Article published in:Gender, Language and the Periphery: Grammatical and social gender from the margins
Edited by Julie Abbou and Fabienne H. Baider
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 264] 2016
► pp. 25–46
Trying to change a gender-marked language
Classical vs. Modern Hebrew
Classical and Modern Hebrew are gender-marked in all morphological forms, and the rules of Hebrew syntax require gender agreement. Consequently, it is next to impossible to find a sentence without gender determination. Masculine content words are unmarked, while feminine words are derived from them. Masculine forms are also used generically, making them more visible than the feminine. Feminine function words, mainly pronouns, were used in classical periods for the masculine as well, leaving less specific features for the feminine. We could expect that feminist speakers would try to change this practice in Modern Hebrew despite the rigid linguistic structure. However, there have been only a few gender changes, mostly in one direction: using masculine, but not feminine forms, for both sexes. This article provides examples of this sociolinguistic change and explains why it has taken this direction.
Keywords: gender markedness, Hebrew, linguistic changes, masculinization
Published online: 16 December 2016
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