Defining Desire, Dispelling Defiance: Heteronormative Language in English Language Learner’s Dictionaries

Janelle Harms


Monolingual learner’s dictionaries (MLDs) strive to use accessible, comprehensive and ostensibly objective language to communicate ideas to those with intermediate to advanced language proficiency. However, it will be argued that MLDs of the English language are not objective, but rather ideological documents in which discursive authority stems from the production of knowledge. In their representations of sex, gender and sexual desires and identities, MLDs venerate reproductive heterosexuality as the correct, normal and ‘natural’ mode of human expression while erasing queer realities and possibilities. As a result, queer English language learners are marginalised as imperfect citizens and are compelled to embody heterosexual culture in both language and behaviour in order to achieve increased legitimacy within the English-speaking nation-state.


critical discourse analysis; English language learner; gender; heteronormativity; hijra; sex; sexuality; two-sex model; queer theory


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