Generic Masculine, a Linguistic Universal


Author: Mohammad Jaffar Jabbari (Yasouj Universitym Yasouj, Iran)
Speaker: Mohammad Jaffar Jabbari
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
CALA 2020 General Session


Abstract

The masculine word ” man” is used in  two senses . It is used as “non-woman” in one sense, and as “human” in another. This linguistic phenomena is referred to as “Generic Masculine”. It means that when the gender is not of concern, only one word is needed to refer to the two genders, as two words may be regarded as redundant and time-consuming. It is more surprising that it is sometimes argued that “man” is a short form of human, which is reckoned by some feministic views as a sign of “sexism”. There are data from a good number of languages other than English that show  “Generic Masculine” is a universal issue, i.e.  there is one word meaning both a male person and a human being in general. This research aims to study and compare the concept “Generic Masculine” in a number of languages, and inductively prove that this concept is a language universal. It also tries to show the non-linguistic reasons behind this “sexist” viewpoint. Moreover, some techniques used to avoid the use of generative masculine words are introduced.

Keywords: Generic Masculine, Gender, Universal Feature, Sexism