DISAPPEARING GENDER IN RUSSIAN?

Avva points out a phenomenon I had no inkling of: there is apparently a trend among young Russian-speaking women to refer to themselves (both in conversation and in blogs) using male verb and adjective forms. He speculates that this may be the beginning of the end of Russian gender, but reassures a concerned reader that even if this is the case it will take at least a couple of centuries.

Comments

  1. I don’t believe that it’s the beginning of the end of gender in Russian. No such thing is attested for inanimate objects in fem., neutr. or masc. It would be more plausible to suggest that we see a formation of new “agens” gender (not surprising for Indo-European). This would be supported by other (syntactic) phenomena in Russian that occur for animate (agens) or inanimate only – for example, for case distribution in negative constructions (you knew I would say that…)

  2. You’re right, that’s more plausible (although less exciting — sorry, National Enquirer, nothing to see here!).

  3. Well, *I* think it’s exciting ;)

  4. not exactly related, but i always find it interesting that hungarian does not have separate words for HE and SHE, so it’s not unusual for them to mix these up when speaking english. Seems that we don’t even NEED genders…

  5. I can’t manage to feel sorry about disappearing genders, I have to admit.

    Perhaps if someone could give it some folk-myth interpretation, it would be interesting for me and seem more worth having to learn in those tedious IndoEuropean languages.

  6. I noticed that as well, but I didn’t notice it in the second or third-persons (which I might have missed in some verb endings or adjectives, but not other, end-stressed ones, and certainly not in the third person singular pronoun ona, also end stressed), though according to this comment, it happens. It strikes me as curious now, that I didn’t notice it. It seemed to happen more among the 9th, 10th, and 11th graders in Aginsk, and less among the younger kids and among the adults.
    Is the tendency to drop the -a off in diminutives (Mash for Masha, Pash for Pasha, Svet for Sveta, and so on) related?

  7. Oh, and this:
    other (syntactic) phenomena in Russian that occur for animate (agens) or inanimate only – for example, for case distribution in negative constructions
    totally lost me. Could somebody who knows about linguistics give me an example of how a case gets distributed in a negative construction?

  8. PF: I don’t think they’re related; the tendency to monosyllablize names and family terms (“Pap’!”) occurs, I believe, only in the vocative, and is part of a general tendency for peculiar things to happen in the vocative (commonly in IE languages, the accent shifts to the first syllable, for example). Not a gender thing.
    The “case distribution in negative constructions” quote refers to whether you use a genitive or accusative after negative verbs, if I’m interpreting it aright.

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