Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gender and the English Language

Recently, I have learned through my TESL course a great deal more about the English language than I ever knew before, especially the grammar of the language.  As someone who speaks some Farsi, I can appreciate aspects of the English language which give it its unique character.  For example, you cannot give an extended account of a given situation (particularly an interpersonal interaction) without revealing the gender of the persons involved.  In Farsi, we use "u" (say it like "ooh" or the u sound in "to") for the third person singular.  For my fellow grammar illiterates, 3rd person singular is he or she in English.  So, if you tell a story in Farsi, you can obscure the gender of the participants since you can refer to them simply as "u".  Naturally, you might reveal this info at the beginning of the story by saying "some guy..." or "This woman..." but you could also choose to keep it ambiguous by using Farsi equivalents of things like "someone" or "a person" etc.  For fun, try telling someone a story about some strangers (strangers to the listener if not to you) without revealing their gender.  You will find that you have to resort to numerous awkward grammatical structures in order to preserve your screen over the subjects gender.  
I'm sure English isn't the only language which forces the categorization of subjects by gender, but it is certainly an interesting aspect of an otherwise largely gender neutral language.
What does this say about the English character?  


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  2. Hey GFXm, thanks for the comment, short and sweet huh? By the way, just curious, who is this? Love the photo of Bruce vs. Karim, what a match up. Like me when I spar hehe.