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LINGUIST List 24.1754

Fri Apr 19 2013

Diss: Socioling/Greek, Modern: Alvanoudi: 'The Social and Cognitive Dimensions of Grammatical Gender'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 19-Apr-2013
From: Angeliki Alvanoudi <alvanoudiagyahoo.gr>
Subject: The Social and Cognitive Dimensions of Grammatical Gender
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Institution: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2013

Author: Angeliki Alvanoudi

Dissertation Title: The Social and Cognitive Dimensions of Grammatical Gender

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): Greek, Modern (ell)

Dissertation Director:
Demetra Katis
Theodossia-Soula Pavlidou

Dissertation Abstract:

The present thesis examines the interrelation between the social and
cognitive dimensions of grammatical gender in person reference in
interaction. In particular, it explores i) whether interaction provides
indications for the role of grammatical gender in guiding speakers to
the interpretation of referent(s) as female or male, and ii) the
consequences of the use of grammatical gender for the construction of
the social category of gender on the basis of social hierarchy in

Grammatical gender is an inherent property of the noun, which controls
agreement between a noun and its satellite elements and
grammaticizes the semantic distinction of female/male sex in person
reference. According to various sociolinguistic and feminist non-
linguistic approaches, grammatical gender attributes sex to referents
and contributes to the construction of the social category of gender on
the basis of hierarchy. This social dimension of grammatical gender is
interrelated with a cognitive one. Drawing on cognitive linguistics and
research on linguistic/structural relativity, grammatical gender is shown
to guide speakers to the interpretation of referents as female or male.

Moreover, the study of the relation between grammatical gender and
person reference in interaction shows that the interrelation between
the social and cognitive dimensions of grammatical gender manifests
itself in interaction through presuppositions about referents’ sex as an
aspect of social context.

In order to approach grammatical gender in interaction, I employ
Conversation Analysis in addition to membership categories. Empirical
analysis shows that interaction provides direct and indirect indications
for the cognitive dimension of grammatical gender. Direct indications
are found in self- and other-initiated repairs in which grammatical
gender constitutes the repairable item. Indirect indications are found in
speakers’ next turns, which show their understanding of prior turn, in
the recipient-design feature, in the membership categorization device,
and in the use of the masculine grammatical gender for reference to
female persons only. In addition, the compulsory use of grammatical
gender in the composition of turns is shown to affect the socio-cultural
world that is constructed through interaction; referents are categorized
as female/women or male/men and sexism is reproduced implicitly
when participants perform various social actions.

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