Honors Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Nelson, M. (2023). Why Words Matter: Effects of Gendered Language and Its Implications for Teaching Language. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright McKenzie Nelson 2023


All the known languages fall into three categories in regard to the integration of gender. That is, languages can be gendered languages (e.g., French), natural gender languages (e.g., English), and genderless language (e.g., Mandarin). In this paper the cases of German, a gendered language, and English, a natural gendered language, are investigated to understand the perceived effects of language on the concept of gender and how to make gender inclusive classrooms. From current literature there is evidence that the gender structure of a language has an effect on the way that the world is viewed, but the exact extent is not completely understood, if at all, by those participating in the study. Nine interviews were conducted, five with English native speakers and four with German native speakers, in order to explore their perspectives on how the topic of gender-neutral words and pronouns have been taught as well as suggestions for how it should be further incorporated into education. There is no singular perfect example that should be followed, but rather a road map of the steps to take to improve current education on the topic.