Re: Inclusive Language, Hungarian

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Tue, 22 Nov 1994 12:42:13 -0800

>I defer to Pat Crowe that the Iroqouians are not be the linguistic
>feminists I have been mislead to believe. This leads me to ask anyone out
>there: is there a language in which female is the unmarked case? That is,
>where (1) gender, if known and/or relevant, is usually marked in speech,
>and (2) the form used to cover female is also used to cover cases where
>gender is unknown and/or irrelevant?

As I said before, Hungarian is just such a language. One must indicate
gender separately, the default or unmarked case is merely personal and
contrasts with objective (refferring to inanimate objects, animals and, in
the past, slaves - one might use the objective form refferring to a person
one wishes to insult) This, however, might indicate that in the course of
its development, the speakers of proto-uralic were not patriarchal, modern
Hungarian society, after a millenium of living in Europe, however, is as
patriarchal, if not more so, as English speaking societies. It seems to
me, English speaking feminists are at an advantage, because they can use
language as a consciousness raising tool, but Hungarian feminists need to
discuss issues, such as the representation of women in the media or their
being paid less while being forced to take greater responsibility for
housework, which are more difficult to discuss and do not naturally occur
in the course of ordinary conversation. What complicates the situation of
Hungarian feminists, is that early communism tried to relieve the housework
by making it paid work and moving it to the public sphere as it was doing
so. Women resisted institutional childcare arrangements and everyone
resisted institutional food preparation, but men never offered to do their
fair share.

Thus I have two questions:

1.) What can we say empirically about the relationship of the categorical
system a given language offers and the social structure the language is
used in? It seems we have been *assuming* a straightforward relationship,
where a more complex one is the case.

2.) What are the strategic implications of whatever the answer to the
first question is for the struggle for women's liberation and the end of
patriarchy ?

>@> (*)%(^)%
>@> Tibor Benke / (^)%(#)
>@> Graduate Student (MA program)
>@> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
>@> Simon Fraser University,
>@> Burnaby, B.C., Canada. V5A 1S6 >@>
>@> Nota Bene: The opinions herein expressed are merely my own ! >@> ^^^^^^^^^^^