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LINGUIST List 17.757

Mon Mar 13 2006

Qs: Resultatives; Neuter and Use for People

Editor for this issue: Jessica Boynton <jessicalinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Matthew Whelpton, Resultatives in English and Icelandic
        2.    Ana Tominc, Neuter and Its Use for People

Message 1: Resultatives in English and Icelandic
Date: 13-Mar-2006
From: Matthew Whelpton <whelptonhi.is>
Subject: Resultatives in English and Icelandic

I am just starting a project comparing the resultative in English and
Icelandic. I´d be grateful for input on the following:

1. Useful references on resultatives in the Nordic languages (including
Icelandic obviously!)

2. Recent seminal papers on theoretical analysis of resultatives (i.e. post
2000), esp very recent

3. Is the data in the 1993 Levin book ''English Verb Classes and
Alternations'' available in a tractable database form, i.e. queriable by
alternation and verb? I´m assuming there are copyright issues.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.


Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Message 2: Neuter and Its Use for People
Date: 13-Mar-2006
From: Ana Tominc <ana_tomincyahoo.fr>
Subject: Neuter and Its Use for People

Dear all,

My name is Ana Tominc and I am a student of Cultural Studies at the
University of Primorska, Slovenia. I am currently preparing a B.A thesis on
a very specific use of neuter (neutrum) in Slovenian language. As there is
not much literature about the topic concerned, I have decided to ask for
your opinion.

My problem is the following:

As Standard Slovenian has 3 genders, women and men are usually described
either using masculine or feminine form, while neuter usually describes
non-human, non-living objects and abstract things. The latter is also used
for describing people (like in German, for example), but such a use is
rarely unmarked (dete->baby, dekle->young, unmarried girl, fante ->young,
unmarried boy). Apart from these uses of neuter, other nouns that are
grammatically neuter are used when we want to speak about a person in a
negative way – and that is the problem that interests me. Being described
in this manner (using neuter instead of masculine or feminine), the person
is degraded by the speaker to an object, to a non-human »thing«. As
Slovenian has a very ramified morphology, the verb form used in such cases
is usually neuter, accommpanied by demonstrative pronouns this or that
(both in neuter form as well).

Talking about people in this way sounds as if talking about bicycles,
trees, boxes or other objects. It is my understanding that the speaker
wants to point out his/her negative attitude towards the person he/she is
speaking about. Namely, these forms are usually used when referring to
drunk people, to people for whom we believe don't behave in the »normal«,
(socially) acceptable way, to people whose gender doesn't really matter (in
speaker's opinion, of course), or to small children for whom we think that
are irresponsible/not mature enough. Having no sexual identity in language
(gender) and, as a consequence, not being a human (simbolically), positions
the person we are talking about in such a way in a socially (and
hierarchically) much lower position from the speaker.

I was wondering if such gender use could be found in other languages as
well, and what are the conditions of its use (I've heard that it may happen
in French with ça est + personne and in Czech as well). Also, I would much
appreciate your theoreticall opinion about this problem. Thank you.

Ana Tominc

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

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