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German masculine language forms express distance and distaste

Washington, Tue, 05 Oct 2010 ANI

Washington, Oct 5 (ANI): A new thesis from the University of Gothenburg reveals that masculine language forms in German are used to express distance and distaste.


In German - women are feminine in the language, while men are masculine. This means that anyone who speaks German faces problems when discussing groups of people comprising both men and women.


Many feel that the masculine form makes women invisible and discriminates against them linguistically. Feminist linguists have therefore suggested the use of splitting forms like der Lehrer und die Lehrerin = the teacher and the teacheress.


These feminist forms are used in written German in parallel with masculine forms and neutral forms where the speaker refrains from distinguishing gender.


Magnus Pettersson, author of the thesis and doctoral student at the Department of Languages and Literatures, has found that splitting forms are considered politically correct and are used liberally in feminist magazines like Emma.


"A lot of masculine forms sneak in, generally when the people under discussion are in some way stereotypically male, or when the author wants to introduce an element of distance from them," Pettersson said.


In this way, masculine language forms in a feminist context become a marker for distance and distaste.


"Many of the people who've done research in this area have a clear language political agenda. They want to talk about how things should be, for example that masculine language forms when referring to women are an abomination," she said.


"I'm not interested in that. Linguistic research is based primarily on describing how things are, and not on prescriptive discussions of what is right or wrong." (ANI)


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