In which languages ​​do grammatical genders disappear

Criticism of gender language

Keywords: Genus, Sexus, Gender, Language, Morals, Politics, Kulturkampf

The grammatical gender "those who do that", the grammatical gender, has with the biological sex, the Sex (Man, woman), almost nothing to do. The division of German nouns into three classes - masculine, feminine and neuter - relates only to the words and rarely to what they denote in terms of content. In the relativizations “almost” and “seldom” lies the problem that the German language - and only it - has with gender and sex. In principle, gender and sex have nothing to do with each other.

German grammarians translated in the 17th century genus with (grammatical) gender and called the article gender word. Genera were now called male, female and neuter. Johann Christoph Adelung, the most important grammarian of the 18th century, called the neuter (plural neuter) "words of uncertain gender" and "genderless", a formulation that is very close to sex. This opened the door to the confusion of grammatical gender with biological sex. The confusion arises from the fact that both are referred to as “gender” in German. Gender has three genders, and sex has two biological genders. There are languages ​​without a generic masculine. If it is true that the masculine inhibits the emancipation of women, equality should be more advanced in Anglo-Saxon states and in Turkey (the Turkish language has no masculine) than in Germany. That's not the case.

As a grammatical term, gender always means “kind, sort”. Groups of people are gender neutral. “Citizens” include people of all genders and ages. The gender agrees with the biological sex (sex) as a characteristic of living beings rather seldom. Many languages ​​have masculine (m.) And feminine (f.) Under their genera (plural of gender), some of them, among them German, also the neuter (lat. neuter = neither). This does not mean that the words denoted by masculine and feminine genera denote male or female entities or persons and the neutral gender only denotes children or inanimate things. There are nouns with the article “the” referring to women and there are nouns with “the” referring to men. “The baker”, “the mayor”, “the writer” have nothing to do with biological sex. They designate members of a functional group.

For words that designate something that has no biological gender (such as things or abstracts), the German genera are completely meaningless in terms of gender. The distinction between male / female on the one hand and neutral on the other, between animate and inanimate, is also incorrect: look at the child, the pig or the masculine spoon, the feminine fork or the neutral knife. There are masculine words in German that denote not only a male but also a female person, for example the guest, the infant, the refugee. There are feminine words that can also refer to male persons, for example the teacher, the scourge, the majesty, the orphan. There are also neutras that designate a male or female person, for example the member, the head of state, the girl, the child, the opposite. The words “customer”, “account holder” and “saver” refer to both male and female persons.

How little gender and sex have to do with each other - also in German - are shown by further examples: the man, the person, the image of a man; the blue stocking, the woman, the woman; the angel (in mythology angels usually have no gender), the figure, the genius. Also the bear, the cat, the deer; the eagle, the fly, the horse; despite clear sex: the male, the female (because diminutive). Cheerful nature, plagues and blasts are feminine, cleaning devils, pests and bundles of joy are masculine, eagle eyes, gossip mouths and limping legs are neuter, and they refer to people of all conceivable genders equally. These are conventions that have no real meaning or purpose, they are largely arbitrary. Foreigners who learn German moan about it. The three genera in German can be learned, but they represent an unnecessary complication of the language because they lack precision. The English-speaking countries, for example, have it easier with their "the" in this regard. In return, they have other grammatical quirks that are difficult for outsiders to understand. Since the English language hardly has any different endings for the sexes, most terms are gender-neutral, for example “teacher” for teachers. If you want to make it clear that a certain topic is a man or a woman, you have to put “male” or “female” in front of it.

Opponents of the generic masculine misunderstand its asexual nature: genus is a purely grammatical category, sex is a biological one. The sausage has nothing feminine about it, the cheese has nothing masculine about it. [1] Likewise the mouth, the nose, the chin. These words do not have a sex - we will hopefully never meet a mouth or a chin in the German language. There is a certain correspondence between gender and biological sex, but not consistently: the man, the brother, the woman, the aunt, the child, the girl. But: the liar, the hostage, the guard, the helper, the member, the victim - all gender-neutral personal names that men and women mean equally.

There is a great deal of evidence to support this view: All participants in the conference listened carefully. Austria has over 8 million inhabitants. The last two dancers on stage were Sabine and Peter. Women are usually the better listeners. Participants, residents, dancers, listeners - all expressions are in the feminine and denote men and women alike. Most of the time we don't even notice it. And the last sentence could not have been formed with a pair form: women are the better listeners. Or, as I recently read: “Only a third of all police officers are women”. Only a third of the female police officers are women? A questionable statement.

There are a few special cases. “Generic masculine” (or masculine gender) denotes the fact that masculine personal names on -er (such as Förster, Pfarrer) are not primarily sexually marked. They designate groups and units of people regardless of their sex. It becomes difficult with role designations: "the students" are the general designation for both genders, but also the special form for male students. In such cases, the masculine is sexually neutral. The female students, on the other hand, clearly only refer to women. "Students" include women and men, "Students" only mean "people with vaginas". The feminine marks. It is denoted by the syllable -in and a few subsidiary forms such as -esse (policeman), -isse (deaconess) or -euse (diseuse). These endings denote female sex as something additional, special.

If it is up to the language tutors of the city administrations in Hanover and Lübeck, an institution like the church can no longer be described as an "employer" but as an "employer" and a city is no longer an "editor", but as an "editor" of a guideline for so-called gender-sensitive language. It literally says: “Institutions that have a female article should be treated grammatically correct.” “The institution” has a female generum. So "the institution" in the future? But the suffix "-in" indicating female sex can only be applied to animate nouns, not "the clothespin" or "the frying pan". Institutions are not living entities.

The sometimes vehement advocacy for a changed language norm is mainly fed by the fallacy that in the German language a linguistic inequality has crept in with gender, which is synonymous with social inequality. Social inequality is supposed to be eliminated through linguistic differentiation. Are these special experimental forms suitable for making the age-old injustice against women visible and audible? Do women recognize themselves in these special characters? What about the newly discovered 36 other genders that we don't know much about so far? Will a cumbersome act of speaking and writing improve the social position of women?

It is not yet clear whether the duplication in the group description (“citizens”, prime ministers ”), the capital I, the gender asterisk, the colon or the underscore will prevail. All forms take getting used to. Only their consistent application makes sense. When repeating such a formula for the third or fifth time, however, the recipient feels a sense of redundancy and impatience.

The line of argument of the advocates of gendering language runs as follows: 1. Women are still massively disadvantaged in society. 2. Women disappear in gender and are not included. 3. In order to remove this disadvantage, women must be made “visible” in language and each must be explicitly named. 4. Only in this way does the oppression of women become visible. 5. Gender-appropriate language is able to put an end to the neglect of women.

Even the first premise is wrong. In my opinion, there is no longer any structural disadvantage for women in our society. With the expiry of the first theses, all other theses no longer apply. The second thesis is wrong because the generic masculine denotes a group of people of both sexes, not just men in a group. And the generic feminine “the group” also means not only women, but people of all genders. Anyone who confuses gender with sex harms language. There is still no empirical evidence for the third thesis; The fourth and fifth theses are also questionable and hardly provable. The generic masculine - that is, the masculine that refers to all natural genders - is common in linguistic usage, is socially accepted and does not represent any disregard for women. Last but not least, the Basic Law itself uses the generic masculine.

It is legitimate in cultural studies to examine the interaction of genetic, neural and socio-cultural processes, as well as gender stereotypes and their linguistic form. The process of striving for political correctness is different. Essentially, it is about linguistic issues: equality and justice are to be achieved by reforming vocabulary and grammar by pronouncing commandments and prohibitions. Gender mainstreaming has taken on the character of a secular religion. The language should become a moral institution. The doggedness with which an allegedly just language is fought suggests a culture war. It's about power and the right to opinion leadership. Cannons are being shot at sparrows: Those who do not participate or even oppose it are quickly accused of anti-feminism, racism, colonialism and fascism. With the elimination of the word “negro” from parlance, the position of blacks in the United States was not improved. Concrete processes, protests and changes in the law brought improvements. In the course of these social struggles, new word names were also formed.

Where does the current, morally saturated zeal for language reform come from? “I think the reason gender is so little opposed is because of men's guilty conscience. Women have been disadvantaged for centuries, there is no doubt about that. That is why feminist splinter groups, no matter how absurd they may make, run through open doors everywhere. Nobody dares to say anything for fear of being seen as a yesterday and a misogynist. ”That said Walter Krämer on March 8, 2019 in an interview with the NZZ. The Dortmund statistics professor Krämer is the initiator of a petition entitled "End the gender nonsense!"

What looks like a bogus prank is bitterly serious for the advocates of gender language. Ironically, those circles that otherwise cannot speak enough of tolerance, diversity and inclusion are trying to get their political opponents down in this way. It is not about a scientific discussion. Not only the writing should be given, but also the thinking. It's more than an annoying formalism of language. This also affected the state and its organs. But they are obliged to be ideologically neutral. No institution should be allowed to prescribe the grammatical form in which one expresses oneself. It is not clear to what extent such guidelines should be important for the functioning of parliaments and authorities.

In my country I belong to a minority who claims that the position of women has improved all over the world in the past few decades, also and above all in Germany. They are not constantly exposed to male violence up to and including murder, but rather they experience a lot of love and care. Her housework and her role in raising children are not paid directly (by whom?), But in a conjugal community it should go without saying that income should be distributed fairly. The supposedly different pay for men and women in professional life is often hyped up by interested parties, but is only a few percent if the calculation is correct. All collective agreements ensure equal pay. The right to equal rights has largely been realized in all modern states. I therefore see no reason to use the so-called gender-appropriate language, quite apart from the fact that it offends my literary sense of style.

I don't believe in the beneficial effects of gender language, quota regulations and equality offices. I do not think it is favorable to socially favor women one-sidedly. Are women preferred if they have the same qualifications? Why actually? Then better to dice. Do women even need this positive discrimination? Doesn't the advancement of women keep women immature? Do women's quotas fit in with the rule of law and equality? Isn't the principle that all are equal before the law an achievement of enlightened societies? Would women notice anything if all equality offices were closed at once?

What would our society look like if a) all equality officers are abolished, b) the posts of equality officers are filled equally ("if the qualifications are the same, male applicants are preferred") or c) the 2000 women's officers are supported by a system of 2000 men's officers becomes? Isn't “discrimination” (that is, differentiation) even more encouraged by equality offices? How many women feel “wiped out” and “not seen” by the word “pedestrian crossing”? Is it possibly a special problem of easily excitable feminists, fueled by an uncritical feature section? And as far as gender language is concerned: can it be proven that women are really “systematically discriminated against” by words like “pedestrian crossings”? What would be gained from the binding use of the word “zebra crossing”? (Claudia Wirz, “If you ask, you win: ways out of endless gender discussions, NZZ, August 13, 2020).

The linguist Ewa Trutkowski dares to predict: “It is an illusion to believe that a changed linguistic norm can heal political failures and turn social realities upside down. ... Whether (dynamic) underscore, gender star, inner I, colon, denomination or generic feminine - none of these will prevail in the linguistic community, because not creating, but avoiding unnecessary complexity is one of the main driving forces behind language change. "( “From gender to political margins”, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, July 22, 2020). The worst thing about Trutkowski is the moral charge. It is depressing to watch how scientific debates, through moralizing and politicizing allegations, are mentally shrinking to the dwarf level. “Those who change are kind and left-wing. Those who don't do it - and don't want to do either - are angry and right-wing. ”This fits in with the general tendency to replace knowledge with attitude and knowledge with concern.

"The attempt to improve the situation of women by introducing an absurd suffix that offends the sense of language and beauty will in the end turn out to be a revolt led from the academic armchair and from the talk show chair." (Peter Schneider : "More gender than law", Tagesspiegel Berlin, March 30, 2021, p. 23)

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