Gender and noun formation

7x puncte

categorie: Engleza

nota: 10.00

nivel: Facultate

The derivational endings -er/or and -ess are not of equal status. While -ess always has female reference, -er/or can be used for both sexes with personal gender words like doctor and teacher. Further, -ess can be added to a noun without -er/-or to form the female variant: lion--lioness; priest--priestess.

Feminine nouns in -ess are generally used less than their masculine counterpar[...]
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The derivational endings -er/or and -ess are not of equal status. While -ess always has female reference, -er/or can be used for both sexes with personal gender words like doctor and teacher. Further, -ess can be added to a noun without -er/-or to form the female variant: lion--lioness; priest--priestess.

Feminine nouns in -ess are generally used less than their masculine counterparts, because we usually use the masculine form when we do not know which sex the individual is and for plurals when we may be referring to both males and females. The most common -ess nouns are princess, actress, mistress, duchess, waitress, countess, goddess, hostess, and stewardess. However, all these are used less than their masculine counterparts (prince, actor, master, duke, etc.).

Similarly, most English speakers and writers use words ending in -man far more than words ending in -woman. Even the most common words ending in -woman (spokeswoman, policewoman, chairwomen, businesswoman, congresswoman, horsewoman) are used far less than the corresponding words ending in -man (spokesman, policeman, etc.)
Both these factors amount to a bias in favour of the masculine gender. With reference to the second factor, it is traditionally argued that a term like chairman or governor has personal gender (i.e. is sex-neutral) in addition to its masculine use.

However, the fact that such roles have typically been taken by men means that these terms have strong masculine overtones.
In recent decades, efforts have been made to avoid masculine bias by using gender-neutral nouns in -person instead of -man or -woman. For example:

Mrs Ruddock said she had been nominated as spokesperson for the wives.
Salespersons by the thousands have been laid off in the recession.
However, this trend has had limited success so far. Words in -person (or their plurals in -persons or -people) are rare compared with the corresponding words in -man or -men. The only moderately common words of this kind are chairperson(s), spokesperson(s), salespeople, and townspeople. (Note that both -people and -persons are used in the plural.)
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