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The loss of grammatical gender in Middle English

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Julia Teubner

on 18 December 2014

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Transcript of The loss of grammatical gender in Middle English

human beings and higher animals
The loss of grammatical gender in the History of English
Natural Gender vs. Grammatical Gender
Think about the two terms and try to define them!

Use the Placemat-method to make sense of these grammatical categories (5 minutes).
Middle English
Modern English
Old English
Outline
1. Introduction: Natural vs. Grammatical gender

2. Grammatical gender in Old English

3. Loss of gender system in Middle English

4. Group work moodle Text

5. Natural gender in Modern English

6. Discussion
Sources
Language Contact
Old Norse
French
reduction of complexity
starting 10th century in the north
spreading south until 14th century
Old Norse
French
confusion
confusion
more words are compatible
drop of inflections
OE "mona" (m.)
feminine from French "luna"
The loss of grammatical gender in
adjective Inflections
OE:
se
eald-
a
man (masc)
that/the old man


seo
eald-
e
tal
u
(fem)
that/the old tale
ME:
the
old-
e
man (masc)
the old man


the
old-
e
tale (fem)
the old tale
THE
Canterbury Tales in Middle English
Whan
that
aprill with
his
shoures soot
e

The
droght
e
of march hath perced to
the
root
e

And bathed every veyn
e
in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is
the
flour;

Whan zephirus eek with sweet
e
breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
When April with his showers sweet

the drought of March has pierced unto the root

And bathed each vein with fluid

to generate therein and sire the flower

When Zephyr also has with his sweet breath

Quickened again, in every holt and heath
ME
Present-day
English
from:
- major developments affecting inflection and the morphosyntax already taken place
- some phonological adjustments and minor changes
- rather of a syntactic nature

Gender no longer an inflectional category in Modern English
only traces of the Old English gender system system of pronoun–antecedent agreement
generally based on natural gender of pronoun's referent


Personal pronouns
Gender
: expressed by inflections only in personal pronouns + only in
3rd person singular
-
1st
and
2nd
person forms I, we and you → common gender

-
3rd person plural
form they → either common gender or neuter (the people ... they, the boats ... they)

HE ( him, himself, his)
- referent male person
- sometimes male animal
- something else to which male characteristics are attributed

Example:
God Bless America
"Stand beside
her
, and guide
her
through the night with a light from above."
SHE

(and her, herself, hers)
- referent female person
- sometimes female animal
- female characteristics are attributed to something inanimate (ships, airplanes, countries)

IT (and itself, its):

- referent is something inanimate ( often animal, sometimes for a child when sex unspecified)
Pronoun agreement
often with natural gender of referent (the person or thing denoted)
rather than simply antecedent (a noun or noun phrase which replaces the pronoun )

f.ex.: the doctor and
his
patients or the doctor and
her
patients
pronouns sometimes used without any explicit antecedent
choice of pronoun affected by the particular noun used in the antecedent
antecedent is a collective noun
family
or
team

plural pronoun may be chosen:
compare the family and
its
origins;
the family and
their
breakfast-time arguments
Problem referent is a person of unknown or unspecified sex

traditionally using male forms

in contemporary English often avoided
Possible alternatives include:

• alternation or random mixture of
use of
she
and
he

• use of singular
they

(common especially in informal language)

• use of

it
( antecedent word like child, baby, infant)




relative
and
interrogative
pronouns
not subject to male/female distinctions
express a related category of animacy (animate /inanimate)

who, whom vs. what, which
, somebody /one vs. something, anybody /one vs. anything everyone/everybody vs. everything, no one/nobody vs. nothing, etc.



Other pronouns
distinctions of animacy are variable

WHO
(as an interrogative or relative pronoun) refers to:

a person or persons
rarely to animals (although possessive form whose)
f.ex.: (the {woman, dog} who...)
lower animals and inanimate things

WHICH
and
WHAT
refer to:

inanimate things
(and non-human animals)

f. ex.: (the {ant, stone} which...)




- generally a covert category shown by the coocurrence of relevant pronouns
the boy ... he, the girl... she

- case in languages with grammatical gender:
accompanying article not the shape of the noun reveals gender


1. -
by derivational
suffixes
, such as the
feminine suffixes:
- ine (hero / heroine)
- ess (god / goddess)
- rix (aviator / aviatrix)
- ette (suffragist / suffragette)

NOUNS
or the common gender
suffixes
:
- er (baker)
- ist (artist)
- ian (librarian)
- ster (prankster)
- ard (drunkard)

2.
by
compounds
:

lady-
woman-
girl-
female-
- woman
or boy-, male -, gentleman-, -man

3.) by
separate forms for masculine, feminine, and common genders

boy / girl / child – rooster / hen / chicken

4.) by
separate forms for
masculine
and
feminine

genders:

uncle / aunt, horse / mare, bachelor / spinster

proper names: Joseph / Josephine, Henry / Henrietta


feminine
always derived from the
masculine

BUT:




- in case of goose / gander or drake / duck

the feminine form is the common gender form



Reason for Change
Declension

1000
1400
Animals
are triple-gender nouns,
being able to take masculine, feminine and neuter pronouns




animate pronouns
he
and
she
applied to animals
when
personification
and/or
individuation
occurs

human attributes
are applied to the noun

F. ex.: A widow bird sat mourning for
her
love.


specifically named animals individuation

Peter Rabbit or Blob the Whale



other triple-gender nouns:
ideas, inanimate objects,
words like infant and child

‘lower animals’,

referred to using
it
'higher (domestic) animals'

more often be referred using
he
and
she
(when sex is known)
F. ex.:

Person A: Ah there’s an ant!
Person B: Well put it outside!
animals viewed as less important to humans
Copenhagen /Scandinavia
3 gender system typical 2 gender system
loss of feminine
masculine - feminine distinction lost
sex not known


masculine pronoun is often used
increase of foreign inhabitants
dialect mixture
no agreement between adjectives/noun/determiner
no longer able to distinguish gender
Grammatical gender in OE
three types of gender: masculine, feminine, neuter

inherited from Indo-European nominal system

similiar to grammatical gender categories in Modern German

gender appeared on grammatical grounds and partly on natural grounds

co-existence of these two systems no exclusively morphological system
Natural gender?
neutralization in -e
gender based on meaning
exception
he/she/it
determiners
m: male adult persons and animals
e. g.
cyning
(king)
f: female adult persons and animals
e. g.
cwēn
(queen)
n: young persons and animals
e. g.
bearn
(child)

BUT: grammatical gender system can run
counter to a referent’s biological sex!
reduced to "the/that"
from:
from: Jesús Fernández-Domínguez
Exceptions:
wīfmann
(woman)
natural gender = f,
grammatical gender = m

wīf
(woman)
natural gender = f,
grammatical gender = n



even synonyms have different genders
BUT: not the rule, often took
natural gender
inanimate nouns belonged to one of the three classes morphological reasons or no
obvious reasons

Grammatical Gender
gender-specific derivational suffixes (examples):


Groupwork
see task on the table
10 min
- a (
mōna
= moon)
- dom (
cynedōm
= kingdom)
- skipe (
frēondscipe
= friendship)
m
- u (
giefu
= gift)
- ung (
æfnung
= evening)
- nes(s) (
ánnes
= oneness)
f
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Zbc3D73gQ_k/Tk3UxzQnubI/AAAAAAAAAHw/L8qkZcyczEQ/s1600/1.1+definite+article.gif...
- et (b
ærnet
= burning)
- incel (
stānincel
= little stone)
n
Language Shift
(sub)-culture changes primary language
Jutland Danish + Schleswig Low German
political developments
But:
many suffixes affiliated to more than one gender
masculine/ feminine only survive in some contexts
suffixal derivation =
no absolute indicator for gender assignment
Contact and Simplification
contact with other languages
migration


- or callers ( A
person
is calling for you? Who is
it
?)
dialectic contact
West-Jutland:
confusion about masculine/feminine/neuter membership
(What a cute baby, what is
its
name?)
marked use of feminine gender with
ships, cars, countries, fortune, art, music & nature

remnant of grammatical gender
kind of personification “gender of animation”

Ships and countries

traditionally ships, countries, oceans
using feminine pronouns
origins not certain

OE: a ship, or "scip" neuter
a boat, or "bāt" masculine


Agreement pattern (concord)
= grammatical forms with variable
gender (adjectives, pronouns,
numerals) adopt forms to agree with
grammatical forms of invariable
gender (nouns)
currently in decline
Seo brade
lind
wæs tilu and ic hire lufode.
'That broad shield was good and Ioved her.'

Example OE:
Transgender persons
Gender-specific words
demonstrative pronoun
appropriate to the gender with which they identify
different pronoun such as they, zie, or so forth
retained gender-specific spellings is the noun-form of
blond/blonde
adjectives
during
Second Wave Feminism
Gender neutrality in English
1960s and 1970s
pronoun
Geographical Diffusion
Feminists enforce gender determinism and the marginalization of the feminine
a spread of phenomenon, idea ... over space and time
number of centers
England ?
root of this contentiousness feminists' backlash against the English language's shift from "grammatical gender" to "natural gender"
West Jutish
Features of gender-neutral language in English may include:

Avoidance of
gender-specific job titles
, or caution in their use;
Avoidance of the
use of man
and
mankind
to refer to humans in general;
Avoidance of the
use of he, him and his
when referring to a person of unspecified sex
noun (feminine)
Jones, Charles. 1988. Grammatical Gender in English 950-1250. London. Croom Helm.
Barber, Charles; Beal, Joan C.; Shaw, Philip A. (2009). The English Language, A Historical Introduction. Cambridge
University Press.
appear in their feminine form to agree with feminine noun
lind
Curzan, Anne. 2003. Gender Shift in the history of English. Cambridge University Press.
Trudgill, Peter. Gender maintenance and loss in Totenmålet, English, and other major Germanic varieties. John
Benjamins Publishing Company (2013): 77-107.
Fernández-Domínguez, Jesús. A Diachronic-Synchronic Review of Gender in English. Revista Alicantina de
Estudios Ingleses 20 (2007): 45-63. Jstor.
Future gender?
- complete loss of gender-
Discussion
Gender, although a common feature in languages throughout the world, is not essential to language, many languages have never had gender systems and others have lost them with no lethal repercussion. ( Anne Curzan, 2003)
- two gender system-
- gender neutrality-
The whole pronouns-must-agree-with-antecedents thing causes me utter agony. Do you know how many paragraphs I've had to tear down and rebuild because you can't say, "Somebody left their cheese in the fridge", so you say, “Somebody left his/her cheese in the fridge”, but then you need to refer to his/her cheese several times thereafter and your writing ends up looking like an explosion in a pedants' factory? . . . I crave a non-risible gender-neutral (not "it") third person sing pronoun in the way normal women my age crave babies.

Lucy Mangan, The Guardian, July 24, 2010, p. 70
- no change -
- back to the roots-
three types of gender: masculine, feminine, neuter like in Old English
Gender declension of nouns





Meyer, Charles F. (2010). Introducing English Linguistics International Student Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Brinton, Laurel J. (2000). The Structure of Modern English. John Benjamins Publications.
determined by base form of the noun
strong and weak declension
Corbett, Greville G. (1991). Gender. Cambridge University Press.
https://.www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdn-gwLgj80&spfreload=10
http://purgge.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/loss-of-gender-in-english/..
Cameron, Deborah (2003). Feminism and Linguistic Theory (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Siemund, Peter (2008). Pronominal Gender in English: A Study of English Varieties form a Cross-Linguistic
Perspective. New York: Routledge.
Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language .
Cambridge University Press.
http://purgge.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/loss-of-gender-in-english/
http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/english/fajardo/teaching/eng520/mideng2.htm
500
1000
1400
1900
2000
2200
by Julia Teubner, Nadja Heinrich, Nele Bischoff
much duplication
therefore case and gender distinction supported by adjectives, articles and pronouns
"that" becomes demonstrative
preserved more distinctive endings than nouns
Kastovsky, Dieter (1999). Inflectional classes, morphological restructuring and the dissolution of Old English
grammatical gender. In: Trends in Linguistics. Gender in Grammar and Cognition. Manifestations of Gender.
Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG. Berlin.
High German
Preservation of 3 gender system:

normal way of native speaker transmitting language from one generation to another
no effect of simplified German versions of L2 speakers
continuous native-speaker tradition
maintained
Rules for identifying a noun's gender in German
natural gender when referring to people (der Mann/die Frau, exception: das Mädchen), job titles (der Verkäufer/die Verkäuferin)
alcoholic drinks (except Bier)
seasons
days of week
months
word-endings: -el (Pinsel)
-en (Garten)
-er (Wecker)
Rules for
masculine
gender
more than 60 % (exc. infinitives
Rules for
feminine gender
word-endings: -ung (Kleidung)
-schaft (Freundschaft)
-keit (Neuigkeit)
-heit (Schönheit)
-tion (Reaktion)
-sion (Explosion)
-in (Freundin)
-e > 90% (Liebe,
Blume)
Rules for
neuter gender
infinitives: das Bauen, das Warten
languages
words starting with Ge- (Gebäude)
word-endings: -chen (Kaninchen)
-lein (Fräulein)
diminutive suffixes
Origin of
grammaical gender
anthropomorphize nature
early men and women spoke a differently inflected form of the language
“accidental outcome of the linguistic development of some languages” (Ibrahim)
consensus: grammatical gender = extension of natural gender (more articulate distinction of gender in human-animate nouns, inanimate entities outnumbered animate ones)

no exclusive grammatical gender system, natural system always part of it
http://illinois.edu/blog/view/25/31097
http://wmich.edu/medieval/resources/IOE/inflnoun.html#nouns_strong

http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/6361ArchibaldBarber.htm

http://hord.ca/projects/eow/result.php?nt=ship&submit=+Search+&l=en&ignorecase=on&match=word&output=macron
Full transcript