Scholarly article on topic 'Gender-marked Metaphors: Influence of Grammatical Gender and Animateness on Referential Choice of Metaphorical Name of the Person in the Russian Language'

Gender-marked Metaphors: Influence of Grammatical Gender and Animateness on Referential Choice of Metaphorical Name of the Person in the Russian Language Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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{"Gender metaphor" / animateness / "grammatical gender" / "referential choice"}

Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Zoya Rezanova, Elena Nekrasova, Konstantin Shilyaev

Abstract We explored the influence of linguistic factors on referential relatedness of metaphorical name of the person in the Russian language. The experiment demonstrated that grammatical gender is an important factor in making a metaphorical reference: it was much more acceptable for a hypothetical female referent to be named with a noun that carried feminine gender than masculine. Influence of animateness depended on the sex of a hypothetical referent: females agreed to be “animate” beings rather than “inanimate” objects independently of grammatical gender.

Academic research paper on topic "Gender-marked Metaphors: Influence of Grammatical Gender and Animateness on Referential Choice of Metaphorical Name of the Person in the Russian Language"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 154 (2014) 280 - 285

THE XXV ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC CONFERENCE, LANGUAGE AND

CULTURE, 20-22 October 2014

Gender-marked Metaphors: Influence of Grammatical Gender and Animateness on Referential Choice of Metaphorical Name of the

Person in the Russian language

Zoya Rezanovaa, Elena Nekrasovab, Konstantin Shilyaevc*

abcNational Research Tomsk State University, Lenina Prospekt, 36, Tomsk, 634050, Russia

Abstract

We explored the influence of linguistic factors on referential relatedness of metaphorical name of the person in the Russian language. The experiment demonstrated that grammatical gender is an important factor in making a metaphorical reference: it was much more acceptable for a hypothetical female referent to be named with a noun that carried feminine gender than masculine. Influence of animateness depended on the sex of a hypothetical referent: females agreed to be "animate" beings rather than "inanimate" objects independently of grammatical gender.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of National Research Tomsk State University. Keywords: Gender metaphor; animateness; grammatical gender; referential choice

1. Introduction

A bulk of studies is devoted to testing the linguistic relativity hypothesis, that is, whether (and how) our linguistic knowledge shapes our thoughts. We believe that a significant issue of this general problem is to discover gender differences in the way language skills influence our thinking, e.g. (Boroditsky, Schmidt & Phillips, 2003). Does our linguistic thinking appear to be gender specific? The present study focuses on the decision problem of metaphorical naming of men and women in the Russian language.

* Corresponding author. Tel. +7-983-237-8234 E-mail address: shilyaevc@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of National Research Tomsk State University. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.10.152

We are interested in the relationship between linguistic and nonlinguistic factors that influence Russian-speaking people at the moment of making a decision on whether they can use one and the same word to figuratively name a woman and a man, e.g. myatnik (minty), lisa (fox) or kozyol (he-goat). Our corpus studies have shown different influence of such names when naming men and women (Rezanova, 2011).

2. Hypothesis

We hypothesize that the referential gender selection of figurative nomination of a person is the result of linguistic characteristics of the name. We suppose that it is the grammatical gender and animateness that might have the greatest impact on the choice of referential gender factors. Grammatical gender correlates with the semantics of biological sex. However, as in most Indo-European languages with this grammatical category, there is no direct correlation between grammatical gender and sex. In modern Russian grammatical gender is a formal category that is marked consistently by forms of coordination (inflections) in all singular adjective paradigms and by inflections of case forms, the latter being less regular means of expression of gender oppositions. The category of grammatical gender in the Russian language correlates with animateness. Animateness is a lexical-grammatical category. This category includes the words whose animate semantics is reflected in their grammatical form. Contrasting animateness/inanimateness does not fully reflect the division into the living-nonliving: animate nouns do not include names of plants. On the contrary, some lifeless things are grammatically marked as animate ones (kukla - doll, mertvets - dead person). Thus, in the Russian grammatical system there is a semantic correlation of grammatical gender and animateness. Grammatical gender has more semantic bases in animate nouns naming people, where the form (inflection paradigm) is consistent with the semantics of sex. It has the least semantic bases in the inanimate masculine and feminine nouns. Names of animals constitute a heterogeneous group, as the name of an animal can: 1) denote a generic term without reference to gender (drozd (thrush) - masculine, yashcheritsa (lizard) - feminine), 2) at the same time mark animal species and gender (kobyla (female horse), zherebets (stallion) - male horse).

Influence of the grammatical category of gender on making various semantic decisions in different types of semantic problems has been discussed in a number of papers, concerning various languages: Italian, French, Bulgarian, etc. (Bates, Devescovi, Pizzamiglio, D'Amico, & Hernandez, 1995; Dahan, Swingley, Tanenhaus, Magnuson, 2000; Janyan, & Vergilova, 2011; Andonova, D'Amigo & Devescovi, Bates, 2004, including the ones based on Russian material (Akhutina, Kurgansky, Polinsky & Bates, 1999; Sekerina, Brooks, & Kempe, 2006 .

In the experiment, we investigate the effect of grammatical gender and animateness of figurative names on the choice of gender references.

3. Experiment

3.1. Method

The experiment was performed using E-Prime Suite 2.0 (Copyright 1996-2012 Psychology Software Tools).

3.2. Participants

All the participants were native Russian speakers, university students, aged 18 to 23. 64 persons participated, 32 men and 32 women.

3.3. Stimuli and Design

The choice of stimuli was based on several criteria: 1. the word of masculine or feminine grammatical gender should be contained in the contexts of actualization of metaphorical meaning in the Russian National Corpus (RNC); 2. the stimuli should differ in grammatical gender and animateness.

Other parameters of the words controlled in the experiment were length (number of characters) and objective frequency. Objective frequency was revealed in the Russian frequency dictionary (Lyashevskaya & Sharov, 2009).

As a result, we obtained four classes of stimuli (see Table 1).

Table 1. Illustration of material.

Gender Animacy

Feminine

Animate

Inanimate

Animate

Masculine

Inanimate

The average word length -5.4, the average frequency -30.3, category - animals:

loshad (horse), korova (cow), kobyla (mare)

The average word length - 6.2, the average frequency -18.3, category -artifacts: churka, (chock), tryapka (rag), bochka (barrel).

The average word length -5.4, the average frequency -31.5, category - animals:

slon (elephant), motylyok (moth), komar (mosquito), zhiraf (giraffe)

The average word length -6, the average frequency -18.1, category - artifacts:

chelnok (hook), sachok (net), vintik (screw), buravchik (gimlet).

Since the metaphorical nature of the stimuli allows every word to be attributed both to the woman and to the man (corresponding with the task of each stage of the experiment), which was confirmed by RNC, it makes no sense to talk about the percentage of errors.

We excluded the effect of the factor of word length on the perception of words differing in grammatical gender and animateness.

Bilateral significance test (t-test for independent samples) for the factor of word length between groups of words of masculine and feminine gender was made, with the resulting p =. 779. Accordingly, the word length factor is not significant for groups of stimuli within the factor of grammatical gender and the factors of animateness.

Between groups of animate and inanimate words (the same stimuli rearranged in accordance with this factor) the test for the factor of two-sided significance of word length resulted in p = .609

We also excluded the influence of the frequency factor (ipm parameter according to RNC) on the perception of word. Bilateral significance (t-test for independent samples) for this factor between groups of words of masculine and feminine gender yielded the result of p = .860.

Between the groups of animate and inanimate words (similar rearrangement of stimuli into two groups in accordance with this factor) resulted in p = .070.

3.4. The procedure

The procedure involved the training session and the experiment proper. At the end of the practice, there followed the instruction: "Training is over. If you are ready to continue, press the spacebar". The task of the experiment is designed so that the subjects perceive stimuli that in their literal sense are animate and inanimate, having the form of masculine and feminine gender. The subjects were to consistently solve two tasks. In the first stage the subjects were asked to answer the question of whether the word on the screen can be figuratively applied to a woman, in the second stage - to a man. The subjects indicated their answer choice by pressing 1 for "yes" or 0 for "no."

The stimuli were presented randomly, the time of stimuli presentation was 3000 ms. Before starting a new one a blank screen appeared ( ITI - 500 ms.). The time of presentation of the fixation cross was 500 ms.

Fig. 1. The experimental procedure.

Thus, four factors were manipulated in the study: Animateness (Animateness vs. Inanimateness), Grammatical gender (Masculine vs. Feminine), Task (Male-referencing vs. Female-referencing), and Subject's Sex (Males vs. Females).

4. Results and discussion

To analyze the response, we used all data, except for a few cases, such as technical errors of respondents (pressing "space" instead of the correct keys, etc.), as well as reactions with RT less than 100 ms.

The analysis of respondents' decisions shows that the subjects, regardless of the type of problem (whether the word is referred to a woman in the first part of the experiment or to a man in the second part of the experiment) are more likely to deny any referential relatedness: the proportion of negative answers was 51.2% and 55, 1% for each of the phases of the experiment, respectively. This suggests the semantic "purity" of the selected stimuli, without the focus on the male or female referent.

Prior to the analysis, response times lying ± 2 standard deviations from the mean per condition (the overall percentage of data unrecorded - 5,5%) were excluded. A repeated measures ANOVA was performed for subject means (see Table 2 for means and SDs for each condition).

Table 2. Means and SDs for each experimental condition.

Factors Feminine/animate Feminine/Inanimate Masculine-animate Masculine-Inanimate

Female decision Male decision

819(172) 826 (203)

902 (160) 814 (187)

888 (166) 795 (148)

913 (191) 813 (174)

1. The experimental data show that a name's animateness has a significant influence on the gender decision. Percentage of positive decisions about the reference of animate nouns to the man and/or woman is significantly higher than that of the inanimate ones.

However, this factor acts differently in the first and the second task. It shows the significance while solving the problem of reference to a woman, that is, the subjects give significantly more positive responses (F (1,126) = 29, p = .00000) referring to a woman (loshad (horse), korova (cow), krokodil (crocodile) vs. komod (dresser), meteor, matryoshka, churka (chock). This factor was not significant in solving the second problem (reference to a male).

Fig. 2. Gender - animacy - task type interaction; vertical bars denote +/- standard errors.

That is, the percentage of choice does not depend on the fact that a man is called chervyak (worm), khameleon (chameleon), zayats (hare) vs. buravchik (gimlet), kisel (jelly), komod (dresser), churka (chock). The total statistical significance of the factor is created by the reference of a woman.

2. Animateness factor has also influenced the subjects' speed of decision-making.

The subjects took the reference decision on animate names faster than on the inanimate ones (F (1,126)=10.216, p=.001. The significance of this factor is also determined by its effect on the speed of reference decision when referring to a woman. However, the relationship revealed is characteristic only of feminine stimuli. The effect caused by the grammatical gender factor on the task of gender reference is significantly different from the effect caused by the factor of animateness.

Current effect: F(1, 12S)=10.216, p=.00176 Vertica! bars denote +/- standard errors

960 ,-940 920 900 ■ 330 £ 360 fe 340 -320 -300 780 760 740

Fig. 3. Interaction between word gender, animateness and task; vertical bars denote +/- standard errors.

Grammatical gender of a name correlates directly with the type of the performed task. The subjects are more likely to choose to refer to a woman for feminine grammatical names than for grammatically masculine names (korova (cow) vs. krolik (rabbit), buravchik (gimlet).

Conversely, the subjects gave more correct solutions for the names of the masculine grammatical gender when they solved the problem of references to male: krolik (rabbit) buravchik (gimlet) vs.korova (cow), matryoshka (matryoshka).

We suppose that the performed task actualizes semantic foundations of the category of gender.

As regards reaction time, the ratio of grammatical gender and the task performed by the subjects does not give significant effects.

3. The analysis of interaction between the factor of animateness and grammatical gender revealed the following pattern: animate words give a greater number of gender (referential) choice by subjects. However, a woman is more often named by animate masculine noun popugai (parrot) than inanimate buravchik (gimlet).

The factor of animateness is stronger than the factor of grammatical gender. Figurative identification of human with the living being is easier (regardless of sex, e.g. slon (elephant) = kuritsa (hen)) than with an inanimate object, e.g. kisel (kissel) and matryoshka (matryoshka).

The opposite effect was observed in the task of choice of reference to the man: here the interaction between the categories of gender and animateness were manifested in the fact that the percentage of choice is higher for the feminine inanimate words.

It also manifests stronger semantic foundations of the category of gender in animate nouns. The subjects chose a inanimate word to describe men more often than a feminine one (chock vs. cow). Analysis of the factor of sex of the recipient shows that this effect is shown in female subjects.

5. Conclusions

The results suggested that grammatical gender is a powerful factor that influences the referential choice of gender-marked metaphors. People tend to make a gender-sex agreement even when there is no obvious grammatical need to do so. This finding seems to be in line with the linguistic relativity hypothesis. Further, the results showed women's sensitivity to the linguistic categories, in particular, to animateness, as opposed to men's complete indifference to this semantic variable. We suggest that the linguistic relativity hypothesis may have different "weights" across sexes due to their different sensitivity to the linguistic information.

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