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A CONSIDERATION OF FEMININE DEFAULT GENDER

by NEWELL, HEIDI C.

Abstract (Summary)
Extra-linguistic variables, such as society and culture, can have an impact on languages and specifically on gender systems. Many anthropologists and linguists have studied the relationship between extra-linguistic factors and language characteristics (Bonvillain 2001, 2003; Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 2003). In this paper, I analyze languages that all have the masculine and feminine gender distinction as a part of their system and it is on this type of distinction that I focus. Languages with gender assignment must also deal with ambiguous and unknown gender. The gender used for an unknown or ambiguous gender is the default gender (Bonvillain 2003). In some languages all nouns must be assigned a gender. If the gender is unknown or ambiguous, however, then the language defaults to one of the existing genders. In the great majority of the languages with such a system, the default gender will be either the neuter (if it is available) or the masculine gender. “While the use of the feminine is possible, it is nevertheless the masculine which occurs in most languages reported on” (Corbett 1991: 221). Some examples of this exception are Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, Mohawk in North America, and Welsh in Britain and it is on these languages I concentrate. In Maasai demonstrative pronouns use a feminine default (Corbett 1991, Mpaayei and Tucker 1955), Mohawk uses a feminine default gender in personal pronouns (Bonvillain 2003, Corbett 1991), and Welsh in cases where a non-referential overt subject is needed, the feminine form is used (King 1993).
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:gender feminine default mohawk maasai welsh grammatical

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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