Heard on the Olympics broadcast

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sun Aug 10 15:53:10 UTC 2008

On Aug 10, 2008, at 8:31 AM, Gerald Cohen wrote:

> German does the same: "Sie ist ein guter Mensch" (= She is a good
> person).  "Ein guter" here are both masculine.
> [quoting Wilson Gray]
> ... I can recall how shocked and disgusted we were
> when, at the Army Language School, there were revealed to us such
> examples of genderism as the fact that one is not permitted by the
> grammar of Russian to say
> *Ona (= Feminine) khoroshaia (= Feminine) chelovek "She [is a] nice
> person"
> Rather, one *must* say:
> Ona khoroshii (= Masculine) chelovek (= Masculine)
> despite the fact that the subject is Feminine!

in languages in general, the principles for different kinds of
agreement (within an NP, between subject and verb, between subject and
predicative, between anaphor and antecedent) are somewhat different.
in general, agreement within an NP is strictly "grammatical",
sensitive to the grammatical categories (including grammatical gender)
of the elements involved.  subject-predicative agreement (including
gender agreement), however, is suspended in many cases, in particular
for certain predicative nouns that have a gender but can be used for
sex-general predication (as in these russian and german cases).


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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