OT: Re: gender-neutral English usage

omcomali.rhn at porcupinefactory.org omcomali.rhn at porcupinefactory.org
Tue Jan 19 15:54:17 CET 2010

On Tue, 19 Jan 2010 12:14:43 +0100
"arne anka" <openmoko at ginguppin.de> wrote:

> > AFAIK, German has a neutral gender in addition to masculine and
> > feminine, but I know even less about German than Spanish.
> german neutral pronoun "es" is very similar to english "it" (and not only  
> etymologically), ie it is only used for nouns not being either mal or  
> female (and diminutives like "Mädchen" which is a d'v of "Maid/Magd",  
> girl).
> it certainly is not applicable for the case in question.

I know for sure that Estonian language has a gender-neutral pronoun. In exchange, it doesn't have any gender-specific pronouns, what I find strange, being used to Polish, in which you can't virtually say anything without being gender-specific.

> as in almost any other language the issue of male vs female came up not  
> until the 60s/70s and there's no viable solution (if it is possible to  
> find any).
> we use "er/sie" which equaly "he/she" but german even uses male vs femal  
> in nouns like "Schaffner" (conductor) or "Maurer" (mason) -- which get a  
> suffix "in/innen" (sing/pl) for the female form.
> thus, in most texts paying attention to gender it is written "Maurer/in"  
> or "MaurerIn" (and now, zealots try to dinstinguish themselves by writing  
> "Maurer_in" ... )

It's been an issue in Polish language and culture recently, too - some of the functions in society had been traditionally assigned to one or the other gender, and some to both. The words not having other-gendered counterparts have to be coped with.
"Doktor" is normally male, but can be used as ("implicitly") female, and the use is widely accepted. However, most words can be made "explicitly" female - "doktor" would become "doktorka".
The most famous example of the latter is "psycholog" and "psycholożka" (psychologist), which are accepted by the Polish Language Board, but sound extremely cheesy in my opinion.

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