You have a very naughty salad
Questions? Tyler Schnoebelen
tylers at stanford
(Key to reading this deck now that it’s
• Most of the content is in the notes field.
• Check out Appendix A for logistics and followup stuff that Lauren started the class off with
• Appendix B has stuff we didn’t get to in class
but is probably useful for reviewing
Let’s get started with some non-gender
Animals of New Guinea
• Ralph Bulmer went and studied the Karam of
New Guinea. They have a number of animal
categories (think, “mammal”, “fish”, “bird”,
“pet”, etc).
• Kobity
• Yakt
• Kayn
• Kaj
Some yakts
The kobity is a category of its own
• It’s a strange beast
– Lives wild in the forest
– Walks on two legs (doesn’t fly)
– It’s furry
– Lays eggs
– Has wings
– Has a heavy skull
– When hunted, its blood shouldn’t be shed
So a kobity is a yakt (bird), right?
The kobity is irritated now
Go ahead, try to tell me it’s a bird
It’s just absurd
It can’t fly
It’s really heavy
It can kill children and dogs
It can’t be hunted with arrows
It’s our cross-cousin
“The more Bulmer probes, the more elements
are brought in by his informants that prevent the
kobity from being a yakt.” (Latour 200)
From the prompt
• “When pressed on their choices, my respondents
actually pushed back, citing more detail and finding
more features that support their gender assignment.”
• Versus
• “I asked WAY more than three people what gender my
objects were, because I wasn't getting any answers
beyond, "I don't know," "Male, I guess -- I don't know
why," and, "I don't know... I really don't know.“”
What to do instead
• You can learn a lot from perturbations
– “The number of points linked, the strength and
length of the linkage, the nature of the obstacles”
– In other words, examining a web of connections
that join things together.
– By denying a claim or shaking an association, we
can see how things are joined together, “what
holds tightly and what gives way easily, what is
negotiable and what is not.”
(Feel free to perturb this system)
How many genders are there?
Gender ≠ grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
• Imagine there were some nice morphemes
(little wordlets) for marking gender in English,
so that we would say:
– Frank manwent to the store
– Manbig Frank is always mangoing to the store
– Louise ladywent to the store
– Ladybig Louise, she’s always ladygoing to the store
– Thelady table is ladybig
– Theman chair is manpetite
From other languages
• French
– Une petite boîte est arrivée de Paris (‘A small box
has come from Paris’)
• Old English
– Seo brade lind waes tilu and hire lufod (‘That
broad shield was good and I loved it/her’)
• Zulu
– umfana omkhulu (‘large boy’)
– isihlahla esikhulu (‘large tree’)
Dyirbal groupings
• Bayi: men, kangaroos, possums, bats, most snakes,
most fishes, some birds, most insects, the moon,
storms, rainbows, boomerangs, some spears, etc.
• Balan: women, anything connected with water or fire,
bandicoots, dogs, platypus, echidnae, some snakes,
some fishes, most birds, fireflies, scorpions, crickets,
the stars, shields, some spears, some trees, etc.
• Balam: all edible fruit and the plants that bear them,
tubers, ferns, honey, cigarettes, wine, cake.
• Bala: parts of the body, meat, bees, wind, yam sticks,
some spears, most trees, grass, mud, stones, noises,
language, etc.
How many genders?
What’s the basis of the system?
Well, gender ~ grammatical gender?
Right. Gender ≠ grammatical gender.
12 out of 13 Indo-European languages
have ‘hammer’ in the masculine
Just chance? Not arbitrary?
• Hammers are active, mighty, associated with
blacksmiths; all these things make them men
• Alternatively, the answer written in to The
Washington Post when it asked people to
assign genders to English nouns
– “male, because it hasn’t evolved much over the
last 5,000 years, but it’s handy to have around”
Er…gender=grammatical gender, then?
How would you classify ‘pistol’/’gun’?
The awful German language
(Can I get two volunteers?)
Gretchen: Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
Wilhelm: She has gone to the kitchen.
Gretchen: Where is the accomplished and
beautiful English maiden?
• Wilhelm: It has gone to the opera.
Dude! Grammatical gender and
gender—what’s the story?
The other W(h)orf
Where to look
• Colors
Where to look
Spatial orientation
Grammatical gender
Bugaboos in linguistic relativity
• Are you only testing inside the language?
• If you’re testing multiple languages, how do you
know the translation is really the same?
– Use bilinguals and keep the test language consistent?
• If you’re judging thinking, can you rule out
linguistic interference?
– Have them count or something else while performing
the task?
• What strategies are participants going to use to
answer your direct questions?
– Can you be more covert?
This is Patrick.
• Since the test was in English, “The semantic
representation of gender (once it has been
established) is not language specific” (Boroditsky
et al 2007: 69).
• Why is this?
– If ‘toaster’ is masculine, maybe you pull out ‘metallic’,
‘technological’; if it’s feminine, maybe you think
‘warmth’, ‘domesticity’, ‘nourishment’.
– Here’s a place where the construction of gender is
going on!
Gimme some adjectives
about bridges
Now English speakers take those
adjectives and say “+1=fem, -1=masc”
(not knowing where the adjectives
came from)
And there are real consequences
Avert your eyes!
The power of grammatical gender
• Tuma:Ta/Tama:Ta ‘tomato’ (fem.)
• khya:r ‘cucumber’ (masc.)
Lak genders
1: Male rationals
2: Female rationals
3: Other animates (and some inanimates)
4 Other stuff
Question: Where is duš (‘girl’, ‘daughter’)?
It’s in (3) instead of (2).
• But this happened over time—as a sign of
politeness for addressing young women
(especially those earning their own living).
• All sorts of nouns for these young women have
moved to (3).
• In fact, you should use (3) for any woman outside
your immediate family.
• So (2) (the ‘feminine’) is restricted to ‘mother’
and ‘grandmother’. There aren’t many nouns left
in it, actually.
Similar in Konkani (west coast of India)
And in southern dialects of Polish
• In Lak, Konkani, and some dialects of Polish we’ve
seen the ‘feminine’ gender subdivide
• Young women/out-group women move to a
different category
• What’s left in the feminine gender are the infamily, married, older women
• How do we interpret the division?
Are some women more female than others?
Is it about politeness?
Sexual availability?
It’s just culture
Okay, then let’s learn Gumbuzi
• A made-up language; some words are soupative,
other are part of the oosative gender
• Native English speakers have to learn 20 words
– 4 males soupative
– 4 females oosative
– 12 inanimate objects (randomly assigned to the two
• Now gimme the adjectives!
Oh yeah? But you’re still using words
Let’s use pictures and block language
• Take Spanish and German natives, test them in
• Ask them to assign similarities between pictures
• But make them say randomly generated letter
strings at the same time so they aren’t secretly
whispering the gender of the things they’re
• Do this again with the folks who learned Gumbuzi
Maybe gender is just special
Meaning making by categorization!
Some other items
• Objects seem to each be associated with
gender in their own way
– A large pan is more feminine than a small pan
– A large hammer is more masculine than a small
– (Recursivity!)
Here’s Boroditsky’s take-away
• More than just a quirk
• Spanish and German speakers are doing
different things
– Even in English
– With unlabeled pictures
– While doing a verbal suppression task
• Deliberately looking for similarities between
things in the same category
– And finding them
– Which is to say, constructing them
The French don’t know French
A problematic baseline
• 56 native French speakers (14 adults, 42
• 93 masculine words
– Uniform agreement on 17
• 50 feminine words
– Uniform agreement on 1
Adult (n=14)
Teenagers (n=42)
Significance (p)
‘victim, casualty’
Primeur (avoir la
primeur de
‘to be the first to
Ties that bind (differently for different
people/different languages)
• We want to know “whether the habits that
people acquire in thinking for speaking a
particular language will manifest themselves
in their thinking even when they are not
planning speech in that language” (Boroditsky
et al 2007: 62)
• Habits! Naturalization! Ideology!
Will Boroditsky et al get taken up
as part of the “the hall of mirrors”?
The crucial part of hall of mirrors
• Selective attention to results that confirm
male-female difference
• Including non-significant results
• And ignoring results that don’t confirm
If gender is a construction…is it real?
God’s impact on humans
God’s impact on humans
Appendix A
• Extra Credit: Experimental Participation, but
not watching films!
• Online Blogs: Min 300 words, Max 350 words
(this week & following posts don’t require this, but
you may want to revise old posts if they don’t cut it!)
• Has anyone noticed it more since last
• Have you noticed if your perceptions of it vary
depending on the speaker?
Answering Unanswered Qs
• Minor keys as “masculine” & “feminine”
– Composers in the Classical Period
– The Sonata Principle
• to strive for balance between two musical themes
• “masculine” key was to always appear first, aligned
with the narration; “feminine” key was the later
counterpoint, aligned with the opposing characters
• e.g., Wagner’s operas
Answering Unanswered Qs
Published by U of Minnesota Press, 2002
Answering Unanswered Qs
• Indirect Indexicality vs. Iconization & Iconicity
– Iconization is a process; Iconicity is a feature
• Iconicity: when the properties of a sign convey something
about the properties of the object
• Iconization: “The creation of an apparently natural
connection between a linguistic variety and the speakers
who use it” (E&McG: p277)
Answering Unanswered Qs
• Indirect Indexicality vs. Iconization & Iconicity
– Think of iconization as a potential end product, or
a most extreme example, of indirect indexicality
– The reading for Thursday (E&McG, Chapter 8) will
address this again, in a new context (esp. p.293)
Important Readings
• Thursday: E&McG, Chapter 8
• Section: “Peasant Men Can’t Get Wives”
• (Besides the April 2nd lecture) This is your intro to
Variationist Sociolinguistics
• IPA reference:
Your Call
Your call for more current examples of good
research in language & gender…
… is what this part of the quarter is all about!
TODAY: Gender, Grammar, & Thought
Appendix B
Putting it together
• We’re problematizing the gender binary
• But we wouldn’t want to deny its importance
• How should we study gender?
• How should we study things when we think
gender might play a role (but in which gender
isn’t the main focus)?
• What does it mean to “go beyond gender”?
Some ideas
• Looking for male/female difference is okay if you are careful
about interpreting results (consider alternate possibilities)
– Split your data between boys and girls, but try other stuff like
teacher’s pet/non-teacher’s pet
– See what the structure is within the boy/girl division (we’ve alluded to
this with Eckert’s study of burned-out burnout girls; sports jocks vs.
corporate jocks)
• This will get you thinking about recursivity and how binaries are constructed
– Lab methods are good, but you also need ethnographic methods
• These allow more nuances to emerge.
• In other words: use multiple methodologies to get at your research question
– Again, the key is not to take any of our categories/assumptions for
granted. If we question those, we stand a pretty good chance of not
being part of the problem.
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