SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Gendered Expressions and Philosophy of Language
(Philosophy of Language, English)

The goal of this paper is a philosophical analysis of utterances in which grammatically gendered expressions occur. Grammatical gender is a noun class system which divides nouns into two or three classes - feminine, masculine and neuter - but it also manifests itself in other parts of speech whose forms have to be in agreement with the gender of the noun they refer to. Grammatical gender of nouns designating people and other animals is supposed to correspond to sex/gender of the referent while in the case of inanimate nouns the grammatical gender is conventional and depends rather on the formal qualities of the noun than semantic ones. Using a grammatically gendered language the information about one's sex/gender occurs in almost every utterance -- even if the information about someone's gender is not what we want to communicate, the language we speak forces us to do so.

I analyze utterances in which grammatically gendered expressions occur within theoretical frameworks of J.L. Austin and H.P. Grice. Within Grice's framework the analysis shows that often information about someone's gender being a part of what is said results in unintended conversational implicatures such as that information about one's sex/gender is relevant in every context. Within Austin's framework it shows that the occurrence of these expressions has consequences at locutionary (change of content), illocutionary (performing an act of gendering a person as male or female), and perlocutionary (imposing obligatory gender binary) levels of a speech act. I present a few commonsensical arguments against the outcome of this analysis and propose a modified approach based on the notions of presupposition and background which is well-suited not only for describing oppressive consequences of grammatically gendered language such as the reinforcement of the belief that one's sex/gender is relevant in every situation and the reinforcement of the obligatory gender binary which is discriminatory against intersex, non-binary and genderqueer people but also for modeling possible alternative and emancipatory linguistic practices which aim for more inclusive, feminist, pro LGBTQIA+ outcome.

Chair: Katharina Anna Sodoma
Time: 19:00-19:30, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.006

Zuzanna Jusińska 
(University of Warsaw, Polska)

Zuzanna Jusińska is currently enrolled in a MA program in the College of Interdepartmental Studies in the Humanities at the University of Warsaw where they study philosophy and gender studies. Jusińska graduated two BA programs, one in Philosophy at the University of Warsaw where their bachelor thesis was "Semantic and Pragmatic Analysis of Expressions with Grammatical Gender", second in Choreography and Dance Techniques where their bachelor thesis was "Dance as Language: Meaning and Communication". Jusińska's long term goal is to contribute to the development of queer and feminist philosophy of language and analytic feminist philosophy.

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