OT: Re: gender-neutral English usage

Gora Mohanty gora at sarai.net
Wed Jan 20 18:51:45 CET 2010

On Wed, 20 Jan 2010 14:30:13 +0100
Krister Svanlund <adsummodo at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 2:12 PM, arne anka
> <openmoko at ginguppin.de> wrote:
> > what exactly has one's value to do with the gender or the
> > pronoun you are using to refer to him or her?
> > your proposition is based on the assumption that one gender is
> > less valueable than the other, hence, using the male or female
> > pronoun would express a judgement.
> To me it seems obvious that ones own impression of something is
> heavily based on the language you use (see
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity and the
> Sapir-Whorf hypothesis).
> If you make a difference between two persons (by assigning them
> different genders) you will also put values on the difference
> even if it isn't your intention.

This is getting way off-topic, but love the discussion. I will make
two observations:
o Arne, I do agree with the point that you are making, but English
  (and other languages) uses the male pronoun by default, and I
  sympathise with people unhappy with that status quo.
o I am not quite sure what to make of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
  On one hand, I think that Chomsky, and people like Steven Pinker
  demonstrate quite conclusively that language is a basic human
  instinct, and not a cultural construct. On the other hand, it
  would seem obvious that the ideas, and language one grows up with
  influence one's outlook. On the whole, I lean towards Chomsky.

Gora (who is still pondering the influence of languages like
      Hindi, which assign gender not only to animals, but also
      to inanimate objects)

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