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What's in a Name? Modest Considerations on the Situatedness of Language and Meaning

Author(s): Theodora Eliza Vacarescu

Journal: Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies
ISSN 1583-0039

Volume: 3;
Issue: 9;
Start page: 124;
Date: 2004;
Original page

Keywords: language | gender | knowledge | power | feminist theory | sexism | the neuter gender

In this paper I tackle the relationship between language, knowledge and power. To this end, I try to give some reasons for the non-arbitrariness of some words, as well as for the non-arbitrariness of grammatical genders in Romance languages, especially Romanian and French. I focus on several specific linguistic structures and uses of particular words in these two languages. I particularly deal with the construction of a third grammatical gender, the neuter, in Romanian, in comparison to the two grammatical genders existing in French, trying to see how the application of IrigarayĆ­s theory on the gender of nouns functions for Romanian language. There is no third grammatical gender in French, and therefore IrigarayĆ­s argument is proved to be invalid for Romanian. The questions that lead my analysis are: What corporeality does the third grammatical gender, the neuter in Romanian, point to? How are we to consider neuter words? Is the neuter a necessary and sufficient proof for considering Romanian a less sexist lan- guage? Is the neuter the guarantor of impartiality and equilibrium in a grammatically gendered language?
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