Gender of the ancestors (was: Laádan and woman's speak)
|From:||DOUGLAS KOLLER <laokou@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, May 23, 2000, 2:02|
From: "John Cowan"
> DOUGLAS KOLLER scripsit:
> > And neither-nor languages. Chinese has "zu3guo2" (in Japanese "sokoku")
> > referring to the ancestral land, or at the very least, the grandparents'
> > land.
> I thought zu2 meant male ancestor.
None of my dictionaries cite etymological sources, but none of them cite
"zu3" as being intrinsically male (though China is certainly a patrilineal
society). The standard definitions go (I translate): 1) Direct relations of
one's mother and father in the previous generation (i.e. grandparents. Here,
like the English, it does not distinguish between patrilinear or
matrilinear, though in common parlance one would talk about "ye2ye"
(Grandpa) and "nai3nai" (Grandma) on the father's side, and "wai4gong1" and
"wai4po2" respectively on the mother's side). 2) The common name for people
who have died in historical times (i.e. ancestors).
I feel it's epicene. That epicene words like "ren2" and "zu3" and "ta1" have
been historically interpreted as masculine (since males are the only ones
that count) is a historico-cultural (culturo-historical?) consideration, not
intrinsic to the words themselves. I defy you to find native speakers who
will commit to saying that "ren2" means "man", "zu3" means "male ancestor",
and "ta1" means "he". I personally find these even less gender-charged than,
say, the English expression, "Man's inhumanity to Man." where "Man" refers
to greater humanity, both male and female. Sure, a Sui Dynasty reader may
have taken these terms to refer for the most part to males, since it would
be men writing predominately for men, but I don't find these terms any more
gender-fixed than the English word "analyst" (though our own biases may
place gender constraints on the term [or not]). So until someone can shove a
etymological dictionary in my face that says "_male_ ancestor", I'm sticking
As for"zu3guo2", I've most often seen it translated into English as
"motherland", but I always assumed that that was Russian influence due to
the warm, fuzzy, communist brethren feeling supposed to exist between China
and the USSR back in the 40s and 50s. In and of itself, maybe "homeland" is
a better translation, though there are slightly different connotations in
English. (Vaterland vs. Heimat?).