LINGUIST List 2.542

Sat 21 Sep 1991

Disc: Professeure

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Jacques Guy, Make mine "enchanteresse"
  2. , ProfesseurE (encore!)
  3. Mark Seidenberg, Quebec article

Message 1: Make mine "enchanteresse"

Date: Fri, 20 Sep 91 15:10:28 EST
From: Jacques Guy <>
Subject: Make mine "enchanteresse"
1) About Bert Peeters remarks on -eu-/-o-
 The alternance -eu-/-o- is also, and I would say principally, attested
 in pairs of which one member has "eu" (of popular formation) and the
 other "o" (of learned formation), e.g.:
 fleur de'florer
 pleur e'plore'
 meilleur ame'liorer
 prieur priorite' (but: prieure')
 feuille de'foliation (but: effeuiller)
 and then (again!)
 docteur doctoresse
but: enchanteur enchanteresse
2) The alternance -eur/-rice, which occurs only following "t", seems
 pretty regular, and is very productive since we find it in neologisms
 (programmatrice, annonciatrice). The condition seems to be the existence
 of a corresponding verb in -er (e.g. programmer) or noun in -tion (e.g.
 "action"), which would explain why have "acteur/actrice" but not
 "auteur/autrice". There can be a semantic shift, too, e.g.
3) -eur/-euse, as far as I can see, can be tagged to the stem of any verb
 to form an agent, e.g. programmeur/programmeuse, branleur/euse,
 mateur/mateuse (from argot "mater" = "regarder"), zyeuteur/zyeuteuse
 (from argot "zyeuter" = "devisager"). Yes, I made up these last two,
 just as I made up "tirlipoteur/tirlipoteuse" in an earlier posting.
 (Incidentally, the stem you should use is the one you find in the 1st
 pers. pl. present or the present participle, e.g. cuiseur/cuiseuse
 < cuire, preneur/preneuse < prendre). There never seems to be any
 semantic shift with this formation. Why then, do we have "professeur"
 but not "professeuse"? "Professeuse", to me, would mean "quelqu'un qui
 professe une opinion, une foi". Why not "quelqu'un qui enseigne"?
 Probably because I have heard and read this verb far more often in the
 former sense, and that "quelqu'un qui enseigne" is already taken up by
 "professeur" and "enseignant/enseignante". La langue, comme la nature,
 semble avoir horreur du vide. To me, there is such a semantic shift
 between "professeur" (teacher), "professer" and "profession" that
 "professeur" stands isolated, just as "docteur" (medic) stands isolated
 from "docte" and "doctrine".
I have been serious for far too long. Now for some silly-season
What shall we call les sentinelles, les vigies, les estafettes, les
ordonnances, les huiles, les grosses legumes et les vieilles ganaches
when they are male (which is most of the time)?
How shall we say "Ce garc,on est une lumie`re; cette fille est un
ge'nie. Ce mitron est une andouille; cette berge`re est un laideron"?
What shall we say when we enter a seemingly empty house:
 (1) "Y'a quelqu'un?"
 (2) "Y'a quelqu'une?"
How shall we address, politely, an Italian man:
 (1) Lei?
 (2) Lui?
Unix users, how do you feel about typing:
 man grep
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Message 2: ProfesseurE (encore!)

Date: Thu, 19 Sep 91 13:45:15 -0700
From: <>
Subject: ProfesseurE (encore!)
For those interested in the debates on how best to encourage gender equality
in French, especially with regard to nomina agentis, there is an interesting
paper by Anne-Marie Houdebine ("Le franc,ais au fe'minin," -La Linguistique-
23:13-34 (1987)) that assesses the pros and cons (the latter in the French
 \andEnglish senses) of the various strategies available within the French
Apparently Voltaire innovated -professeuse-!
--Suzanne Fleischman
 UC Berkeley (
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Message 3: Quebec article

Date: Thu, 19 Sep 91 14:00:49 PDT
From: Mark Seidenberg <>
Subject: Quebec article
There is an excellent article in the current issue of the New Yorker
(by Mordecai Richler) about the language troubles in Quebec, for those
whose interest in the topic was not exhausted by earlier postings on this list.
Mark Seidenberg
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