Linguistic Origins of Gender Equality and Women’s Rights

Amy H. Liu, Sarah Shair-Rosenfield, Lindsey R. Vance, Zsombor Csata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In this article, we examine how the language spoken in a country can affect individual attitudes about gender equality and subsequently the level of legal rights afforded to women. This is because the feature of a language—specifically whether it requires speakers to make gender distinctions—can perpetuate popular attitudes and beliefs about gender inequality. To test this argument, we first identify a correlation between the gender distinction of a language and individual gender-based attitudes among World Values Survey respondents. We then isolate the causal mechanism using an experiment involving bilingual Romanian–Hungarian speakers in Transylvania, Romania. Finally, we examine one observable implication of our argument: the effects of gender distinction of official state languages on women’s rights at the national level. Our results confirm the importance of the gender distinction of language on support for gender equality and women’s rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-108
Number of pages27
JournalGender and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Hungarians in Romania
  • gender attitudes
  • gender equality
  • language
  • women’s rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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