LINGUIST List 11.549

Sun Mar 12 2000

Qs: Gender/Non-standard Eng, Eng/Judgements Needed

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

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  1. Peter Siemund, Gender assignment in non-standard English
  2. Atsuko Umesaki, change of English usage

Message 1: Gender assignment in non-standard English

Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 10:26:34 +0100
From: Peter Siemund <>
Subject: Gender assignment in non-standard English

It has been noticed several times that the gender systems of non-standard 
Englishes may substantially deviate from the "natural gender system" found 
in standard English. This is clearly shown by cases of anaphoric reference 
of the masculine and feminine pronoun (he, she) to NPs denoting inanimate 
objects, as e.g. the car - she, the storm - she, the wave - she or the tree 
- he, the bee - he, the chair - he. Some of these deviations are obviously 
systematic, vehicles being mostly feminine, plants mostly masculine, etc., 
a few can be motivated historically by comparing the gender of the relevant 
nouns to the one they had in Old and Middle English, but the great majority 
of cases remains idiosyncratic, at least the evidence presently available 
does not allow sweeping generalizations. The overlap between Present Day 
English and its earlier historical stages is surprisingly low, most cases 
of non-natural gender in Middle English being masculine.

Since only an extensive body of naturally occurring examples can further 
this issue, I would like to invite the linguistic community to keep a 
lookout for such cases of non-natural gender assignment in English and, 
provided you can spare this minute, send the relevant examples to my email 
address. I will compile a summary and make it publicly available.

Many thanks in advance,
- Peter Siemund.

- ---------------------------------------------------
Peter Siemund
Institut fuer Englische Philologie
Freie Universitaet Berlin
Gosslerstrasse 2-4
14195 Berlin
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Message 2: change of English usage

Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 22:05:28 +0900
From: Atsuko Umesaki <>
Subject: change of English usage

Our group is interested in the change of modern English usage,
and assumes that some of the expressions given in English-Japanese
dictionaries are getting obsolete. We are looking for native speakers of

English who will answer our 6 questions about the usage of English.
Please contact to receive the

Atsuko F. Umesaki
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