Grammatical Gender Trouble and Hungarian Gender[lessness]. Part I: Comparative Linguistic Gender

Louise O. Vasvári


The aim of this study is to define linguistic gender[lessness], with particular reference in the latter part of the article to Hungarian, and to show why it is a feminist issue. I will discuss the [socio]linguistics of linguistic gender in three types of languages, those, like German and the Romance languages, among others, which possess grammatical gender, languages such as English, with only pronominal gender (sometimes misnamed ‘natural gender’), and languages such as Hungarian and other Finno-Ugric languages, as well as many other languages in the world, such as Turkish and Chinese, which have no linguistic or pronomial gender, but, like all languages, can make lexical gender distinctions. While in a narrow linguistic sense linguistic gender can be said to be afunctional, this does not take into account the ideological ramifications in gendered languages of the “leakage” between gender and sex[ism], while at the same time so-called genderless languages can express societal sexist assumptions linguistically through, for example, lexical gender, semantic derogation of women, and naming conventions. Thus, both languages with overt grammatical gender and those with gender-related asymmetries of a more covert nature show language to represent traditional cultural expectations, illustrating that linguistic gender is a feminist issue.


Hungarian language, Grammatical Gender, Genderlessness, Lexical Gender, Pronominal Gender, Feminist Linguistics

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