Linguimericks—Book ७२ SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 2 Contents Diacritics and Dire Critics—Recognising the Cultural and Indexing Role of Acçèntéd Chårâctërs—Horace Hemingway

Challenging the Gendering of
Theoretical Constructs in Morphology

by Professor Parker Quinn-Sawyer

Observers stand united in bewilderment as to the blatantly gendered nature of basic theoretical constructs in current morphology. Centre stage and dominant in current conceptualisations of linguistic word-building stands, of course, the lexeme. A stark reminder of the self-absorption and egotism of the Male principle, the lexeme’s narcissism requires it to assume many nameslemma, word-form, formativeeach of which is simply a restatement of the others, a bland, monostratal, endless self-redefinition designed entirely to motivate a dominant, feudal power play over other elements of the word-building machinery.

Even the very word wordconsonant-heavy, brief, abrupt, muscularbespeaks the inflexibility of the Male principle and its inherent desire to manifest control and power. Take the Spanish palabra, all three vowels an a: the gargoylial1 qualities of this scandalous symbolicisation of the Alpha principle of the masculine are over-reached only by the disturbing fact that Cervantes regularly wrote the word pAlAbrA, thus laying claim (through his male characters!) to a majuscule alpha masculine animus.2

We turn to the feminine principle as represented by the clitic. Definitionally unable to exist without her ‘host’, the clitic is portrayed as unanchored, devoid of inherent personality, unless the ‘prop’ in the form of an independent lexeme can sustain her. Moreover, the insistence of the clitic as a ‘reduced’ form of what can, in principle, be a phonologically independent entity serves to continue the oppressive tradition that subjugates the Female to the Male. This must serve as a wake-up call to Womanhood to refuse the chains of cliticisation and, in a supreme, gender-political act of defiance, refuse to undergo phonological reduction in any syntactic context whatsoever.

We could go on, but let us mention, if only in passing, the shameful dogma of the so-called “second position” as it relates to the Feminine principle of cliticisation. To blatantly, baldly, bare-facedly employ and deploy this kind of discriminatory terminology places linguistics as a key perpetuating driver of gender inequalities.

We must, of course, discuss the third element of the equation: the principle of the Child as represented by the bound morpheme. While in nature much closer to the Feminine clitic, the bound morpheme nevertheless is attached to the Masculine word. Here we see the paternalistic paradigm invading the mother-child relationship is a manner which is as inter-relationally dis-imbalanced as it is socio-psychological a-real. The message of the primacy of the Father figure is driven home by the fact that in most corpora, only 12% of lexemes composed of free and bound morphs also have a clitic. While we should take heart that in such cases the clitic is appended to the end of the word thus sandwiching the Child bound morpheme in between Father root and Mother clitic (a small concession to the foundational nature of family), it remains the case that in 88% of lexemes, the absence of a clitic is further evidence, if any were needed, of the inherently gendered nature of theoretical constructs in linguistics.

1 The Editorial Commission for Selecting Between Multiple Adjectival Forms struggled with this one for at least several minutes given the head-scratching reality that at least two other adjectival forms exist: gargoylian and gargolian. The Commission asked some gargoyles for input, but left none the wiser as some of the gargoyles were gargling and others, who were Googling, didn’t hear the question in the first place. We went with gargoylial as it has two L’s and LL in Roman numerals equals 100 which would be the number of readers of the last issue if we had 93 more.

2 The ironic significance of the standard acronym for this, ‘MAMA’, is not lost on the author.

LinguimericksBook ७२
Diacritics and Dire CriticsRecognising the Cultural and Indexing Role of Acçèntéd ChårâctërsHorace Hemingway
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 2 Contents