women and cars

Heike Wiese heike.wiese at RZ.HU-BERLIN.DE
Thu May 15 09:23:29 UTC 2003

Something that points to an opposite system, is evidence from a gender
distinction in German: when referring to motor vehicles through company
names (eg. English "a BMW") one uses feminine gender to identify motor
bikes, as opposed to masculine gender for identifying cars, hence

(1) Im      letzten  Rennen hat  die      BMW  gewonnen. Sie ...
     In_the  last     race   has  the[FEM] BMW  won       pron[FEM]
     "In the last race, the BMW won"

-> The BMW is a motorbike. (feminine determiners)

(2) Im      letzten  Rennen hat  der       BMW  gewonnen. Er ....
     In_the  last     race   has  the[MASC] BMW  won       pron[MASC]
     "In the last race, the BMW won"

-> The BMW is a car. (masculine determiners)

I do not whether this is relevant for your student; the basis for German
gender assignment is a hodge-podge of morphological, phonological, lexical,
and semantic features. If the basis is semantic, it can relate to a number
of conceptual distinctions (apart from the female / male distinction for
persons), where the choice of (a) which distinctions and (b) how they are
connected with grammatical gender distinctions seems to be pretty arbitrary.



Dr. Heike Wiese
Humboldt-Universitaet Berlin
Institut f. dt. Spr. und Linguistik
Unter den Linden 6
D-10099 Berlin, Germany
Tel. +49-30-20939 721
Fax +49-30-20939 729


At 11:07 14.05.03 -0400, you wrote:
>I have a student who is researching the use of the prounoun "she" and
>female-marked names to reference cars. She has found some discussion on
>this topic (Spender, Dinnerstein, and others) but she would like more
>current research to study. Can anyone recommend sources?
>Many thanks,
>Kathryn Remlinger, Ph.D.
>Associate Professor of English: Linguistics
>Department of English
>Grand Valley State University
>1 Campus Drive
>Allendale, MI 49401 USA
>remlingk at gvsu.edu
>tel: 616-331-3122
>fax: 616-331-3430

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