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October 26, 2004 by AK

Sexism in a Russian Declensional Class

No kidding. Judge for yourself: here’s an abstract of a paper in what’s called Cognitive Linguistics.

Can sexist ideologies be reflected in inflectional classes? On the basis of a detailed discussion of the Russian a-declension, the present paper answers this question in the affirmative. More specifically the central claims are:

— The a-declension reflects the Idealized Cognitive Models of “women as the second sex” and “woman as Madonna and whore”.

— Cognitive linguistics provides an adequate account for the category structure in terms of schematicity and metaphorical extension.

No sh*t, man. Yes, the author is a man: Tore Nesset is a male professor at the University of Tromsø, Norway. Moreover (I could not resist emboldening the cream of the text):

Cognitive linguistics seems particularly well suited for an analysis of the Russian a-declension. Without cognitive linguistics‘ emphasis on cultural grounding and radial category structure, it is even hard to see how one would both accommodate exceptions and capture the relationship between the Russian a-declension and sexist myths about women.

I’m tempted to suppose this piece appeared in an April, 1 issue of a linguistics journal. If not, I dare suggest Prof. Nesset turn to the Latin 1st declension, which is an a-declension as well, to capture the relationship between that class of nouns and sexist perceptions of some academics’ style — for despite the highly learned terms, “schematicity,” “radial category structure” and all, he manages to sound like a pouty-lipped hyperborean puella.

[NOTE: I claim no credit for the link. I found it at someone’s Russophone LiveJournal but forgot whose or which.]


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