Edited by Julie Abbou and Fabienne H. Baider
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 264] 2016
► pp. 47–64
Gender marking and the feminine imaginary in Arabic
In classical and dialectal Arabic syntax, linguists identify two opposite genders: masculine and feminine. The latter is linguistically marked by the morpheme a(t) (called fatha) while the former is considered unmarked and there is no neuter. The morphosyntactical rule of feminine marking seems to be obvious: it consists of adding a feminine inflection. Yet, this morphosyntactic marking does not apply systematically. Some adjectives do not have any feminine inflections despite describing physiological and psychological female phenomena for instance, hamel ‘pregnant’, taliq ‘repudiated’, thaib ‘widow’, mourdhi ‘breast feeder’, tamich ‘postmenopausal woman’. This chapter addresses the following two questions: Why does the gender marker disappear in such typical cases relating specifically to female biological states? If we suppose these lexical units are masculinized, what does this say about the social imaginary regarding gender and especially, the feminine?
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