Zeugen gesucht! Zur Geschichte des generischen Maskulinums im Deutschen
Ewa Trutkowski, Helmut Weiß
March 2022

On the basis of synchronic and diachronic data we argue that in the human domain German masculine nouns commonly display a “non-male” generic interpretation which we take as evidence for a separation of syntactic and semantic gender: Syn-chronically, we show that agreement differences between masculine and feminine nouns cannot be traced back to their semantic gender since nouns without sex speci-fication (as e.g. feminine 'Person' (person) or masculine 'Mensch' (human being)) be-have just as differently as nouns with sex specification. In the diachronic part, we prove that the so-called generic masculine is a stable and well documented phenom-enon in the grammatical system of German at least since the OHG period. To substan-tiate this claim, we present numerous historical examples for the generic use of masculine nouns such as 'Gast' (guest), 'Nachbar' (neighbour), 'Sünder' (sinner). These nouns allow us to look at the particular language use without confounding it with the sociological problem of women’s lack of professional integration in the past.
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Reference: lingbuzz/006520
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keywords: gender, sex, generic masculine, diachrony, semantics, morphology, syntax
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