. singular personal pronouns
unspecified for gender. Yet, little research has focused on how L2 English
academic writers use these pronouns. The present study examines the use of
epicene pronouns since the 1970s in L2 academic writing and analyses their
current use, starting from 2010. The data originate from two corpora with
academic papers written by Swedish-speaking university students of English: (1)
the Finland-Swedish BATMAT corpus, which is used to extract diachronic data,
and (2) the Swedish subset of the Varieties of English for Specific Purposes
dAtabase, VESPA-SE, which adds to the data of current use. The results show
that although the use of generic he has decreased noticeably since the 1970s,
there is considerable variation in and between the texts from the 2010s. Such
variation is indicative of a language change that is still very much in
progress. The findings also suggest that singular they is establishing itself
as a third-person singular pronoun in L2 academic writing since this pronoun is
used frequently with all types of epicene antecedents in the data of current


Last updated on 2020-26-02 at 02:50