LINGUIST List 6.1097

Mon Aug 14 1995

Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1088, 1091

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. , Disc. Sex/Lang

Message 1: Disc. Sex/Lang

Date: Sun, 13 Aug 1995 21:25:45 Disc. Sex/Lang
From: <>
Subject: Disc. Sex/Lang

A few remarks in the discussion, and comments on/to Newman, Meunier

The widespread "constructivist" concept of personality and sex
is seriously injured by what Jane Goodall has to say below. Is my
interpretation wrong that the preoccupation in feminist studies with sex
roles/language, and the diffusion of that preoccupation into other
corridors of the university, began as an assault on "normativity", i.e.,
knee-jerk heteropartnershipping in the late 1960s? We are attracted to
the opposite sex
only because society teaches this to us. Thumbs up to tolerance, REAL
diversity, and curing the REAL ills of society by needs of the individual
 not the group; thumbs down to intuitive scholarship, academic shamanism, and
prescriptive grammas

Jane Goodall, Through a Window, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston,
"My thirty years with the chimpanzees of Gombe." (P 118)
One of the most important milestones in the life of a young male is
when he begins to travel away from his mother with other members of
the community. The severing of apron strings is far more necessary
for a young male than a young female. She can learn most of what
she needs to know for a successful adult life whilst remaining in
her family setting. Not only can she watch her mother and her
mother's friends caring for their infants, but she can actually
handle them herself, gaining much of the experience which she will
need later when she has a baby of her own. And she can learn,
during her mother's `pink days', a good deal about sex and the
demands that will subsequently be made of her in that sphere.
 The young male has different things to learn. There are some
aspects of community life that are primarily, though not entirely,
male responsibilities=ADsuch as patrolling, repelling intruders,
searching out distant food sources, and some kinds of hunting. He
cannot gain adequate experience in such matters if he remains with
his mother. He must leave her and spend time with the males. =


 Michael Newman provides some welcome references in the literature
that provide data more specific for what we all know generally, that some
terms are semantically marked for gender -- marine, lumberjack, nurse.
"he" -- it has biases for masculine interpretation -- no doubt about that
 for the current state of the language. In centuries before modern English,
and into the modern English era, "he" was also a feminine pronoun.

 Michael Newman is "skeptical of pernicious influences of grammar on
ot her aspects of cognition", whereas Lydie Meunier says ""studies in
psychology have shown that females reading texts written in a generic-he
retain less information than when they read texts using a generic plural".
Newman goes on to express accord with Moulton's "Kleenex effect whereby
the identity of a
prestigious subset is assumed by the superordinated category, with the
result that people tend to think of the subset as more prototypical".
This sounds
like individual-for-the-class synechdoche. I do not think that the
"prestigious subset" sufficiently describes he/man phenomena, does not
hit the mark head on, because it assumes man is to woman under "man", as
is to Puffs under "kleenex". I think my use of the term "tautonym"
focuses a little sharper on the genus-species aspect. The difference between
Coke and
Pepsi is more like the difference between Joe and John, and of a
different ORDER than that between boys and girls. I am suggesting another way
to see the generic phenomenon -- in part supported by what I quoted in detail
from Jakobson a few posts back: A man is a living generic person, only made
distinctive for sex in contrast/juxtapostion with woman. Generic he/man
in language describes generic he/man in-the-flesh -- as unmarked for sex.
- --------------------------

To Lydie Meunier:
I am glad to know that someone on LINGUISTIC has expertise in
sociolinguistic practices during Biblical times. Could you provide some
chapters and verses about the more-or-less slavery of wives to their
husbands? It's true there are all kinds of depravities in the Bible, in f=
Joshua was quite an ethnic cleanser himself. Do you know if there is
anything in the Bible about how wives of slaves were treated, as they wou=
be "double-slaves"? Finally, you use the word "sexism", so popular in our=

common cultural vocabulary, but, aside from it being a political slogan, =
could we most appropriately define it in its non-political slogan sense, =
you use it? =

Jeff Weber

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