LINGUIST List 3.294

Fri 27 Mar 1992

Disc: Gender

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. John Cowan, Re: 3.282 A List of Common Gender Pronouns
  2. , unmarked feminine
  3. Ivan A Derzhanski, 3.283 Gender

Message 1: Re: 3.282 A List of Common Gender Pronouns

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 92 14:00:11 ESRe: 3.282 A List of Common Gender Pronouns
From: John Cowan <cowanuunet.UU.NET>
Subject: Re: 3.282 A List of Common Gender Pronouns

More common-gender pronouns, using the notation subject/possessive/object:

Poul Anderson's sf novel >The Day Of Their Return< uses heesh/heesh's/heesh
to refer to a genderless species, the Didonians.

Se/hir/se is in regular active use on the newsgroup, a rich
source of specialized language forms.

Ursula K. LeGuin's Gethenians are hominid but androgynous: the novel
>The Left Hand Of Darkness< uses he/his/him, the short story "Winter's King"
uses she/hers/her (while retaining the masculine titles Mr. and King), and
a never-produced screenplay of >TLHOD< uses a/un/a.

--		...!uunet!cbmvax!snark!cowan
		e'osai ko sarji la lojban
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Message 2: unmarked feminine

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1992 13:14 METunmarked feminine
From: <>
Subject: unmarked feminine

In reaction to Kovach's question "are there any languages with the
feminine as the unmarked case ..?": In Iraqw (S.Cushitic, Tanzania), the
feminine object pronoun is used for unspecific objects and for clauses.
In this respect the feminine gender is unmarked, or one may say that it
refrs to the word for "thing" which happens to be feminine. The feminine
object pronoun is _a_, the masculine one is _u_, which can be analysed
as _au_ plus vowel coallescence and the feminine object pronoun would be
really unmarked. In other parts of the morphological system feminine is equally
marked as masculine. In the personal (pro)noun system masculine is the unmarked
in a way. There is gender distinction for the second person singular, but
the second person plural (pro)noun has no gender distinction and is based
on the second person singular masculine. (There is no gender distinction in
the third person (pro)nouns.

Maarten Mous
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Message 3: 3.283 Gender

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 92 09:44:28 GM3.283 Gender
From: Ivan A Derzhanski <>
Subject: 3.283 Gender

> Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1992 23:12:52 PST
> From: "Don W." <webbdCCVAX.CCS.CSUS.EDU>
> Subject: Gender marking
> In Esperanto, "father" = 'patro' while "mother" = 'patrino'.
> That is, "patro" with the feminizing suffix "-ino."
> Personally, I have a violently negative reaction to that
> formation and believe it's a fault that ought to be fixed.

Yes, I dislike this one too, as well as "viro : virino" `man : woman':
I find it unnatural to think of `mother' as `female father' (which
completely misses the natural counterposition `bearer' : `begetter')
or of `woman' as `female man' (where "man" is not used in its generic
sense, which it has in English; rather, it means `male human'). I
know that there are some Esperantists who use "matro".

> Since Esperanto is an artificial language (is that the
> right term?), prescriptivism may have its place in it.

Unfortunately, I feel it may be too late for this: the word "patrino"
has been around for too long.

Disclaimer: I am not an Esperantist.

> On the other hand, the Russian "djadja" [j = yod] ('uncle')
> has a feminine declension and takes masculine agreements.

The term "feminine declension" is to be taken with a grain of salt,
because there is only a statistic correlation, not a causal link,
between a noun being feminine and following what is regularly called
"first declension" (and is chock full of masculine nouns).

> I don't imagine the Russians have any problem with that,

They don't.

In Bulgarian this correlation is much closer than in Russian, there
being much fewer masculine nouns with singular ending _-a_. It is
reported that in some dialects feminine agreement occurs with such nouns:

_rimskata papa_ [Roman-sgf_the-sgf pope]
 cf. standard _rimskijat papa_ [Roman-m_the-m pope]
_vladikata doshla_ [bishop_the come_perf-sgf]
 cf. standard _vladikata doshyl_ [bishop_the come_perf-sgm]

but apparently not with _bashta_ `father', which has a higher frequency.
(I don't think all this can be called a problem, anyway.)

---- --- -- - Long Live the Rose and the Heather! - -- --- ----
Ivan A Derzhanski (;
* Centre for Cognitive Science, 2 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LW, UK
* Cowan House, Pollock Halls, 18 Holyrood Park Road, Edinburgh EH16 5BD, UK
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