Land as female

aklujkar at unixg.ubc.ca aklujkar at unixg.ubc.ca
Tue May 14 19:33:18 EDT 1996


One should be aware in discussing this theme that metaphors in Indian
languages are frequently determined by the grammatical genders ( a few
years ago, it would have been considered unnecessary to qualify "gender"
with 'grammatical"!) of nouns and that a grammatical gender is determined,
at least in Indo-Aryan languages, primarily by the  phonetic/phonemic form
of a stem (except where an obvious sex distinction exists in the object
denoted by a stem).  'Land' *can* become female simply because the word
denoting it happens to have a form predominantly associated with feminine
stems. 

Roman Jakobson used to tell the story of a poem that spoke of love through
a metaphor of trees. In the original Russian of the poem, the words for the
two trees involved happened to be masculine and feminine. Primarily through
the genders the poet was able to convey to his reader that the poem was not
really about two trees but about a man and a woman (in terms of Sanskrit
poetics, the poem was an instance of samaasokti). When the poem was
translated into other languages, some of them had only masculine words for
the two trees and some only feminine. You can imagine how the love
suggested in the poem must have been interpreted in the translations. 
ashok aklujkar
Professor, Dept. of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6T 1Z2





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