CFP: Translating Grammatical Gender: a Linguistic and/or a Political Question? (France) (4/30/07; 10/13/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Yves Lefevre


In French, gender is a grammatical property of the noun whose formal
marks appear in the use of articles and adjectives. The attribution of
feminine and masculine traits is often seen as conventional, even
arbitrary. However, the gender of nouns designating male or female
individuals normally corresponds to this opposition. English of course
presents a different picture. There are three, not two, genders, due to
the existence of the neuter. Gender is less obvious since articles,
adjectives and participles are invariable, and is marked essentially in
pronouns and possessive adjectives that refer back to the third person
The differences between English and French give rise to problems
well-known to practising translators, both in university translation
with pedagogical aims, and literary or pragmatic professional
translation. Possessive adjectives in English identify the masculine,
feminine, or neuter possessor, whereas French indicates the grammatical
gender of the object possessed, which produces text-book cases and
minefields for beginners in translation as does the translation of the
gender of animals and inanimates. The abundance of gender indications in
French sometimes forces translators to use the masculine or the
feminine, and risk over-clarification, where they would prefer to
maintain the ambiguity of the English.
Moreover, the linguistic differences linked to gender require
manipulations that underline what is at stake politically. This is the
case for the masculine-feminine difference in the passage from one
language to the other, or when French nouns are feminised. How precise
the translator chooses to be, and the subsequent to-ing and fro-ing from
the politically correct to sexism (as for example when French uses the
masculine as a non-marked form) show the extent to which the role of the
translator is essential in this question of grammatical gender. Beyond
the problems of pure denotation, there loom the questions of connotation
and the way languages represent a vision of the world.

The study day will take place on October 13 at the University of Bordeaux 3

Suggestions for talks (a half-page summary in English or French) plus a
short CV should be sent, by April 30 2007 at the latest, to :

Christine Raguet
Université Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle
Institut du Monde Anglophone
5, rue de l'École de Médecine
75006 Paris

Pascale Sardin
Université Bordeaux 3
UFR des Pays Anglophones
Domaine Universitaire
33607 Pessac Cedex

After acceptance by the reading committee the talks will be published in
Palimpsestes 21.

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Received on Thu Feb 01 2007 - 19:00:13 EST