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How Gender Shapes the World$
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Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723752

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723752.001.0001

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What are Linguistic Genders good for?

What are Linguistic Genders good for?

(p.52) 4 What are Linguistic Genders good for?
How Gender Shapes the World

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald

Oxford University Press

Linguistic Genders impose a way of speaking on men and women. The Natural Gender of a speaker of Modern Hebrew, Russian, Modern Greek, and many other languages with pervasive gender agreement is obvious from the gendered forms they use. Linguistic Gender differentiates the meanings of a noun (and helps distinguish males from females). It helps understand who does what to whom, individuates some participants and backgrounds others, as well as helping to enrich the lexicon. All these functions are shared with other noun categorization devices—especially numeral classifiers, noun classifiers, and classifiers on verbs. In many familiar languages, each noun belongs to just one gender. Gender membership is fixed: in German, die Sonne ‘the sun’ is feminine. It is nonsensical to refer to it as *der Sonne, with the masculine gender. Yet in many languages gender of a noun can vary, highlighting the versatility of what the genders express.

Keywords:   Linguistic Gender, semantics, discourse-pragmatic uses, variable choice of Linguistic gender, Algonquian languages, Dyirbal, German

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