The social deixis of gender boundaries

person appellation practices in Croatian

Authors

  • Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić University of Rijeka

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jld.40375

Keywords:

gender indexing, alternative language use, “generic” masculine, perception, Croatian

Abstract

This article studies aspects of the multi-layered role of language in establishing and maintaining a social order based on gender. Gendered person appellations are traditionally seen as person reference, an interpretation loaded with essentialist views of gender that hardly comply with current gender theories. By taking a close look at the Croatian context, this article analyses the indexical meaning and active role of language use in normalising dominant gender norms. Slavic languages have played a minor role in international discussions on gender and language. However, they convincingly allow us to show how indexical functions of language use are integrated in and contribute to gendered perceptions of people in general. For this, an interdisciplinary approach is taken that alludes to both the production and the perception of this specific dimension of social deixis by (1) evaluating the linguistic norm of person appellation as found in a leading conservative newspaper, and (2) testing the perception of these normalised appellation forms against alternative person-naming practices in an online-based questionnaire. As highlighted in this article, the making of linguistically manifest gender boundaries is clearly observable in research on a language possessing rigid grammatical rules of gender marking in person appellation, such as Croatian.

Author Biography

Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić, University of Rijeka

Roswitha Kersten-Pejanić is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies Southeastern Europe at Rijeka University, where she holds a Research Fellowship from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to fund her ongoing project ‘Linguistic Landscapes at the margins: Performativity of ethnic belonging and memory politics in Croatian post-conflict border regions’ (2018–2021). Roswitha completed her PhD thesis on the interrelation of linguistic norms and gender perceptions in Croatian in 2016 at the Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies, Humboldt University. She holds MAs in Modern History and Serbian/Croatian from Humboldt University and in EU Studies from Centre International de Formation Européenne.

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Published

2020-05-06

How to Cite

Kersten-Pejanić, R. (2020). The social deixis of gender boundaries: person appellation practices in Croatian. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 4(1), 98-118. https://doi.org/10.1558/jld.40375