[lg policy] Germans try to get their tongues around gender-neutral language

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 25 15:05:46 UTC 2014


This reminds me about being at a concert recently where someone sang
Schubert's rendition of Goethe's poem "Der Erlkönig" except that it was
listed in the program, for some reason, as "*Die* Erlkönig".  I was going
to point that out to the organizers of the concert, but decided they'd
think I was being fussy or esoteric.  Now I see that this was a pre-saging
of what is going on already in Germany, according to this article!

I agree that gender of German nouns is a problem for non-native speakers,
and I've been known to fudge around if I don't know the gender of a noun,
and use a different noun that I *do* know the gender of.  But with Erlkönig
there's no problem--kings are masculine, or at least used to be.

Best,

Hal S.



On Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 10:05 AM, Dave Sayers <dave.sayers at cantab.net>wrote:

> "Der, die or das? For centuries, the seemingly arbitrary allocation of
> masculine, feminine and neutral gender articles in German has driven
> non-native speakers to despair. "In German, a young lady has no sex, while
> a turnip has," the American writer Mark Twain once complained. "Think what
> overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous
> disrespect for the girl."
>
> But hope may finally be in sight. Changing attitudes to gender are
> increasingly transforming the German language, and some theorists argue
> that scrapping the gendered articles altogether may be the most logical
> outcome."
>
> More here: http://goo.gl/h7pH0n
>
> Dave
>
> --
> Dr. Dave Sayers
> Senior Lecturer, Dept Humanities, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
> Honorary Research Fellow, Arts & Humanities, Swansea University, UK
> dave.sayers at cantab.net | http://swansea.academia.edu/DaveSayers
>
>
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-- 
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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