Archive for Gender

Eurasia: archeology, historical linguistics, gender

Below are the opening paragraphs of a review by Richard Foltz in Caucasus Survey (2022), 1-2 [10.30965/23761202-bja10006; published by Brill].

Warwick Ball,The Eurasian Steppe: People, Movement, Ideas, Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press, 2022. 414+xix pp. ISBN: 978-1-4744-8806-8, £19.99 (pbk).

The work under review is a revised and expanded edition of the author’s earlier The Gates of Asia: The Eurasian Steppe and the Limits of Europe (London:  East & West Publishing, 2015), although he prefers to describe it as “a new book rather than a new edition” (p.4). In taking on the vast sweep of Eurasian steppe history, the author’s stated aim is “to focus on those subjects that shaped Europe, even at the cost of glossing over the effect on other regions such as the Middle East, South Asia, or China” (p.3).  Ball is an archaeologist, so it is not surprising that the book draws heavily on archaeology, although he ventures as well in to other topics such as language, ethnicity, mythology, and art (the possible echoes of Scythian motifs in art nouveau, for example).

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Time, tense, and gender in Estonian

Size-wise, Estonia (45,339 sq. km; 17,500 sq. m) is much larger than Philadelphia (369.59 sq. km; 142.7 sq. m), but, in terms of population, Philadelphia (1,603,797) is slightly bigger than Estonia (1,313,796).  I have been to Estonia, and was utterly captivated by the wealth of its art and architecture, the depth of its history, the quality of its education, and the accomplishments of its people.  Among many other distinctions, Estonia is at the forefront of research in genetics, which is what brought me there during my period of research on the mummies of Central Asia.

Now, as you will discover from this post, Estonia is worthy of wonder for its fascinating language as well.  Some of the special features of Estonian are well presented in the following article that was published a couple of days ago:

Puzzle Monday: How To Be on Time in Estonia

by Alex Bellos, Atlas Obscura (November 7, 2022)

——

In Estonia, there is no sex and no future.

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Judo: martial arts neologism or ancient philosophical term?

The term "judo", which sport / martial art ("as a physical, mental, and moral pedagogy" [source]) was only created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano 嘉納治五郎 (1860-1938).  What I find amazing is that jūdō / MSM róudào 柔道 ("soft / flexible / gentle / supple / mild / yielding way") comes right out of the Yìjīng 易經 (Book / Classic of Change[s]).  Of course, traditional Japanese scholars have always been learned in the Chinese classics, so it shouldn't be too surprising that they would draw on the classics for terminology and ideas that had great meaning for them.  But I'm curious whether Jigoro Kano explicitly referred to the Yìjīng in any of his writings about jūdō 柔道.

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All-purpose word for "glamorous woman"

The PRC authorities have always policed human behavior and thought, but especially during the last half year or so and particularly toward young people, for whatever reason, they have been coming on more gangbusters than usual.

First they went after the phenomenon of tǎngpíng 躺平 ("lying flat"), i.e., those who chose to opt out of the cutthroat rat race.  Then they chastised niángpào 娘炮 ("effeminate men"), i.e., girlie boys and men.  The social minders even drew a bead on jīngfēn 精芬  for socially averse millennials who identified themselves as spiritually Finnish.  These were serious efforts to squelch such unwanted tendencies in the population.  Now they have taken quite a different turn and are aiming at an altogether different target:  beautiful women.  Strange to say, they are coupling this campaign against female pulchritude with a crusade against Buddhism.

Well, it's not that strange after all, since communism has never been fond of religion, and Buddhism has often been persecuted by Chinese regimes, almost from the time of its arrival in the Middle Kingdom nearly two millennia ago.  Even the combination of feminine beauty and Buddhism reveals a certain psychological fixation on the baldness and celibacy of nuns in traditional Chinese society.

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Gender fluidity in the classroom

Recent article on gender and language teaching:

How Language Classes Are Moving Past the Gender Binary

Languages that contain only “he” and “she” pronouns pose problems for communicating about gender identity. Here’s how some language teachers are helping.

By Molly Lipson, NYT     Sept. 1, 2021

Selections from the article:

Tal Janner-Klausner teaches Hebrew. There is nothing unusual about that, but the language presents a frustration that Mx. Janner-Klausner, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns in English, feels compelled to discuss with their students.

Hebrew, as well as French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and other languages, uses binary pronouns, which means that gender identities outside of he/she and male/female don’t exist in any formal capacity.

In Hebrew, even the word “they” is gendered. In French, “ils” refers to a group of men or a mixed-gender group, and “elles” refers to a group of all females. All nouns in gendered languages — including people — are categorized as either masculine or feminine, and any adjectives associated with these words must reflect that gender.

That presents a problem for students who are gender-nonconforming, and, of course, for the speakers of the language in general. Is it possible for learners of a gendered language to refer to themselves and others when their identities are not represented?

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Vulgar village vernacular

This Chinese article is about a man who has made a living by painting slogans and ads on village walls for thirty years. Some of the slogans are rather bizarre, as may be seen by looking at the many photographs in the article.

The article says it is such a well-paying job that the man was able to buy 6 apartments in his hometown with his earnings. Painting on walls is one of the major ways to advertise or propagate goods and ideas in the countryside.

There are many examples of such signs in the article, but I couldn't understand all of them upon first glance, so I wondered if the country folk would be able to read the signs. I asked a number of my graduate students from China, and they all said, yes, the country folk not only would be able to read them, but would enjoy them and would be motivated to buy the products and services promoted by the signs.

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Slurring and blurring

Something seemed amiss from the very first words of this video:

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Nonbinary third person pronoun in written Mandarin

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Gender-inclusive French

An unusual article on language in Foreign Policy:

"Aux Armes, Citoyen·nes!  Gender-neutral terms have sparked an explosive battle over the future of the French language," by Karina Piser (7/4/21)

The article is long and detailed.  Here I try to quote only the most important and telling points.

In early May, France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, announced a ban on the use in schools of an increasingly common—and contested—writing method designed to make the French language more gender-inclusive.

Specifically, Blanquer’s decree focuses on the final letter “e,” which is used to feminize words in French—étudiant, for example, becomes étudiante when referring to a female student. Like many other languages, French is gendered: Pronouns, nouns, verbs, and adjectives reflect the gender of the object or person they refer to; there is no gender-neutral term like “they.” Most critically, say the proponents of the inclusive method, the masculine always takes precedence over the feminine—if there’s a group of 10 women and one man, a French speaker would still refer to the group in the masculine plural, ils.

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Soused noodles / face

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

An unfortunate cultural misunderstanding has occurred in the attached image:

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Awoman: gender-free language in Congress

No, that is not a typo for "A woman". It is meant to be the feminine gendered equivalent of "Amen".

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver closes Congress’ opening prayer with ‘amen and awoman’

By Emily Jacobs, New York Post   January 4, 2021

A House Democrat tasked with leading the body in an opening prayer for the new Congress has gendered the word “amen.”

To close a prayer he delivered from the House chamber Sunday to mark the swearing in of the 117th Congress, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), an ordained minister, altered the traditional “amen” to say “amen and awoman.”

“May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace,” Cleaver said during his two-minute invocation, “peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber.”

“We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.”

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Viral gender dispute

Kim Willsher, "'La Covid': coronavirus acronym is feminine, Académie Française says", The Guardian 5/13/2020 ("Many in France have been referring to “le Covid” but guardians of French language rule otherwise"):

The Académie Française, guardian of the French language, has said a big non to le covid. Not to the actual disease, but to the use of the masculine definitive [sic] article “le”.

While many in France have been referring to “le Covid”, the so-called “Immortals” who make up the academy have ruled otherwise. Covid, they insist, is most definitely feminine.

“Covid is the acronym for coronavirus disease and acronyms have the genus of the name that forms the core of the phrase of which they are an abbreviation,” the academy ruled in a statement on its website under the heading “Say, don’t say”, aimed at stopping the French language being infected with Anglicisms.

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Pinyin vs. Sinographs

This came across Jeff DeMarco's Facebook yesterday:

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