LLCU 110 Lecture 14: Language and Gender (week 7B)

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Languages, Literatures and Cultures
LLCU 110
Bronwyn Bjorkman

Language and Gender Thursday, March 2, 2017 11:41 AM Grammatical Gender Only around 33 of the worlds languages have sexbased gender o E.g. In French, words (including inanimate objects) are classified as either masculine or feminine and requires any pronouns or verbs following it to have gender agreement The use of pronouns for animate or inanimate objects also varies from culture to culture usually using pronouns for things deemed important o E.g. family pets are usually referred to by a gendered pronoun while other animals may be referred to as it Gender in English English has gender only on thirdperson singular pronouns o I.e. He or She (setting aside things as blond and blonde) Sometimes called natural gender o (Old English has arbitrary grammatical gender for nouns, of the type still found in German, and in other IndoEuropean languages.) Two types of problems: o Unknown or nonspecific gender E.g. a distant figure, the best student in this class, someone o Nonbinary gender Getting around grammatical gender: innovative pronouns One solution: coin new pronouns that are neither masculine nor feminine o Ze zem zeir o Xe xem xeir (xyr) o E em eir (spivak) o Ou ou ous o Hu hum hums o They them theirs An interesting puzzle about singular they: o They is used very widely as a singular pronoun in English o Many speakers nonetheless stumble over using it as a nonbinary pronoun o Assuming wellintentioned efforts, why would that be? Singular They They has had singular uses since Middle Englishbut only with nonspecific nouns, or when gender is unknown o E.g. Theres not a man I meet but doth salute me As if I were their wellacquainted friend (Shakespeare: A Comedy of Errors, 1623)
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