This is a discussion thread · 11 replies
The average person is always masculine (as in the man in the street) and so is the hypothetical person in riddles and exams( If a man can walk ten miles in seven minutes,how many miles can he walk in twenty minutes?)
The word "he" is often used as common gender pronoun even if it is feasible to be a woman.Generally, we can see if we imply a high prestige occupational role such as president,manager,doctor,director and so forth the pronoun is very likely to be "he".If it is a secretary,nurse or elementary school teacher, the pronoun is apt to be "she".
In English language, males roar,growl,bellow whereas females squeal,shriek or purr.
Clearly English is a sexist language that expresses steeotyped attitudes toward one sex at the expense of the other.The same thing can be said about many other languages such as French.
In French the most prestigious roles are almost always masculine , such as Le professeur , le docteur , I'outeur ... which can sometimes result in bizzare statements like Le professeur est enceinte The professor is pregnant.
In German , the situation is not different much. Der Menchen ,which is a masculine noun, refers to mankind,human being which derives from Man,that refers to person.
Even when the sexism is not built into grammar and usage the communuties allways regardes masculine as the norm. Words like master and father have traditionally been those of leadership and power i.e. master of my fate, the father of modern science whereas feminine words are used to imply unpredictability of treachery. Thats why US weather bureau gives feminine names to hurricanes such as Katrina.
Successive generations unconciously absorb these unequality in languages. A young reader reads in a school book "The courageous pioneer defended his land or The pioneers crossed the plains with their wives,children and personal belongings" The history books mostly refer to pioneer women as luggage. "Centuries ago our father brought forth upon this continent a new nation" The child learns about the history "man or mankind" despite the fact that a large extent of fossil that have been unearthed are those of females.
As for Turkish, although it is fact that women's status are lower than most English speaking communuties, In Turkish there is one pronoun, namely "o" , which refers to he and she and it.And it uses a single word for siblings "kardes" regardless of sex.
The fact is that language merely reflects social behaviour and is not the cause of it.Even if it were in our power to legislate changes in the platitudes of words, the attitudes would nevertheless remain unless the social structure doesnt change.
What about the situation in your languages and what are your comments.
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Sexism is the practise of discriminating against people because of their sex/gender. It is the same sort of word as racism (discriminating against people because of their race), ageism (discriminating against people because of their age) and so on.
My language, Finnish, is as follows:
1. There are no articles and nouns have no gender.
2. There is only one pronoun for he and she. There is another pronoun for it. In spoken Finnish the equivalent of it is frequently used to refer to a person as well. (Grammarians dislike this usage intensely!)
3. I can't think of a single noun that isn't applicable to women also. For example, the Finnish equivalent of actor is normally used to refer to women as well even though there is an old-fashioned word for actress. There are some similar female words for certain occupations but they are rarely used nowadays. In most cases there is no special female word at all. You would have to translate lioness as 'a female lion' into Finnish.
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