English language

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Gendered Grammar Linked to Global Sexism
_http://www.livescience.com/18574-gendered-grammar-sex-inequality.html
Stephanie Pappas
Live Science
Tue, 21 Feb 2012 14:03 CST

Mandarin Chinese, as spoken, is a genderless language, meaning the pronoun for both “he” and “she” sounds the same. English is a natural gender language, meaning there are special pronouns for each gender, but nouns are gender-free.

Languages in which nouns are given male or female status are linked to gender inequality, according to a new study that compares languages and equality across the globe.

Surprisingly, though, languages with no gender at all – where even “he” and “she” are represented by the same word – are associated with the most gender inequality, perhaps because people automatically categorize gender-neutral references as male.

“These are aspects of language that seem very mundane and seem like they wouldn’t make a difference,” said study researcher Jennifer Prewitt-Freilino, a psychologist at the Rhode Island School of Design. “But more and more research that is starting to come out looking at grammatical gender and language suggests that it has more of an impact than you would think.”

Language and attitudes

In other words, our thoughts don’t just shape our language. Our language may also shape our thoughts. For example, one 2009 study asked high-school students to read a passage in English, Spanish or French. English is a “natural gender” language, meaning that speakers use gender-specific pronouns, but nouns do not have gender. Spanish and French are “gendered” languages, in which nouns are assigned as masculine and feminine. In Spanish, for example “la fruita” (the fruit) is feminine, but “el dia” (daytime) is masculine.

Compared with the students who read the passages in English, those who read in gendered languages responded with higher levels of sexism to a questionnaire they took after the study.

Prewitt-Freilino and her colleagues wanted to take a broader look. Using the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, which measures inequality between men and women in economics, education, politics and health, they compared nations’ inequality to the type of language most frequently spoken there. Of the 134 countries included in the index, 54.5 percent spoke predominately gendered languages, 9 percent spoke natural gender languages and 19.4 percent spoke genderless languages. Genderless languages include Finnish, which uses the same pronoun for males and females. The remaining countries spoke some mixture of gendered, natural gender and genderless languages.

The researchers controlled for geographical location, religion, political system and relative development in an attempt to account for other factors influencing gender inequality.

Gender and equality

On average, countries where gendered languages are spoken ranked lowest on the scale of gender equality, researchers reported in the journal Sex Roles. But surprisingly, genderless languages didn’t fare as well as natural gender languages such as English (though they did fare better than gendered languages).

Gender-neutral pronouns likely conjure male images, Prewitt-Freilino said. Previous research has suggested that when people are cued with the gender-neutral “they,” they think of male characters far more frequently than when cued with “he or she.”

“Being able to use gendered pronouns, things like ‘he’ or ‘she,’ and being able to modify the language could actually have a function,” Prewitt-Freilino said. That result suggests that efforts to invent gender-neutral pronouns in English could backfire.

There is not a one-to-one correlation between language and equality. Iran, for example, is a predominately Persian-speaking country, and Persian is a genderless language.

“There’s a lot of variability between the countries, which is also what makes it pretty surprising that we still found this difference,” Prewitt-Freilino said.

There are limitations to the study, including the fact that the results don’t indicate that language differences necessarily cause the inequality. There are also relatively few natural gender languages, Prewitt-Freilino said, making them harder to compare.

Yemen scored lowest on gender equality scale, followed by Chad and Pakistan. Citizens of all three predominately speak gendered languages. Finland, which boasts a genderless language, and Iceland, which boasts a natural gender language, tied for most gender-equal country, with Norway, another natural gender language country, coming in third.
 

Graalsword

Jedi Council Member
Laura said:
[...]
Languages in which nouns are given male or female status are linked to gender inequality, according to a new study that compares languages and equality across the globe.
[...]

Interesting. I had thought of that many times, though I used to think that languages where the consecuence of that instead of languages producing such features. No wonder countries that speak latin derivated languages are more sexist, with male dominion and hugely influenced by catholic church, and northern european countries have more sex equality.

I also remember to have read somewhere that there are certain tribes who have even different pronouns for age, that means they have a ''he/she'' for old people, another for children, another for adult, etc.. Maybe cultures that give more importance than the average to age differences, and that includes hierarchies. I-ll see if I can find something.
 
F

forge

Guest
Irish and my language, Hungarian are gender neutral. It's annoying to get used to she and he in English. Mixing the two by accident on occasion.
 

cassandra

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
In German you have der ( for masculine nouns), die (feminine) and das (neutral).
I always had a problem with the fact that the girl is das Mädchen. She is small becomes es ist klein or it is small.
It's the same for child, das Kind. :huh:
 

JenGen

A Disturbance in the Force
Check this site out http://www.sourcetext.com/grammarian/index.html, it's an analytical look at the butchering of the English Language at a particular University in New Jersey. It's actually a lot of fun and at the same time, very educational.
 

Medulin

Jedi
I've noticed that many people now use actor instead of actress.
So, which is more discriminating?
For some, calling an actress an actor (as in Julia Roberts is a great actor) is ''masculinization'',
for others it is ''leveling''.

Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff introduced a female form of the word president
(in Portuguese, presidente means ''president'' and gender is indicated with an article:
o presidente [male president], a presidente [female president]).

But, Brazilian president calls herself ''a presidenta'' (''she-president'', ''presidentess'')
with the feminine gender final morpheme -a).
 

mkrnhr

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Thanks Medulin for the example. It confirms indeed the above-mentionned article on gender-specific languages.
 

Mal7

Dagobah Resident
I just came across this article by Rob Pensalfini on the English language. It is a defense of the English language against claims that "Americanisms" are ruining it here:

_http://fifthcolumnistblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/the-americans-are-ruining-our-language/

The article gives examples of so-called Americanisms, such as spelling "center" rather than "centre", using nouns as action words, double negatives to mean a negative, and gives examples to show that English was used in this way by Shakespeare, (e.g. "honor" appears 530 times in the first folio edition of Shakespeare, "honour" 393 times". Spelling was variable and the language could be used somewhat more creatively in Shakespeare's time. Shakespeare was not averse to turning nouns into verbs (action words), e.g. "uncle me no uncle". Spelling was standardized during the 19th century, and spellings like "centre" instead of "center" and "scepter" instead of "scepter" were chosen for what the author of the article sees as a "deliberately snobby" reason, "because their French look lent them a certain dignity". The article ends up concluding that if anyone is ruining the English language, it is English pedants and their false ideas about the historical use of the language.

I also found it interesting that the use of "they" or "their" in the singular when the gender of the person is not know, is not a recent development, but something that was used by Chaucer, Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and C. S. Lewis.
 

Mal7

Dagobah Resident
Oops that should read "'sceptre' instead of 'scepter'" (auto-spell check corrected it), and there are a few other grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors besides that.
 

l apprenti de forgeron

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Laura said:
Gendered Grammar Linked to Global Sexism
_http://www.livescience.com/18574-gendered-grammar-sex-inequality.html
Stephanie Pappas
Live Science
Tue, 21 Feb 2012 14:03 CST
Thank you, Laura! It is really an important data !
In my case think and speak in Spanish , but every time I like more English. It is really convenient and fun to learn. Today I can watch videos, movies and read news in English quite fluently. My problem is to talk with someone personally, because, in those moment, I need mentally translate what I have to say. What others say, and think that it is thanks to the forum, I understand very quickly, almost without translation. Or maybe a faster mental translation.
In any case, what really bothers me about English is having to read and write all the time the word " I " in uppercase. It's like an egoic yell every two steps. According to wiki the old "ic" became "I" to avoid the constant mistakes of copyists, and this convention remained wellin the thirteenth century. I once read ( years ago in a pseudo new-age book, probably) that a study claimed that people were saying too much " I" in their daily lives , tended to have more unhealthy and short lives. I do not remember if I took into account the write and read too (I looked on the net but don't found nothing interesting). I think at some point it makes sense. It is as if those " I" in paper affirm the lies of false personality over the real and true " I". Like grammar forced the majority, which are mechanical, to lie all the time. I hope that if English definitely becomes a language of planetary use, you can write the first person singular in lowercase.
Although if ever, by universal, gravitational changes, people can communicate by telepathy, this will no longer be necessary. :)
 

janosabel

The Force is Strong With This One
Forge asks, in his/her signature, "How to reconcile the irreconcilable"?
My suggestion, as a born (but untutored) philosopher, is go Meta---the superordinate level of meaning where contradictions dissolve.

Example: Evolution versus Creationism. No problem: Evolution is God's way of creating.

PS Apologies for being slightly off topic.
 

paralleloscope

The Living Force
janosabel said:
Forge asks, in his/her signature, "How to reconcile the irreconcilable"?
My suggestion, as a born (but untutored) philosopher, is go Meta---the superordinate level of meaning where contradictions dissolve.

Example: Evolution versus Creationism. No problem: Evolution is God's way of creating.

The trouble with this form of thinking is that it's not really considering the premise being a false dichotomy, i.e two highly distorted interpretations of life, merging those for the sake of settling a contradiction will give an equally erroneous outcome. Though I'm not sure what you mean by 'go Meta', but the control system is betting that we somehow seek out the golden middle ground between two extremes. Whether one extreme is lying and the other is not or both are lying and wrong, making an average of that will result in a wrong either way.
 
Top Bottom