Academic journal article Women and Language

Gender Loss in Modern French

Academic journal article Women and Language

Gender Loss in Modern French

Article excerpt

Gender Loss in Modern French. Edward R. Van Vliet, State University of New York, Geneseo

Among the Romance Languages, French is unique in that grammatical gender is losing ground. French has over the centuries lost all of its inherited Latin endings, so to speak. It is left basically with a grammatical morphology that is prefixal in nature. The majority of languages, inflectional or otherwise, use suffixal morphology; psychology has shown that the unfamiliar or lexeme precedes the familiar or morpheme. Only a handful of languages have turned the word around and have the familiar before the unfamiliar. French has done so to enable stress, in reality a slightly longer syllable, to receive prominence. By emphasizing the final lexeme and preposing the morphemes, French is quite different from Latin.

A major indication of French loss of gender is currently expanding in the standard idiom, i.e., the extended use of cela, ca, ce, the neuter pronoun. In French today, one often hears expressions like La moutarde, La moutarde, elle me monte au nez or ca va, ton entrecote (actual quotations from P. …

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