May 30, 2010

Why We're All Glad English Carries Gender Type Information

When gender sometimes matters in grammar (and why grammar examples are fun). This is the funniest grammar story since the panda in the bar.
Last year, arriving late to a departmental Christmas party, I was immediately greeted by a waifish 10-year-old with pale skin, delicate features, neatly braided long brown hair, and a stuffed clown fish.The girl solemnly informed me that her stuffed animal was dying of diphtheria. “Oh no!” I cried in mock horror. “Is your fish contagious?” Perhaps fearing I would launch into a speech about how young ladies should be careful around contagious fish, a fellow graduate student quickly interjected, He’s sure the fish isn’t contagious. I asked him that same question.” And that is how I learned that the strange girl with the delicate features and the long braid was in fact a boy. How deftly pronominal information is delivered, and gleaned, by fluent speakers! How different the entire situation would have been were I a speaker of Hawaiian or Persian, where gender isn’t marked at all!
Jessica Love, I ♥ Pronouns





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