Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Grammar and semantics, the thug and slut

Language Log discusses the way grammar and semantics/meaning get personified with distinct genders:
Someone should investigate the ways in which the grammar/semantics distiction is personified. Grammar is often cast as a fussy schoolteacher (a schoolmarm, in particular: Miss Fidditch) or some other kind of authority figure, a legislator or judge or priest (almost surely male). But grammar can also be seen as empty form, which on its own produces mere chatter without substance - a female stereotype. Meaning, in contrast, is configured either as substantial and significant (so: agentive and male) or as "natural", even earthy (so: passive and female).

(Link, via Feministe)
I suppose there's something in the human condition that makes it easier for us to respond to abstract concepts (such as grammar) when they are described human characteristics, but it's interesting to see how stereotypes can get buried in these personifications.

Of course, who pays any attention to the syntax [or grammar, or meaning] of things will never wholly kiss you.



Wah.. so french. :) Poem is great.


Unless they were a linguistics major, in which case they'll kiss you all right.

On a somewhat-but-not-really related note, do you find that numerals are gendered? I've always sort of felt that the evens were female and the odds male, except of course for 9, the spinster.

I have to assume this comes from early training, when the materials offered us must have represented the numbers as people so we would be more interested.


mis_nomer: Oh yeah - we haven't even touched on languages with gendered nouns! Thanks for the reminder.

indri: Could that have something to do with the fact that the even numbers have the closed areas (4, 6, 8)? Not that I know why closed areas would be female, but it would explain why 9 counts as female in your scheme.


Of course there is the Freudian explanation: women have 2 tits. Men have 1 dick. Why are these organs important, they are visually outstanding, and tend to be the first things we think about with regards to their anatomy.

Shapes of the numbers also are important, but the numerical properties of the numbers existed before the shapes were invented.

Men are more "protrusive", like odd numbers, more "individualistic". Whereas women are more "congenial" and social, and "conformist", like even numbers, who have one property in common.

Therefore odd is male and even is female.


Post a Comment

Create a Link