Linguist Forum

Specializations => Psycholinguistics => Topic started by: NewBie on August 02, 2020, 01:01:33 PM

Title: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: NewBie on August 02, 2020, 01:01:33 PM
I am conducting a short case study on grammatical gender in which two speakers - native German speaker and a native Russian speaker are given words in English and German. Both speakers are asked to determine the grammatical gender of the given words. My goal is to determine to what extent the native language influences speakers in their decisions when determining grammatical gender. For my case study I would need some scientific literature, i.e. other case studies, scientific papers which have handled the same or at least similar research questions.

Does anyone have any suggestions on scientific literature on grammatical gender?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!  :)
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Rock100 on August 03, 2020, 01:14:53 PM
> I would need some scientific literature, i.e. other case studies, scientific
> papers which have handled the same or at least similar research questions.
>
> Does anyone have any suggestions on scientific literature on grammatical gender?
I would recommend addressing the corresponding Russian and German linguistic forums to conduct your queries and ask for the materials you need by addressing the philological/pedagogic institutes and philological departments of the universities – there is a big chance your interests require the materials that are mainly represented as some deposit manuscripts.
And at least the Russian forums are usually much more vivid and eager to help than for example this very one. You even may try nonspecialized Russian forums and you will still get zillions of responses (not all of them will be polite and about a grammatical gender though).

> Any help would be greatly appreciated!
I am not a linguist but I believe your point of research is extremely complex and relatively unexplored. But I probably can be a little help with some pitfalls you may encounter while querying real people.
1. I believe you shall be sure that your respondents do not know the language the words of which they are given to determine the grammatical gender. For example, for me the couch ([kushEtka]) is female and the coach ([trEner]) is male. But for a Russian who has leant these words as the divan and the horse-drawn carriage they may be vice versa.
2. Some foreign words my sound like native Russian or German words and their grammatical gender will be affected by this fact. For example, Bledina (www.bledina.com) is definitely female.
3. The grammatical gender of some words may be affected by whom you ask. For example, the endearment [zAHYkah] is male for a Russian woman and female for a Russian man. (Though the modern reality may add some variations, a Samuel Johnson could not have thought about.)

It will be nice if you share the results of your investigations here.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 03, 2020, 04:28:02 PM
There has been a lot written about bilingualism and a lot about gender, as well as some (but less) about the interaction of the two. You'd need to provide more details about how you're approaching this: what do you expect the effects to be, and how will you measure them? I'm not sure I have specific recommendations for you, but so far this sounds like a big topic, rather than narrow enough to build a specialized bibliography for a literature review. I can't remember exactly where at the moment, but I'm pretty sure I've seen some studies comparing gender usage in different languages by bilinguals, as well as specifically, I think, studies on the challenges this poses during acquisition. It's vague to me how you plan to measure the cross-linguistic effects: is this a priming study? Are you looking for errors?
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: panini on August 04, 2020, 09:53:40 PM
I question the decision to include English. English has no grammatical gender, and given the high improbability of absolute ignorance of English amongst your subjects plus the fact that this is not an obscure detail of English requiring subtle judgments, I don't see what you could possibly learn from including English in the stimuli: instead, you'll get a bunch of "WTF dude, everybody knows English doesn't have grammatical gender!" reactions. You would be better off with French. Plus, if you really mean that you are using exactly two speakers, this is pretty much not a possible study if you're looking at the influence of native language on gender assignments. You should be less concerned with obscurata of grammatical gender and more concerned with simple experimental design.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 04, 2020, 10:02:39 PM
(I agree with the above, unless the bilingual methodology is meant to use English as a control to see lack of possible grammatical priming, but I'm not sure how the study will be set up, as in my question above, so I don't know whether that is relevant, or if English is probably not a good choice, as panini argued convincingly.)
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Rock100 on August 05, 2020, 08:12:18 AM
> I question the decision to include English. English has no grammatical gender
Hm… Some foreigners still use vixen/dog-fox and lioness/lion instead of parent 1 and parent 2. There are also mama (by the way there is exactly one language in the world in which mama is male and means father), papa, uncle and aunt. Some foreign schools also still teach the ship is she.
And, for example, the vixen sounds very male for me even that I know the meaning. The ess is the adopted suffix as it is so there are no problems with it.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 05, 2020, 12:55:59 PM
Those words differ by natural gender (mother, father, etc.), but are not examples of grammatical gender (e.g. as shown via agreement) like in many other (European and other) languages. There is no grammar to test in English with those words, just lexical choices.
(The closest we get to grammatical gender would be the pronouns 'he' vs. 'she' and how they might need to match other words in a sentence, like 'his' or 'himself'.)
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Rock100 on August 05, 2020, 01:41:59 PM
> Those words differ by natural gender (mother, father, etc.), but are
> not examples of grammatical gender (e.g. as shown via agreement)
> like in many other (European and other) languages. There is no grammar
> to test in English with those words, just lexical choices.
Hm… So, it shall be possible to say “he is such a bitch” in English, shall not it?
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 05, 2020, 02:15:12 PM
Yes. There's no grammatical gender in English.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Rock100 on August 06, 2020, 09:12:23 AM
> Yes. There's no grammatical gender in English.
This is a ballerina. SHE drinks vodka. This is HER bottle. And this is a stewardess. SHE attends this flight. This is HER bomb. These are the examples of how the grammatical gender affects the nearby words and sentences and this is what the grammatical gender does by definition. This is probably the exactly one display of the grammatical gender in Modern English but it does exist. If you have a sect of the English Grammatical Gender Witnesses on the forum, please, enlist me there.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 06, 2020, 02:31:21 PM
That's referential, not grammatical, and only applies to animates. Sure, you can insist on that, in the same way that English has case-marking on pronouns, but no other nouns. Regardless, it is essentially irrelevant for any study of grammatical gender.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Forbes on August 11, 2020, 08:38:08 AM
A language only has grammatical gender if its nouns are divided into two or more classes which require other words to change their form to agree with them. A language does not have grammatical gender simply because it has words which distinguish between the male and female of any species, occupation or relation.

While English requires third person singular personal pronouns to agree with their antecedents, the sole criterion for determining which pronoun is required is whether the antecedent is male, female or inanimate. It is no different from having to refer to adult male humans as men and adult female humans as women. Even if you argue that the requirement is grammatical it is hardly sufficient to warrant including English in the list of languages with grammatical gender.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Rock100 on August 12, 2020, 02:11:00 PM
> A language only has grammatical gender if its nouns are divided into two
> or more classes which require other words to change their form to agree with them.
Yeah, this is a necessary condition. I wonder you or anybody could provide necessary and sufficient formulation -- A language only has grammatical gender iff (if and only if)… It is evident that your variant is not sufficient due to the following example: I/you/they work and he/she/machine/lion/lioness works. As far as I know, natives do not divide words by genders like this in English.
I would also like to take an opportunity to ask native English speakers what gender they use for the tin soldier and the paper ballerina from “Den standhaftige tinsoldat” and The Nutcracker from “Nußknacker und Mausekönig”? Thanks.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 13, 2020, 01:47:26 PM
Quote
if its nouns are divided into two or more classes which require other words to change their form to agree with them.
That seems sufficient to me. What "agree" means is a bit unclear, and you might then try to distinguish between classifier systems like in Chinese versus "gender", but really they're quite similar in a way. That just doesn't exist in English.
Quote
It is evident that your variant is not sufficient due to the following example: I/you/they work and he/she/machine/lion/lioness works. As far as I know, natives do not divide words by genders like this in English.
Right. As far as I can tell, that example is completely irrelevant: English does not have gender. It does not divide words nouns classes requiring agreement. I don't understand what the example is supposed to show, but because English doesn't have gender, there's nothing to show.

Quote
I would also like to take an opportunity to ask native English speakers what gender they use for the tin soldier and the paper ballerina from “Den standhaftige tinsoldat” and The Nutcracker from “Nußknacker und Mausekönig”? Thanks.
Generally any non-human "people" (especially characters in fiction) are referred to as "he" or "she" based on their assumed gender roles. The usage is clear in this Wikipedia article, for example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Steadfast_Tin_Soldier

Here's a more extreme example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Tank_Engine
Generally "he", because of his voice and name. Almost all "characters" would be called "he" or "she", but sometimes "it" is appropriate, like for a monster, or something else that is non-human and for which gender roles are irrelevant. But we do the same with pets (cats, dogs, etc.). Sometimes there's optionality, based on whether you're anthropomorphizing or not.

I'm not really following the significance of this discussion at this point. English doesn't have grammatical gender. I'm not sure why it was proposed as part of the experiment, and I would like to hear from NewBie, about specifically how it would be compared to the other languages in the experiment. It might make sense as a language without gender, as a control group, but otherwise I don't understand yet.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Rock100 on August 13, 2020, 10:37:00 PM
> That seems sufficient to me.
I use standard (scientific) logic and it does not in it. Necessary and sufficient/if and only if (iff) means binary equivalence (in strict terms). For example, a human is a male iff it has a penis. It means that if a human is a male it has a penis; and if a human has penis it is a male. An alternative definition might be “a human is a male iff it has the Y chromosome”. If this definitions mean the same than you may combine them as you wish for your purposes. Forbes has provided only if part of the statement because I have proven the reverse statement does not work (the terms are not equivalent). If they were it would be very convenient for the discussion and would solve a lot of problems. That is why people prefer the most strict definitions they can invent. Though iff-definitions are probably not always possible.

> As far as I can tell, that example is completely irrelevant: English does not have gender.
To claim this one needs:
1. A strict definition of what the grammatical gender is and everyone agrees with it.
2. A formal proof of the statement.
On the definition of the grammatical gender. Personally I believe the state of the art as following:
1. There is a simple strict definition I do not know.
2. There is an extremely overcomplicated definition like the formal grammatical case definition. I have already mentioned somewhere in this forum that such a definition of the grammatical case was firstly provided in a talk or two famous mathematicians and it required a very solid understanding of the algebraic group theory.
3. There is a definition that has not been found yet.
4. There is no a suitable unambiguous definition.

And for a formal proof of the statement it is sometimes much simpler to provide a counterexample that demonstrates the statement is not true. I believe I have done it with my counterexamples for a definition of the grammatical gender close to what Forbes has provided. These examples may be irrelevant if you do not agree with the definition (but I believe you should provide yours one in this very case). Personally I also believe that the grammatical gender is a kind of a feature that makes nearby words to change their form. But I do understand that such a definition is not enough, ambiguous, vague and so on. I do not know a better one.
> Generally any non-human "people" (especially characters in fiction) are referred
> to as "he" or "she" based on their assumed gender roles.
Thank you. It looks like the behavior is absolutely identical to the languages that no doubt have the grammatical gender. Personally I was not sure about this very case and “he is such a bitch” statement correctness in English.
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Tank_Engine
Unbelievable. I have never heard about it but now I can guess that the Russian “The Little Steam-Engine from Romashkovo” is probably inspired by your Thomas.
> Generally "he", because of his voice and name.
Russian The Steam-Engine’s name is The Little Steam-Engine so he is male. Though his voice is the voice of an actress but it was made to make him sound as a teenager I believe.
The owl from the Winnie-the-pooh is female in Russian. It is female in the official translation, the cartoon and the most of the piratical translations. I do not know why it was not translated as the eagle owl (the most appropriate male word and it preserves all the characteristics and nuances of the personage) or the horned owl (a more morose male equivalent but still appropriate). Probably it was due to the first historical translation.
By the way, if I were a native English speaker Winnie would sound a little bit female for me. Though it is pretty male in Russian.
> I'm not really following the significance of this discussion at this point.
We have started to discuss the grammatical gender itself. The original poster just wanted to get a list of scientific literature on it. I believe he failed.
And your statements on the grammatical gender in English make feel it is not a science but a kind of a religion so far. But personally I find the discussion very useful because I have found that if a Russian boat floats in a river (female) then the boat floats in her; if the boat floats in a gulf (male) then the boat floats in him; if the boat floats in a lake (neutral) then the boat floats in him (I find it interesting); but if it floats in something neutral and vague (like in your dream) then the boat floats in it (very interesting). So, I will probably investigate the case (I mean I will address the professionals and see if they will be able to provide a satisfactory explanation for me).
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Forbes on August 14, 2020, 02:34:05 AM
Like Daniel I am not entirely sure I understand what NewBie is trying to establish.

There have been studies as to whether native speakers of languages which distinguish male and female grammatical genders think of inanimate things as having some sort of male or female identity which matches the assigned grammatical gender. The problem with such studies is that, if the subject does not immediately assign a male or female identity to something according to his ideas of what male and female qualities are, he may as a default fall back on the assigned grammatical gender.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 14, 2020, 02:14:17 PM
You should look into typical usage and issues regarding terminology in Linguistics. It's a complex topic beyond the scope of this thread. There is no way to make absolute terms that everyone agrees with or are uncontroversial as describing natural kinds across languages. Some linguists explicitly deny that natural kinds exist across languages at all, so terminology is often traditional, or sometimes strategic for the purposes of comparison. (Some others do believe that there are cross-linguistic categories, but they propose different definitions for things, so that's not consistent either.)

Most research proceeds by analogy from one language to another.

It is reasonable to ask about how gender is expressed in English.

But it is essentially pointless to ask about grammatical gender as a grammatical category in English, because even if you want to insist that "he" and "she" somehow represent a similar system, there is just much less to study because there is no gender agreement operating generally in the language. Other European languages have much more going on (as do various languages elsewhere).

And for the record, the issues with gender are relatively uncontroversial, and linguists generally agree about why English does not have gender, but French, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, and many other languages do. One clear distinction is that these languages have gender assigned to all nouns, not just humans. That's what grammatical gender means.

Regardless, for a study like proposed in the original question here, it is unclear to me why English would be relevant. My assumption is still that it was about using English as a control language for comparison without interference, but I'm not sure.
Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Rock100 on August 15, 2020, 12:52:57 AM
Daniel, thank you.
> But it is essentially pointless to ask about grammatical gender as a grammatical category in English,
> because even if you want to insist that "he" and "she" somehow represent a similar system, there is
> just much less to study because there is no gender agreement operating generally in the language.
I have no choice. I do not speak English I can only study it. The gender category seemed pretty evident to me because I studied it with the grammar books that do consider this category in English – the references are below.
And I have just found another example I do not know what to think about – the Proper Nouns that are personal names. For example, Thomas and Mary. Does these nouns have a non-neuter gender from your point of view? I have never met a mentioning of such a phenomenon.
The references below are just for fun.
================================
www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/4510139/
No doubt the best non-specialized (for non-linguistic institutes, preferably trading specialties) English grammar textbook in the Soviet Union. It is in Russian but it gives the most comprehensive examples of gender in English. There are all the examples given above (except for my new Proper Nouns example) including the word ship plus the following one I have forgotten about (the paragraph’s translation is mine the examples are in British English originally):
§ 48. The name of a country when it is used as the political unit is often feminine and is replaced with she:
Example. England has an unfavourable balance of trade. The value of her imports is much greater than the value of her exports.
================================
www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/34978257/
Probably the best specialized (for linguistic institutes) English grammar textbook in the Soviet Union. It states:
It is doubtful whether the grammatical category of gender exists in Modern English for it is hardly ever expressed by means of grammatical forms.
================================
The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar states:
In some languages grammatical gender distinctions of masculine and
feminine (and sometimes also neuter) apply to all *nouns and related
*words. In English, however, grammatical gender distinctions are found
only in *third person singular personal *pronouns, where the feminine
forms (she, her, herself, hers) contrast with the masculine ones (he, him,
etc.) and the non-personal forms (it, its, etc.).
================================
http://www.helpforlinguist.narod.ru/BlokhMYa/BlokhMYa.pdf
A Soviet textbook for students of philological departments (from a scan, there may be errors).

§ 1. There is a peculiarly regular contradiction between the presentation of gender in English by theoretical treatises and practical manuals. Whereas theoretical treatises define the gender subcategorisation of English nouns as purely lexical or "semantic", practical manuals of English grammar do invaria-bly include the description of the English gender in their sub-ject matter of immediate instruction.
In particular, a whole ten pages of A. I. Smirnitsky's theoretical "Morphology of English" are devoted to proving the non-existence of gender in English either in the grammatical, or even in the strictly lexico-grammatical sense [Смирницкий, (2), 139-148]. On the other hand, the well-known practical "English grammar" by M. A. Ganshina and N. M. Vasilevskaya, after denying the existence of grammatical gender in English by way of an introduction to the topic, still presents a pretty comprehensive description of the would-be non-existent gender distinctions of the English noun as a part of speech [Ganshina, Vasilevskaya, 40 ff.].
That the gender division of nouns in English is expressed not as variable forms of words, but as nounal classification (which is not in the least different from the expression of sub-stantive gender in other languages, including Russian), admits of no argument. However, the question remains, whether this classification has any serious grammatical relevance. Closer observation of the corresponding lingual data cannot but show that the English gender does have such a relevance.
§ 2. The category of gender is expressed in English by the obligatory correlation of nouns with the personal pronouns of the third person. These serve as specific gender classifiers of nouns, being potentially reflected on each entry of the noun in speech.
The category of gender is strictly oppositional. It is formed by two oppositions related to each other on a hierarchical ba-sis.
================================

Title: Re: Research on grammatical gender
Post by: Daniel on August 15, 2020, 02:28:02 AM
Surely, as a Russian speaker, it is obvious to you how English differs from Russian: English has only gendered pronouns, and no system of agreement for gender with adjectives, verbs, or other categories. Importantly, English also only reflects natural gender, and no arbitrary gender for inanimates, like how in Spanish "la mesa" (the table) is feminine, but "el asiento" (the seat) is masculine. In English, the only things that are expressed as having gender... have gender-- people. (Some speakers today who do not identify with a binary gender prefer alternative pronouns too, by the way, either "they" or some other new pronouns.)
Old English did have grammatical gender, just like German does today. It was lost. There's no agreement on adjectives, etc., now.

The only traces are:
1. The pronouns themselves, but "it" is used for any objects without natural gender.
2. Arguably some sort of "agreement" (but this can be explained instead just by semantics) between pronouns like "himself" vs. "herself", etc.
3. Very rare uses of "she" (even more rarely "he") to refer to objects. Boats are sometimes female, but that tradition is dying out.

And that's it. Otherwise it's all generally flexible, with pronouns based on meaning (=natural gender), not convention.

Quote
For example, Thomas and Mary. Does these nouns have a non-neuter gender from your point of view? I have never met a mentioning of such a phenomenon.
No, those names aren't grammatically gendered. They're referentially gendered. If a woman was named Thomas or a man named Mary, we wouldn't switch their pronouns! Those two names are almost always consistently for men and women respectively, but some others are indeed flexible, like Kyle, or Alex (a nickname for Alexander or Alexandra, typically). Another interesting case is Carol, which is now commonly a woman's name, but back maybe 200 years ago, it was more common for men, I believe.

There's no agreement or gender about words, but just their referents. Big difference. Unlike Russian or Spanish, etc., where you would need to name the gender of random objects based on convention!

--

To end with a random curious fact, there is one gendered adjective in English, in prescriptive and formal usage: blond (masculine) vs. blonde (feminine), just borrowed directly from French for the spelling, and pronounced differently in French, but pronounced the same in English, so this distinction is basically irrelevant and many English speakers/writers aren't aware of it.