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View Diary: The Honey And Vinegar of Pronouns (67 comments)

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  •  Every language is different. (2+ / 0-)
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    laurustina, marleycat

    In Icelandic, a very gendered language, it took the opposite path as English, which switched from "man" to "person" and so forth.  The word "maður" - man - is used more like the word "person", and so if you want to specifically denote a male, you say "karlmaður".  Maður is, however, still a masculine noun so you refer to it as he ("hann" and so forth).  On the other hand, in other contexts you might use "manneskja" (individual), which is feminine, or "vera" (being), like "mannvera" (human), which is also feminine.  One counts objects of unspecified gender (and some objects of specified gender that don't match) in the masculine, and a group of unspecified-gender individuals is referred to in the masculine.  On the other hand, when there's a group of mixed-gender individuals, they're referred to in the neuter plural, and it just so happens that in most cases, adjectives describing a neuter plural group are the same as the feminine nominative singular.  One way I've seen a few people queer the system is in naming, swapping out the -son or -dóttir in the patronymic with the opposite gender.

    In Japanese, commonly the way you talk indicates your gender, but you have options on whether to indicate the gender of those you're talking about.  For example, if you refer to yourself ("I") as "boku" (or moreso, "ore"), that's a masculine way to talk, while if you say "atashi", that's a feminine way (you can even go all the way to the hyper-cute/feminine and refer to yourself in the third person in a sort of baby-talk fashion).  On the other hand, it's common to refer to others as "anohito" or "anokata" for he/she, which are totally ungendered.  This is the opposite of English (and Icelandic), where it's hard to gender yourself (simply, "I"), but where it's difficult not to gender others (he/she).

    •  A friend of mine was once telling me (1+ / 0-)
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      about the weight that gendered first-person pronouns carry in Japanese.  As I recall, she said something like ...

      It isn't just that you're saying "I-girl" or "I-boy".  You're saying either [posing with hands clasped daintily] "I, frail fainting flower of femininity" or [posing with shoulders squared, feet apart, elbows out, thumbs tucked into belt] "MY PENIS AND I..."
      I have never been sure how much of that was humorous exaggeration and how much was meant to convey the actual connotation of the words.

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