LINGUIST List 6.1083

Sat Aug 12 1995

Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1079, 1080

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <dseelyemunix.emich.edu>


Directory

  1. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Re: 6.1079, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1077
  2. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Re: 6.1080, Disc: Sex/Lang, re: 1077, Uniformitarian, re: 1078

Message 1: Re: 6.1079, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1077

Date: Sat, 12 Aug 1995 08:49:52 Re: 6.1079, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1077
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.1079, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1077

Lydie Meunier seems to be asking which comes first, sexist language
or sexist behavior. But there is surely a third alternative, that
language and behavior evolve together, reinforcing each other.
It is also important to distinguish the question of how some form
of language or behavior arose in the first place from that of how
it is transmitted to successive generations. I would have little
doubt that sexist language plays a major role in transmitting
ideas which lead to sexist behavior, but it is difficult for me
to believe that HISTORICALLY sexist language came before sexist
behavior.

Alexis MR
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Message 2: Re: 6.1080, Disc: Sex/Lang, re: 1077, Uniformitarian, re: 1078

Date: Sat, 12 Aug 1995 09:04:47 Re: 6.1080, Disc: Sex/Lang, re: 1077, Uniformitarian, re: 1078
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.1080, Disc: Sex/Lang, re: 1077, Uniformitarian, re: 1078

Since my views seem still not to be clear, let me try to make them
clearer.

(a) I do believe that people in all kinds of cultures themselves
believe that men and male behavior are superior in some sense to
women and female behavior, and I hold that this perception (even if
it were not accurate) is what must matter to us as we discuss
sexist language. Whether the perception is accurate is of no importance
in this context.

(b) I do not make any necessary connection between oppression of
womn and oppression of black people at all. I simply used the
example of black slavery as an example of the general principle that
to admit the existence of a form of oppression practiced by some
group (by white people) does not mean that one must necessarily
hate them. My point was that I am not a mysandrist just because
I accept that men have historically not been very nice to women.

(c) It does seem to me evident that there is no point discussing
sexist usages in the last couple centuries in English outside of
the context of other languages and the much longer attested
history of English itself. And it also seems to me quite evident
that there is nothing at all unusual about the usages we have
been discussing in this context. So the issue is not what
the normative English grammarians might have thought or done,
but what millions of speakers of all kinds of languages have
thought and done over the millennia of recorded linguistic
history. -- But even though this all seems evident, I do not
claim (as Jeff seems to think) that this view is widely or
universally held.

(d) I agree that it would be very good to find out whether
languages which are commonly described as having no gender-tyoe
phenomena, of which there are many, have any traces of the
usages under discussion anyway. I have of course so far
asserted only a conditional universal, that if a language
has a gender system (in the broadest sense of the term, which
will subsume English as well as Latin, say), then it will
have usages with male/masculine as the unmarked term. (There
are, importantly, languages where the feminine appears to be
unmarked in the sense that more nouns are feminine than
masculine--or at least I think there are--but I believe they
still have the kind of "sexist" usages we have been discussing.)

Alexis MR
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