Objectifying Women? A Syntactic Bias in French and English Corpora.

Yanis da Cunha, Anne Abeillé


Abstract
Gender biases in syntax have been documented for languages with grammatical gender for cases where mixed-gender coordination structures take masculine agreement, or with male-first preference in the ordering of pairs (Adam and Eve). On the basis of various annotated corpora spanning different genres (fiction, newspapers, speech and web), we show another syntactic gender bias: masculine pronouns are more often subjects than feminine pronouns, in both English and French. We find the same bias towards masculine subjects for French human nouns, which then refer to males and females. Comparing the subject of passive verbs and the object of active verbs, we show that this syntactic function bias is not reducible to a bias in semantic role assignment since it is also found with non-agentive subjects. For French fiction, we also found that the masculine syntactic function bias is larger in text written by male authors – female authors seem to be unbiased. We finally discuss two principles as possible explanations, ‘Like Me’ and ‘Easy first’, and examine the effect of the discourse tendency for men being agents and topics. We conclude by addressing the impact of such biases in language technologies.
Anthology ID:
2022.lateraisse-1.2
Volume:
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Language Technology and Resources for a Fair, Inclusive, and Safe Society within the 13th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference
Month:
June
Year:
2022
Address:
Marseille, France
Venue:
LATERAISSE
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Publisher:
European Language Resources Association
Note:
Pages:
8–16
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/2022.lateraisse-1.2
DOI:
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Cite (ACL):
Yanis da Cunha and Anne Abeillé. 2022. Objectifying Women? A Syntactic Bias in French and English Corpora.. In Proceedings of the First Workshop on Language Technology and Resources for a Fair, Inclusive, and Safe Society within the 13th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference, pages 8–16, Marseille, France. European Language Resources Association.
Cite (Informal):
Objectifying Women? A Syntactic Bias in French and English Corpora. (da Cunha & Abeillé, LATERAISSE 2022)
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https://aclanthology.org/2022.lateraisse-1.2.pdf