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  1. #1
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    Smile Hierarchical language

    Hi,

    following fivejondon's advice I'd like to continue a thought that sparked elswhere, *here*, and ask about hierarchical language.

    Have you noticed how in the past you'd address letters with Mrs. John Smith or Mr. And Mrs. John Smith? (As was pointed out, royalty still keep it up, and so Ms Middleton will soon become Her Royal Highness Pricess William of Wales).

    Just to give another example, in Polish suffixes added to the man's surname pointed to the family structure. So, the wife of Budrewicz would become Budrewiczowa (-owa) and the daughter - Budrewiczˇwna (-ˇwna). You wouldn't hear it very often anymore.

    Sticking with names, in Iceland they have yet another system, in which somebody's surname points directly to the father's first name. This way the surname of the daughter of Gu­mundur Gunnarsson will be, quite literally, Gu­mundsdˇttir. ;)

    Do you know any other vestiges of male dominance in modern English or across languages?


    P.S. The phrase "the vestiges of male dominance" was so neat and spot-on I just had to copy it as it was. Thanks fivejondon.

  2. #2
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    Re: Hierarchical language

    Quote Originally Posted by nyota View Post
    Do you know any other vestiges of male dominance in modern English or across languages?
    The suffix '-ess' for females is one example, though it's lessening.
    We still say lioness, princess, actress. We no longer say Jewess, negress. We sometimes say poetess. I don't think we've ever said doctoress (though some languages do)
    Similarly aviator/aviatrix.

    It's only a vestige of male dominance because the 'normal' base word is male, and the marked version is female.

  3. #3
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    Re: Hierarchical language

    I don't think we have ever said 'doctoress' but the implication that doctors were normally male could be found in the way people used to speak of a 'lady doctor' or 'woman doctor'. Some still do, and they are not normally referring to a gynaecologist - that's a 'woman's doctor'.

    We still have the hoary old puzzle:

    A boy was involved in a serious accident and rushed to hospital. Just as the operation was about to begin, the surgeon looked at the boy's face and said, "I can't operate on this patient. he's my son". The surgeon was not the boy's father.

    The boy was the surgeon's son, but the surgeon was not the boy's father. How can we explain this?



    Until quite recently, many people would have taken some time to arrive at the answer, which should, of course, be obvious.

    On a different note, until very recently in the Czech Republic, woman were obliged to to have as their surname the feminine form of their father's/husband's name, which usually involved the suffix -ova. As a result of this, non-Czech films shown in the Czech Republic starred such people as Judi Denchovß - Wikipedie, Jodie Fosterov se ukzala s thotenskm bkem - iDNES.cz etc.

  4. #4
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    Re: Hierarchical language

    Oh I didn't think of that Raymott, interesting! It's also curious how some of the forms are deeply rooted and perfectly acceptable (I doubt if any woman finds 'princess' degrading) as opposed to Jewess and negress, which just rub people the wrong way.

    In Polish you also have aktor - f. aktorka (for actor and actress) and the female derivative doesn't bring up any stir at all. However, if you try to do the same with dyrektor - f. dyrektorka (general manager, director), profesor - f. profesorka, or sekretarz generalny - f. sekretarka generalna (secretary general), it does look like you were playing down on their importance because, as you said, those versions are marked, and simply sound awkward. I should just point out here that dyrektorka and profesorka are more acceptable than sekretarka generalna as for now.

    Also, some women insist on using female correspondents 'because why should they be limited to male versions especially if some professions, for example, use female ones successfully'. Others consider it as deprecating and artificial.

    I find it kind of funny and ironic that the choice you have, is either use the male base word, or add a female suffix to it, which in turn, will often make the word sound odd enough to make you not want to use it; and of course you're still using the same male base. ;)

  5. #5
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    Re: Hierarchical language

    You're right fivejondon. Some professions are still marked. For example, you have przedszkolanka (kindergarten teacher) but no przedszkolanek* which would account for a male version. It's not exactly the same as with doctors because it's still mostly women who work in kindergartens, and for a reason too, but it does happen occasionally. I guess it makes it an example of female dominance. ;)

    Oh, and I've also heard about this Czech -ova surname alteration. To digress, I must say it sounds hilarious, and I mean it in a good way. However, it's easy with names that end in a consonant. What do they do with if it's, say, Dee? Still Dee'ova?
    Last edited by nyota; 26-Feb-2011 at 18:13.

  6. #6
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    Re: Hierarchical language

    Quote Originally Posted by nyota View Post
    What do they do with if it's, say, Dee? Still Dee'ova?
    Sandra Deeovß (jmÚno narozenÝ Alexandra Zuck) - herečka, a vnučka Rusyn přistěhovalců.
    http://rusini.navajo.cz/

    ps. I don't know what it means, but its existence answers your question.
    Last edited by 5jj; 26-Feb-2011 at 20:44. Reason: ps added

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