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(37 Messages in 4 pages - View all)
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1.       Abla
3647 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 03:18 pm

Lack of gender is one of the features of Turkish language which I feel gratitude for. As I don´t have the distinction of he and she in my native language either, gender is a constant stumbling block for me in every language which pays attention to the detail of the person in question being male or female. I will never really get fluent in it and I got used to these strange looks when I speak like everyone in the room was a man.

There are occasions, though, when there is need to make it clear whether the person we are talking about is a man or a woman.

         erkek çocuk

         kız kardeş

         erkek arkadaş

The other day tunci corrected me when I tried to talk about

         *kadın başkanı > kadın başkan

and it opened my eyes for these other examples. I had always thought of expressions like this is as izafet groups consisting of two nouns but actually they are not. There is no possessive suffix in the governing word. They look like the combination of an adjective attribute and a noun! When I look at the definitions of Turkish noun phrases they remind me of those where the modifier expresses what the noun is made of, like

         demir kapı

         naylon çorap

Maybe telling that the child is a boy or the president is a woman is like telling what he or she is made of. I like the thought. In Finland we have a nursery rhyme which even supports the idea: "Of sugar and cinnamon are small girls made, of snails and tail tips are small boys made."

On the social level these definitions also reflect the sexual roles. We understand that başkan is essentially a male and kadın başkan is a person who has been excused her sex. I guess it is a universal feature that the word referring to masculine is neutral and the word referring to feminine is marked, and it shows in language. Maybe Turkish is an exception, what do you think?

 



Edited (12/2/2011) by Abla

2.       si++
3785 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 03:38 pm

 

Quoting Abla

Lack of gender is one of the features of Turkish language which I feel gratitude for. As I don´t have the distinction of he and she in my native language either, gender is a constant stumbling block for me in every language which pays attention to the detail of the person in question being male or female. I will never really get fluent in it and I got used to these strange looks when I speak like everyone in the room was a man.

There are occasions, though, when there is need to make it clear whether the person we are talking about is a man or a woman.

         erkek çocuk

         kız kardeş

         erkek arkadaş

The other day tunci corrected me when I tried to talk about

         *kadın başkanı > kadın başkan

and it opened my eyes for these other examples. I had always thought of expressions like this is as izafet groups consisting of two nouns but actually they are not. There is no possessive suffix in the governing word. They look like the combination of an adjective attribute and a noun! When I look at the definitions of Turkish noun phrases they remind me of those where the modifier expresses what the noun is made of, like

         demir kapı

         naylon çorap

Maybe telling that the child is a boy or the president is a woman is like telling what he or she is made of. I like the thought. In Finland we have a nursery rhyme which even supports the idea: "Of sugar and cinnamon are small girls made, of snails and tail tips are small boys made."

On the social level these definitions also reflect the sexual roles. We understand that başkan is essentially a male and kadın başkan is a person who has been excused her sex. I guess it is a universal feature that the word referring to masculine is neutral and the word referring to feminine is marked, and it shows in language. Maybe Turkish is an exception, what do you think?

 

 

Başkan doesn´t convey any sex information. To perceive it as a male is just an assumption on the receiver side, which is not a Turkish language specific thing.

 

Kadın/erkek başkan conveys the information about the sex.

 

3.       Abla
3647 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 03:48 pm

Interesting that you say that. The Finnish equivalent for president (or engineer, captain, doctor, even writer) in my opinion still carries the masculine meaning even though young doctors are mostly women and we even have a woman president. At least we more often talk about female writers than male writers.

I have heard opinions where the Finnish lack of gender is connected to the long gone equality between the sexes. The faces change when you add it is not so unique in world languages: it has gone even further in...Turkish.

4.       si++
3785 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 06:18 pm

 

Quoting Abla

Interesting that you say that. The Finnish equivalent for president (or engineer, captain, doctor, even writer) in my opinion still carries the masculine meaning even though young doctors are mostly women and we even have a woman president. At least we more often talk about female writers than male writers.

I have heard opinions where the Finnish lack of gender is connected to the long gone equality between the sexes. The faces change when you add it is not so unique in world languages: it has gone even further in...Turkish.

I would connect it to the simplification of the grammar. Gender information is an extra baggage. I guess it was a natural evolution over a long time period. The same thing can be said for article. Some people believes that Proto-Turkish had its "article" like IE languages and it was dropped out of language. Maybe Proto-Turkish had also prepositions instead of postpositions and later switched to the postpositions, many of which later became suffixes.

 

5.       Abla
3647 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 06:40 pm

Certainly lack of gender has nothing to do with the structure of the society. These are just the kind of generalizations that people love to make because they sound so smart.

Gender is a burden of language which really irritates me. It forces the speaker to take a stance on something which is not the issue. Suppose I talk to my doctor in the phone and want to report the discussion in any of these gender languages: I sooner or later have to mention the sex of the doctor. Even if I manage to avoid pronouns, in some languages the verb forms unveil these things. Or if I see my friend´s baby in the vagon dressed in green there is no way not to confess that I can´t remember if it was a girl or boy...the problems are numerous.

Another thing is what has been pulling Turkish language into a greater level of simplicity in this issue and many others. Aren´t there any relics of gender in the history of literary language? Didn´t the Arabs try to import masculine and feminine into Turkish as they brought so many words and even an alien orthography which you later gave up?

6.       scalpel
1472 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 07:00 pm

 

Quoting Abla

Didn´t the Arabs try to import masculine and feminine into Turkish as they brought so many words and even an alien orthography which you later gave up?

 

These Arabic loan words are still in use: 

müdür (mas), müdüre (fem)

memur (mas), memure (fem)

maktul (mas), maktule (fem)

And maybe there are some others that I don´t remember at the moment..

 

7.       Abla
3647 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 07:50 pm

If there were plenty of them, certainly you would remember, scalpel. It would be more serious if this -e had begun to work as a productive derivation suffix. Under foreign pressure vocabulary is the most vulnerable part of language but getting into the grammatical structure is much more difficult, so it seems.

I don´t know if these issues are related or not but I also paid attention to the relatively big amount of unisex given names in Turkish. In my language, I can´t recollect but a couple of names which in principle could be given to both boys and girls and even those two are completely out of fashion.

8.       scalpel
1472 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 08:35 pm

I just listed the words that are somehow in use.. There must be many that are not in use anymore. For example I know this word muallim (male teacher) - muallime (female teacher) 

You can find it in many Arabic origin names:

kadir - kadriye /cemil - cemile / ferit - feride / melik - melike / saim - saime / zeki - zekiye / safi- safiye / şadi - şadiye (this one is Iranian loan word) / hadi - hadiye

...

Here are the names (that come to my mind at the moment) for both boys and girls:

deniz, derya, ismet, ayhan ..

 

 

9.       Abla
3647 posts
 02 Dec 2011 Fri 10:03 pm

There are 23 in this list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Turkish_unisex_given_names. It seems a lot to me. But how would I know? Maybe they are from another era or something.

10.       si++
3785 posts
 03 Dec 2011 Sat 12:42 pm

 

Quoting Abla

Certainly lack of gender has nothing to do with the structure of the society. These are just the kind of generalizations that people love to make because they sound so smart.

Gender is a burden of language which really irritates me. It forces the speaker to take a stance on something which is not the issue. Suppose I talk to my doctor in the phone and want to report the discussion in any of these gender languages: I sooner or later have to mention the sex of the doctor. Even if I manage to avoid pronouns, in some languages the verb forms unveil these things. Or if I see my friend´s baby in the vagon dressed in green there is no way not to confess that I can´t remember if it was a girl or boy...the problems are numerous.

Another thing is what has been pulling Turkish language into a greater level of simplicity in this issue and many others. Aren´t there any relics of gender in the history of literary language? Didn´t the Arabs try to import masculine and feminine into Turkish as they brought so many words and even an alien orthography which you later gave up?

 

Interesting examples Abla.

Another difficulty I faced was when you talk about general things that can be done by somebody (male or female) you first give the generic name of that somebody and then you have problems with the folowing sentences.

 

Say you describe a procedure to be performed by a customer during a cash withdrawal from an automated teller machine (ATM).

- Customer should first insert his or her card into the card reader

- He or she should enter his or her password

- He or she bla bla bla...

 

OK it can be solved by using they (and their) above but it is still strange to me.

 

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