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Dissertation Information

Title: The Social and Cognitive Dimensions of Grammatical Gender Add Dissertation
Author: Angeliki Alvanoudi Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2013
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Greek, Modern
Director(s): Theodossia-Soula Pavlidou
Savas Tsohatzidis
Demetra Katis

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 interaction.

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.