Grammatical gender in story texts: interaction of linguistic structure, culture and cognition

Mishra, Suneeta (2018) Grammatical gender in story texts: interaction of linguistic structure, culture and cognition. Language and Language Teaching, 7 (2). pp. 4-9. ISSN 2277-307X

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This paper is based on textbook analysis to explore the interaction of a specific grammatical component-grammatical gender-with the socio-cultural notions of gender and anthropomorphism in children's literature. The language under study is Hindi, which has a two-gender system. Numerous studies (e.g. Boroditsky, Schmidt and Phillips, 2003; Basetti, 2014) have shown that grammatical gender colors speakers' perception of nouns. For the present study, Hindi textbooks of classes I-III used in government schools across India were analysed. The objective was to investigate the tools of personification used for animal characters, in particular gender assignment via cues related to physical attributes or social addresses. It was found that despite the logical possibility of representing both sexes for almost all animal species (using proper names and other means), a significant percentage of assigned gender correlated with the default grammatical gender of the animals. In one instance, the teachers' instructions also followed this mapping. Additionally, the ratio of grammatically masculine to feminine animals was 2:1. Analysis of gender-marking cues other than agreement indicates that grammatical gender affects the speakers' perceptions of animal characters. Given the dominant presence of animal characters in children's literature, such an effect, combined with the skewed representational ratio between the two genders can accentuate the marginal representation of feminine gender even in imagined constructions such as a story. In my paper I have tried to present a possible alternative to this.

Item Type: Articles in APF Magazines
Authors: Mishra, Suneeta
Document Language:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Grammatical gender, Linguistic relativity, Animal characters, Story texts, Skewed representation.
Subjects: Language
Divisions: Azim Premji University > University Publications > Language and Language Teaching
Full Text Status: Public
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