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Re: Umlauts (was Re: Elves and Ill Bethisad)

From:Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Date:Friday, October 31, 2003, 16:20
Quoting Chris Bates <christopher.bates@...>:

> There was an interesting study i read about somewhere, where they took > the same words (eg bridge) and translated it into lots of different > languages which all had grammatical (masculine/femine) gender, but which > didn't necessarily assign the same gender to it. So for instance: > > spanish: el puente > italian: il ponte > french: le pont > german: Brücke (feminine and I can't remember the feminine article in > german, I'm just looking some of these up for examples sake) > russian: moct (m) > welsh: pont (f) > > Okay, a slight overrepresentation of Indo European languages there, its > obvious most of the words are quite closely related... but at least > there's a mix of genders. Anyway, this study first found out what kind > of qualities speakers of a language associated with masculinity or > femininity, and then asked a (separate I think) group of people to > describe what qualities they thought each of the words they'd selected > had. They found that people tended to give qualities considered more > masculine to masculine words, and more feminine to feminine words... I > don't know if that's because there's method to deciding if a word is > masculine or feminine, or if its because the assignment is pretty random > but after a word has been assigned a gender that influences the thinking > of the speakers of such a language... whichever way, gender ideas and > grammatical gender are related even when you're talking about objects > which have no innate gender, like the bridge example above.
I too saw an article about that. The authors took for granted that it was a case of preconceived notions about what is masculine and feminine "colouring" the perception of things that only happen to have one or another gender randomly assigned to it, but I'm not entirely happy about that conclusion. Surely there must have been _some_ grounds for the gender assignments, originally, no matter who random they may look after millennia of semantic, societal and technological change. And _new_ words in languages with grammatical gender are often assigned gender for analyzable reasons - my German grammar even has a section on how to predict the gender of new loans. Andreas


Muke Tever <hotblack@...>Gender in conlangs (was: Re: Umlauts (was Re: Elves and Ill Bethisad))
JS Bangs <jaspax@...>