LINGUIST List 15.91

Wed Jan 14 2004

Disc: Penultimate Posting: Re: Grammatical Gender

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Mark A. Mandel, Re: 14.3581, Disc: Re: Grammatical Gender

Message 1: Re: 14.3581, Disc: Re: Grammatical Gender

Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 11:30:37 -0500 (EST)
From: Mark A. Mandel <>
Subject: Re: 14.3581, Disc: Re: Grammatical Gender

In LINGUIST 15.27, Joe Foster says:

The subtitle [of Hellinger & Bussmann _Gender across Languages_] reads
"The linguistic representation of women and men". And that is not,
repeat not, what gender is about.

In studies of sexuality, the term "gender" has been established for
years as referring to the social images associated with the sexes, as
distinct from a person's physiological sex. Merriam-Webster OnLine
gives as sense 2b "the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits
typically associated with one sex", and that is presumably the sense
in which H&B are using it. The field of study dedicated to the
discovery and analysis of these social entities is commonly called
"gender studies".

This usage probably derives from the "masculine"/"feminine"(/"neuter")
division of grammatical genders found in European languages, but its
meaning in its field is independent of the larger range of grammatical
gender in the languages of the world.

"What 'X' is about" is never an absolute, but is always subject to
context. We linguists have been used to having this word pretty much
to ourselves, but that exclusivity was never guaranteed. "Gender" in
linguistics is one thing; in gender studies it's something else.

- Mark A. Mandel
 Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue