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MODEL OF NEUTRAL-INCLUSIVITY
BOOK OF INSTRUMENTS
ABOUT WHAT IS, CAN AND SHOULD BE
LANGUAGE AS MEANS AND AS PRODUCT

3.4.4 

SOME DEFICIENCIES OF TRADITIONAL LANGUAGE


To be correct a linguistic variant should be consistently based on a general rule or principle inherent in the language concerned. But even if a language has several variants which are correct in this sense, this does not mean that the linguistic system as a whole cannot be deficient in one or more respects. Some might argue that correct language is never deficient, because it would always be up to a 'normal' standard, as actual usage is presupposed when speaking of 'correctness'. But this would merely hold, if there were only linguistic rules in a narrow sense that mattered, such as the rule inherent in the present language that the plural in writing is formed by the suffixation of the letter -s or the letters -es. In a wider sense, however, it is also a linguistic rule that one should be able to express fairly easily what one believes to be important, or what often returns in one's thought and conversation. What has been called "the norm of good communication" requires that the language user does not have to frequently take refuge to a clumsy circumlocution to express the same thing every time. It also requires that no distinction has to be made where this is believed to be irrelevant, and that such a distinction can be made where it is believed to be relevant.

What is important or relevant, and certainly what is believed to be important or relevant, depends on one's worldview, or on extralinguistic principles. It is therefore the very combination of the principle of good communication and one or more of such extralinguistic principles which may render a particular linguistic system deficient. Nonetheless, as a product of society such a system may be very efficient from the standpoint of traditional worldviews, and perhaps, even from the standpoint of an outmoded, former worldview. Thus, in a time and at a place that sex is deemed important under all circumstances it does not bother men or boys, and it does not bother women or girls, that they cannot speak of persons, of sibs or of launderers, regardless of their gender. A linguistic system which forces them to genderize is, then, not felt to be deficient, because they are not interested in a person as a person but as a man or boy or as a woman or girl only; not in a sib as a sib (or person) but as a brother (male) or as a sister (female) only; not in a laundry worker as a laundry worker (or person) but as a launderer (male) or laundress (female) only. (And incidentally this is also why the subcultural norms of such a time and place convulsively stress the difference between clothes and ornaments males ought to wear or not to wear, and those females ought to wear or not to wear, not only in periods of erotic preparation and sexual excitement but all the year round, day and night.)

Altho it is very useful to have feminine and masculine pronouns like she and he when sex is relevant, the distinction between persons and nonpersons is so important and so often used that we could not do without a special, personal pronoun (which is gender-neutral and -transcending because it is personal). This is the reason why we have introduced (in Speaking person-to-person) the series (')e, (')im and (')er, parallel to the nonpersonal (and general) singular it, it and its, and the plural they, them and their. (In connection with the spelling 'e or e the consistent spelling for the first person pronoun is i instead of I, unless the capitalization follows a general rule.) Altho 'e, 'im and 'er are very closely related to already existing pronouns and adjectives, the adoption of these terms is certainly more far-reaching than some older proposals which have confined themselves to the unneutral use, not the irrelevant use, of genderized terms.

It is relatively easy to come up with truly gender-neutral, linguistic conventions or decrees. As a reaction to the so-called 'generic' use of masculine terminology, which has been exposed as a joke, it has been urged, for example, to always mention both the feminine and the masculine equivalent, or either the feminine or the masculine equivalent. From this standpoint people will just have to say "he or she", "her or his", "man or woman", and so on, and equally frequently the reverse, when speaking of someone who may be either male or female. They must take care too, of course, not to use derogatory, traditional expressions such as spinster or (meter) maid, and they must not speak of "a woman driver" or "a male secretary" unless also speaking of "a man driver" and "a female secretary" respectively in the same circumstances. Moreover, those insisting on gender neutrality in the language have demanded that language users not only say "men and women" instead of "men" but also "actors and actresses" instead of "actors", "launderers and laundresses" instead of "launderers", and so on, unless the people spoken about would definitely all be male or, for that matter, all female. Unfortunately, by thus rejecting the unneutral use of traditionally masculine terms, the irrelevance of the gender distinction itself is not transcended. A joke is turned into a yoke, because everyone would now be forced to say everything double. (This is a disaster in languages in which all, or almost all, nouns and pronouns of the type in question are genderized. Even in the present, written language no-one has ever managed --it seems-- to consistently use he or she and her or his, and equally frequently the reverse, everywhere where required according to the proposed rule.)

Quite often, a larger amount of relevant information does not entail that we have to say more, because there is one word which has the same meaning as, for example, a noun with an adjective or adjectival subordinate clause. (Take ice instead of frozen water other than snow.) But it is a rule that a smaller amount of relevant information is not to be conveyed by having to say more. Nevertheless, this is precisely the case in speech which is not gender-( and age-)transcending: authors and or or authoresses, for instance, gives less information than authoresses, aunts and or or uncles less than uncles in all cases that gender does not matter. If authoress does convey more relevant information than author, it should be because of the suffix -ess, and the use of author is then to be considered free from gender, that is, gender-transcending. Since males do not have their own appendage then, feminine suffixes become sexually exclusive and ought to be discontinued in gender-transcending usage. If sex is to the point, it is to be indicated by the adjective, like in female dancer and male dancer: m./f. bachelor, f./m. fisher, m./f. god, and so on. The worst thing is not to accept that nouns which are traditionally masculine and purportedly gender-neutral will in future refer to women and girls as well, altho they are merely characterized by the absence of any standard suffix to specify gender (as the absence of -ess in authoress). (Thus female king does not have to be substituted for queen, unless a 'female king' is a female monarch, and a 'male queen' the husband or widower of such a chieftain.) If there is no good alternative, a new system that meets the requirements of those who refuse to accept words without a genderizing affix as gender-transcending ones may be gender-neutral but will be even more deficient than the old system from the standpoint of easy communication and informational relevance.

The deficiency of a traditional language that forces the speakers and writers to make distinctions on the basis of gender or age regardless of context is a very important kind of deficiency, as it is closely connected with, if not a form of, sexism and agism or --if preferred-- sex- and age-linked irrelevantism. These isms are, in turn, expressive of exclusivist attitudinal complexes and ideologies. (This does not mean that such deficiencies of the language used could not be of a purely linguistic character, and would necessarily be related to a particular kind of ideological attitude or practise. Yet, even if they are not, they may be a nuisance or a cause of confusion.)

Another kind of deficiency which is not purely linguistic is due to the fact that unmarked terms such as big, old and relevant have both an affirmative ('positive') meaning, and a general dimensional meaning (designating the extension of both bigness and its negation, of both being-old and its negation, of both relevance and its negation). Marked terms such as small and low often designate the negativity of a catena, whereas unmarked terms can designate either the nonnegative predicates or all the predicates of such a catena, that is, the catenality in question. Since these distinctions are taken care of in our catenical terminology, we can live with the double meanings of unmarked terms. Where it comes in handy, however, we may distinguish the marked ('positive') from the unmarked (general) meaning, especially when there is no catena involved. Thus, we shall employ relevance and consistence to designate the negation of irrelevance and inconsistence respectively, while employing relevancy to designate the whole aspect of being relevant or irrelevant, and consistency the whole aspect of being consistent or inconsistent.

Marked terms such as small, weak, low and irrelevant have in general a pejorative evaluative meaning, whereas the antithetical, unmarked terms have a meliorative meaning. This phenomenon has been the basis of one of the criticisms against the unmarked use of he, him and his (for both males and females, and for males only) as opposed to the marked use of she and her (for females only). In this light the connotation of she is, at least on balance, inferior to that of he, just like small would be of a lower value than big. (This also explains the traditional use of the diminutive for women and girls where it is not used for men and boys.) The evaluation inherent in the connotation of unmarked terms is typical of catenary 'maximalism' or 'extremism': the higher, the better; the bigger, the better; the faster, the better; the louder, the better; and so on and so forth. It is this lust for the most which definitely has ideological, if not serious ideological, implications.

Closely related to the question of the ambiguity and positive connotation of unmarked terms is the absence of a word to denote the neutrality of a catena. From an extremist point of view this neutrality deserves no attention; only the maximum or the maximum and the minimum do. Therefore those who want to refer to neutrality (or perineutrality) often have to put up with roundabout phrases of the neither nor type in traditional parlance. Strictly speaking, these expressions do not even denote neutralities (or perineutralities) but nonpolarities encompassing noncatenalities. For example, speaking of the neutrality of the happiness catena, people could only say "neutrally neither happy nor unhappy"; and speaking of the neutrality of the honoring catena, they could only say "neutrally neither honoring nor dishonoring". Those given to extremist thought are merely interested in as much happiness, and as much honor, as possible (and as ends in themselves). Therefore they do not realize that a linguistic system without a general device to directly denote the neutralities of such catenas is deficient in this respect. Not having such a device perpetuates catenary extremism or unneutralism, but the question is, of course, whether this matters or not. In the Book of Fundamentals it will become evident that it does, and we will see then how to go about it.


©MVVM, 41-60 ASWW
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