Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Together Forever: Gendered Language Use in Gravestone Epitaphs

Together Forever: Gendered Language Use in Gravestone Epitaphs

C. Lorin Brace VI

The way in which individuals have been memorialized after death has often been seen as a reflection of the cultural beliefs of a society in life. Cemeteries and gravestones can provide historical archaeologists with a unique type of material culture that can offer insight into various social and cultural trends. This paper analyzes changes in gendered language used in gravestone epitaphs in Detroit over a 160-year period. Comparing the language used in epitaphs of spouses who were interred together demonstrates that linguistic representations of gender and gender roles were closely related to how those gender roles were actually manifested within a society. Overall, women were far more likely than men to be identified in terms of their relationship to their spouses, and often were identified without a surname. These trends decreased over time, reflecting a decrease in gender bias and a shift in how gender roles were represented within the society.

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April 9, 2014 - Posted by | abstract

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