Anna Kapron-King


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A diachronic evaluation of gender asymmetry in euphemism
Anna Kapron-King | Yang Xu
Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Computational Approaches to Historical Language Change 2021

The use of euphemisms is a known driver of language change. It has been proposed that women use euphemisms more than men. Although there have been several studies investigating gender differences in language, the claim about euphemism usage has not been tested comprehensively through time. If women do use euphemisms more, this could mean that women also lead the formation of new euphemisms and language change over time. Using four large diachronic text corpora of English, we evaluate the claim that women use euphemisms more than men through a quantitative analysis. We assembled a list of 106 euphemism-taboo pairs to analyze their relative use through time by each gender in the corpora. Contrary to the existing belief, our results show that women do not use euphemisms with a higher proportion than men. We repeated the analysis using different subsets of the euphemism-taboo pairs list and found that our result was robust. Our study indicates that in a broad range of settings involving both speech and writing, and with varying degrees of formality, women do not use or form euphemisms more than men.