Jakobson and Boroditsky (was Re: "moist")

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Nov 7 18:08:39 UTC 2011

On Nov 7, 2011, at 1:00 PM, Hunter, Lynne R CIV SPAWARSYSCEN-PACIFIC, 71700 wrote:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of Laurence Horn
> Sent: Sunday, November 06, 2011 5:11
> Subject: Re: "moist"
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
>      American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "moist"
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -------
> On Nov 6, 2011, at 1:14 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> On Sat, Nov 5, 2011 at 12:25 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net>
> wrote:
>>> the reversed gender attributions in Old English
>> ,,, are sheerest coincidence. And I manipulated the data somewhat.;-)
>> The fact that the moon was Masculine is out of step both with the
>> Classical languages and with the Romance languages. Furthermore, the
>> sun was Masculine _sunna_, Feminine _sunne_, and Neuter _sol_ in Old
>> English, though the Feminine was preferred. Masculine "moon" and
>> Feminine "sun" seems to be true, historically, at least, in all
>> Germanic and Baltic languages, whereas in the Slavic languages, _luna_
>> "moon" is Feminine, as in Greek, Latin, and Romance. However, _the
>> word for "sun" in Slavic , - e.g. Russian _solntse_ is Neuter. OTOH,
>> in Hebrew, both words are Masculine. And, very likely, there's a
>> language with grammatical gender in which both are Feminine and
>> another in which both are Neuter.
> I remembering a talk by Roman Jakobson at the LSA Linguistic Institute
> in the summer of 1966 (UCLA) in which he tried to argue (I forget with
> how much success, although I wasn't in a good position to judge) that
> the gender of "sun" and "moon" in Romance vs. Slavic influenced
> depictions of the heavenly bodies in both poetry and the (well, he
> probably didn't use the term, but) collective unconscious of the peoples
> involved.
> LH
> Not to veer off (the sun, moon, et al.) topic, but Jakobson's argument
> sounds like a harbinger of Lara Boroditsky's more recent work on how
> noun gender influences perception.
Indeed.  See e.g. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3023


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