Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Feminine sympathy and masculine distaste in German

04.10.2010
The German language uses gender-inclusive personal nouns to express closeness and sympathy with the people under discussion and to ensure that all readers feel included when addressed. However, masculine language forms are used to express distance and distaste, reveals a new thesis on the German language from the University of Gothenburg.

Imagine what it would be like if all female teachers were called teacheresses, and all female doctors doctoresses. That's exactly how it is in German - women are feminine in the language, while men are masculine. This means that anyone who speaks German faces problems when discussing groups of people comprising both men and women.

"This is a hot potato, not only for linguists but for all German-speakers," says Magnus Pettersson, author of the thesis and doctoral student at the Department of Languages and Literatures. "Not least because it's tied up with the issue of how to make women visible in the language, and, as such, with the whole equality debate."

One option is to use only masculine forms, such as der Student (the student) or der Lehrer (the teacher). Here, the masculine form is given a general, supposed gender-neutral meaning.

But many feel that the masculine form makes women invisible and discriminates against them linguistically. Feminist linguists have therefore suggested the use of splitting forms like der Lehrer und die Lehrerin = the teacher and the teacheress. These feminist forms are used in written German in parallel with masculine forms and neutral forms where the speaker refrains from distinguishing gender.

Pettersson has studied the variation between such strategies, primarily in feminist magazines like Emma, where splitting forms are considered politically correct and are used liberally, but also in other types of contemporary text.

"It turns out that not even feminists are always consistent. A lot of masculine forms sneak in, generally when the people under discussion are in some way stereotypically male, or when the author wants to introduce an element of distance from them."

In this way, masculine language forms in a feminist context become a marker for distance and distaste. Another observation is that splitting forms are often used when addressing people, such as Dear reader and readeress.

"This targets women and men explicitly, as the readers being addressed should feel included, irrespective of whether they are male or female. On the other hand, it's not a problem in the same text to use masculine forms when dealing with mixed groups. As such, linguistic genus awareness is dependent in practice on communicative factors, the intentions of the writer and the type of text."

Pettersson's thesis is perhaps the first to examine the use of gender for German personal nouns from a descriptive and text-analytical perspective.

"Many of the people who've done research in this area have a clear language political agenda. They want to talk about how things should be, for example that masculine language forms when referring to women are an abomination. I'm not interested in that. Linguistic research is based primarily on describing how things are, and not on prescriptive discussions of what is right or wrong."

The thesis was successfully defended.

Title of the thesis: Geschlechtsübergreifende Personenbezeichnungen. Eine Referenz- und Relevanzanalyse an Texten.

Author: Magnus Pettersson,
tel. +46 (0)31 7865579 (work),
+46 (0)70 4573467 (mobile)
E-mail: magnus.pettersson@tyska.gu.se
Website: http://www.sprak.gu.se/kontakta-oss/doktorander/pettersson-magnus/
Download the thesis from: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/22454

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:
http://hdl.handle.net/2077/22454

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht New Technologies for A/V Analysis and Search
13.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Digitale Medientechnologie IDMT

nachricht On patrol in social networks
25.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>