LINGUIST List 4.596

Mon 02 Aug 1993

Disc: Gender and Periphery

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  1. Michael Picone, Re: 4.585 Qs: Emoticons, Periphery, Gender

Message 1: Re: 4.585 Qs: Emoticons, Periphery, Gender

Date: Fri, 30 Jul 93 12:22:18 CDRe: 4.585 Qs: Emoticons, Periphery, Gender
From: Michael Picone <MPICONEUA1VM.UA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 4.585 Qs: Emoticons, Periphery, Gender

In response to Paul T. Kershaw's posting on gender and periphery:

The use of pluralized _women_ in constructions such as
_women doctors_ has some parallel in a similar use of _men_.
Compare _women-folk_, _men-folk_; _women friends_, _men friends_.
Even _men doctors_, though not usual, would be acceptable.
There is also a series after the pattern of _gentleman-farmer_ (1749)
(gentleman-commoner, gentleman-rider, etc.) that are all pluralized
in both constituents: _gentlemen-farmers_, etc.

Using _women_ to accompany a professional designation normally or formerly
reserved to men has a long history in English. The following attestations
come from the OED (2nd ed., 1989): wymmen syngers 1382, woemen officers 1494,
women ministers 1577, women doctors 1622, women-actors 1632, women-Anglers
1661. Other interesting early attestations are: women saints c.1610, women
slaues (=slaves) 1614, and without pluralization: woman-physician 1533,
woman-surgeon 1628. Compare _man nurse_ (1530).

Using preposed _woman/women_ and especially _man/men_ in all sorts of
metaphorical, fantasmagorical and teratological concoctions also enjoys
a long history: man-devill (1600), man-Monster (1611, Shakespeare),
Men-monster Manglers (1632), men-cattle (1814), men-sphinxes (1864),
man-dog (1884), men-machines (1904), etc.

The origin of the double pluralization, which is not permitted elsewhere,
is an interesting puzzle. Though such double pluralization would be usual
for French, the first possible foreign influence that comes to mind, it is
unlikely that French is the source since parallel formations in that language
didn't really become widespread until the 19th century, when the
fantasmagorical varieties started appearing: hommes-oiseaux (1828), homme-loup
(1831), hommes-chevaux (1862, Hugo), homme-chien (1873), femme-sirene (1885).
In the twentieth century, this procedure was recruited to add designation of
female gender where needed: une femme-medecin/des femmes-medecins. As shown,
the addition of preposed _femme_ converts the whole costruct to feminine
grammatical gender. In only a few cases does one find variation with a
postposed version: une femme professeur, un professeur femme. The only earlier
use in French has to do with double +human appositions and human + divine
appositions: homme-femme (=androgyne, 1569), femme-fille (1759), homme-dieu
(1797).

Getting back to English pluralization, it seems to me that the irregularity
of the English plurals _women_ and _men_ is relevant. Since English also
allows compounding by adjunction of the possessive case, to allow double
pluralizations generally would lead to structural confusion: cf. boyswear,
*boys friends. The exception to this is in those cases where an irregular
plural obtains that does not require /-s/ adjunction. Thus _menswear_,
(not *manswear) _men friends_, because genetivity and plurality do not have
overlapping surface representation. So what about _child prodigies_? Should
*children prodigies have been acceptable according to my logic?
Well, first off the linguistic legacy is different for _children_ which
hasn't had the same combinatorial precedent handed down, perhaps partly
because _childer/children_ has been less stable over the centuries, the
latter finally winning out by analogy to _men_ & _women_. Also, for purely
pragmatic reasons there has been far less historical need for compounds
involving _child/children_ in both artistic and professional vocabulary.
_Child prodigy_ comes with other baggage. It has lexicalized as a compound
in a way that _woman doctor_ has not and this is an added factor inhibiting
pluralization in a language like English where, for reasons possibly related
in part to the foregoing, compound-internal pluralization is not allowed (this
is not a universal, in French is it allowed for these kinds of compounds:
enfants prodiges). Still, it seems to me that _children_ enjoys more liberty
in combination with other nouns than do, for example, _girls_, _boys_,
_ladies_, etc. where there is /-s/ adjunction. One might invent _children
folk_ and _children friends_ but never *boys folk, *girls folk, *ladies folk,
*boys friends, *girls friends, *ladies friends.

Michael Picone
U Alabama
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