Asymmetrical Representation of Gender in Amharic

  • Z Leyew
Keywords: Language, Society, Gender, Pragmatics, Correlation


In gender linguistics, it is customary to observe the correlation between language and socially constructed gender roles. Language users show male and female language behaviors in their discourse and pragmatics. The idea of societal perception of gender is also reflected in the structure of a language. We learn from the literature that a number of African languages have gender-biased patriarchal grammars. Amharic is one of them. This paper discusses the linguistic and pragmatic representation of gender in Amharic, a gendered language showing masculine and feminine distinction in its grammar. Gender representation in this language is asymmetrical heavily influenced by pragmatics. Masculine is the default gender with more prominence than feminine. The linguistic coding of gender carries socially significant meanings reflecting a male-biased grammar. The personal and demonstrative pronouns, generic and proper nouns, nominals and other word classes are inherently masculine. Masculine gender operates not only for nouns with + MALE feature but also for nouns with neuter gender. Any noun with - ANIMATE feature is encoded as male in the verb. Whereas masculine conveys augmentation, feminine conveys diminution. The data and texts for this study were collected from primary source (introspection – author's native repertoire) and secondary sources (grammatical descriptions and novels written in Amharic).

Key words: Language, Society, Gender, Pragmatics, Correlation


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2520-582X
print ISSN: 1810-4487