What do Personal Names Tell us About the “Male” – “Female” Distinction, Gender and The Structural Organization of Language? Cover Image

Шта лична имена говоре о разлици ‘мушко’ – ‘женско’, роду и структурној организацији језика
What do Personal Names Tell us About the “Male” – “Female” Distinction, Gender and The Structural Organization of Language?

Author(s): Jovanka Radić
Subject(s): Psycholinguistics, Sociolinguistics, South Slavic Languages, Philology
Published by: Српска академија наука и уметности

Summary/Abstract: The subject of the paper can be described as an investigation into the logical foundations of personal names (PNs) aimed at examining the relationship between natural gender and grammatical gender in Serbian PNs, the type of their structural organization, and their integration into language as a system. It is found that the specific feature of PNs has to do with the fact that they imply all predetermined (/ determined through being understood in themselves) categorial dimensions: “human” is a predetermined category of being; “human beings” are comprehended as distinct “beings” (″“one” in itself″); the subject of a PN is predefined as ‘male’ or ‘female’. This enables (1) the intentional formation of PNs (a defined denominator and a determined act of nomination) and determines (2) the specific value of the formative and grammatical morphemes in the structure of PNs (suffixes and the grammatical gender), including (3) peculiar types of meaning and organization, depending on whether a PN is considered to be a part of the corpus of personal names (a word without a specific reference) or it serves as an identifier. As PNs serve the purpose of identification, the relationship between a PN and a person as the subject of nomination is very strong (1 : 1). In this type of denominating relation, the personal identity dominates (a PN is repeatable, whereas the personal identity is “one” and universally unique). Due to this, the organization of PNs as the expressions of personal identities depends on subjects and the social networks in which they are embedded, and not on their PNs (their meanings or interpretations read into them). It is right to say that subjects keep PNs isolated from each other, as well as from the language system. While following in the footsteps of Whorf and relying on Aristotle, Vigotsky, De Saussure, etc. we demonstrate that language bears the distinction between “male” and “female” as a relationship between two predefined complementary classes. In the spoken language, they are variously interpreted and expressed using various types of means – symbolic (male – female) or non-symbolic (“he” – “she”, grammatical gender). Regardless of whether a language distinguishes the noun gender and regardless of the way it reacts to the sex, this relationship that is understood by itself dictates that the identity of a person be determined at the moment of naming and classified as ‘male’ or ‘female’, which are (in the collective linguistic consciousness) taken as two polarized classes of the same rank. The same rank of the opposites means that there is no coordination (‘female’ ‖ ‘male’ – MAN) and that it is impossible to elevate PNs to a general level, due to which PNs, as parts of the corpus of personal names, form a distinct group in the language system. This explains the fact that entire corpora of personal names may be replaced without any consequence for the language as a system, which indirectly reveals the organizational principles of the language as a system. The status of PNs as the units of the corpus of personal names indicates that the organization of language does not rest on binary relations, especially not between two units of the same rank. It has to rely on three-unit structures that can be abstracted to the relationship DEFINED ‖ UNDEFINED – NEUTRAL. The fact that PNs are consistently divided into male and female shows that the identity of a human being as an individual (person and personality) cannot exist without the touch of the “forces” of ‘female’ and ‘male’. Furthermore, it also shows that the “identity” of a MAN as a human and biological being (a being defined in terms of gender and genus) could not exist without disregarding these forces. In other words, language would be impossible if the action of these forces were incessant.

  • Issue Year: 2017
  • Issue No: 24
  • Page Range: 19-59
  • Page Count: 41
  • Language: Serbian