LINGUIST List 24.1779

Mon Apr 22 2013

Diss: Socioling/Greek, Modern: Alvanoudi: 'The Social and Cognitive Dimensions of Grammatical Gender'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <>

Date: 22-Apr-2013
From: Angeliki Alvanoudi <>
Subject: The Social and Cognitive Dimensions of Grammatical Gender
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Institution: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Program: Department of Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2013

Author: Angeliki Alvanoudi

Dissertation Title: The Social and Cognitive Dimensions of Grammatical Gender

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Greek, Modern (ell)
Dissertation Director:
Theodossia Pavlidou Savas L. Tsohatzidis Demetra Katis
Dissertation Abstract:

The present thesis examines the interrelation between the social and cognitivedimensions of grammatical gender in person reference in interaction. Inparticular, it explores i) whether interaction provides indications for the role ofgrammatical gender in guiding speakers to the interpretation of referent(s) asfemale or male, and ii) the consequences of the use of grammatical gender forthe construction of the social category of gender on the basis of social hierarchyin interaction.

Grammatical gender is an inherent property of the noun, which controlsagreement between a noun and its satellite elements and grammaticizes thesemantic distinction of female/male sex in person reference. According tovarious sociolinguistic and feminist non-linguistic approaches, grammaticalgender attributes sex to referents and contributes to the construction of the socialcategory of gender on the basis of hierarchy. This social dimension ofgrammatical gender is interrelated with a cognitive one. Drawing on cognitivelinguistics and research on linguistic/structural relativity, grammatical gender isshown to guide speakers to the interpretation of referents as female or male.

Moreover, the study of the relation between grammatical gender and personreference in interaction shows that the interrelation between the social andcognitive dimensions of grammatical gender manifests itself in interactionthrough presuppositions about referents’ sex as an aspect of social context.

In order to approach grammatical gender in interaction, I employ ConversationAnalysis in addition to membership categories. Empirical analysis shows thatinteraction provides direct and indirect indications for the cognitive dimension ofgrammatical gender. Direct indications are found in self- and other-initiatedrepairs in which grammatical gender constitutes the repairable item. Indirectindications are found in speakers’ next turns, which show their understanding ofprior turn, in the recipient-design feature, in the membership categorizationdevice, and in the use of the masculine grammatical gender for reference tofemale persons only. In addition, the compulsory use of grammatical gender inthe composition of turns is shown to affect the socio-cultural world that isconstructed through interaction; referents are categorized as female/women ormale/men and sexism is reproduced implicitly when participants perform varioussocial actions.

Page Updated: 22-Apr-2013