Gender in Language: A native speaker on gendered words in Italian

A while ago, Tom Scott, a qualified linguist who makes a living at explaining interesting things on YouTube, made a video about gender in language. It was partly about gender-neutral pronouns in English, and partly about gendered nouns in languages which have them (primarily European languages, where gender tends to match up with sex; in many other languages, genders are more like “animate” and “inanimate”, or “communal property” and “individual property”). He touched on how gendered nouns do actually have some effect on the way we think: Germans speakers and Italian speakers have different (and gender-influenced) perceptions of the connotations of keys, for example. It’s an interesting watch.

However, while Tom Scott has a qualification in linguistics, he does not actually work in that field. Furthermore, he is a native speaker only of English.

Another YouTuber, the Metatron, recently made a video on pretty much the same topic: feminine and masculine nouns in Romance Languages. The Metatron is Italian, and natively speaks Sicilian Italian. He also speaks French, English, and Japanese. He too has a qualification in linguistics, and actually works in the field, as a translator and a teacher. His YouTube videos are on too main topics: mediaeval warfare and linguistics.

Being doubly qualified, as a linguist and as a native speaker, does the Metatron have anything interesting to say on this subject? Of course he does. Yes, gender in the language does of course affect ones perception of objects, and even of abstract nouns. The personification of strength would, to the Metatron, naturally be female.

The Metatron’s video is not a direct response to Tom Scott’s, which was from some years ago. Tom rarely does linguistics videos these days.

Maamtrasna Murders: Photos

The Maamtrasna murders, 130 years ago, were shockingly brutal, but they are more remembered today for the blatant miscarrage of justice in the following court case. Myles Joyce was hung, protesting his innocence to the last. Recently, the National Library of Ireland has acquired photographs of Myles Joyce and the other nine men accused of the Maamtrasna murders.

Another report adds:

A monoglot Irish speaker, Myles Joyce, who had no English, was defended in court in Dublin by a solicitor and barristers who spoke no Irish. The evidence he gave as Gaeilge was ignored in court. Evidence which might have helped his defence was withheld and the trial also heard from informers gave false evidence against him.

The judge and jury who convicted him had no Irish and the jury deliberated for less than six minutes to decide on his guilt before sentence of death was passed.

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said Mr Joyce’s case was one of most significant and distressing cases ever concerning the denial of language rights.

TRiG.

Writing Signs (in Unicode)

Here’s a little article I wrote a while ago about signed languages, and the various efforts that have been used to make them writable. Sutton SignWriting is probably the most interesting. I have learned it a little (a very little). There is an interesting project to get Sutton SignWriting encoded into the Unicode specification, but nothing’s happened yet. The Unicode roadmap has left room for SignWriting, but the specific project Binary SignWriting has not yet been accepted. Trying to represent a complex script like Sutton SignWriting in Unicode is actually quite difficult.

Here’s an example of two Haikus translated into British Sign Language, with annotation. And here’s David Frost explaining why Sutton SignWriting is important.

TRiG.

Comic Book Grammar

Convention becomes tradition, and acquires weight. This guide to the workings of comic-book speech bubbles showcases how this can work. One thing not mentioned is the flowery borders used by the Astérix books when someone is being “nice”. There are other conventions, which may arise within the a specific work. In Khaos Komix, for example, each story has a narrator who is looking back on the story and recounting it in the past tense. The narrator’s words are shown in white on a black background, while their actual dialogue within the narrative is shown in normal speech bubbles.

TRiG.

Spelling and Grammar

When you send e-mails full of misspellings and errant apostrophes, people judge you. And by people, I mean me.

It’s better than fashionable: it’s useful.


Wildly original and excessively heterodox language could land you in the soup.

You slip into a suit for an interview, and you dress your language up too. You can wear what you like linguistically or sartorially when you’re at home or with friends, but most people accept the need to smarten up under some circumstances. It’s only considerate. … There’s no right language or wrong language any more than there are right or wrong clothes. Context, convention, and circumstance are all.

(More on Stephen Fry.)

TRiG.