Semantic correlation in the paradigm of explicitly marked maskulinisms in English

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

Author: Fedorova Olesia , Khmelnytskyi Humanitarian-Pedagogical Academy, Ukraine

Assessment of language as a mirror of the world is commonly accepted. Among all aspects of the multifaceted world a human being is the most interesting thing to see in the language mirror. The current anthropological turn in linguistics, emergence and rapid development of human-oriented branches of linguistics can be explained by the need to understand a human being. Gender linguistics is focuses on language reflection of sexual and gender characteristics of a person. Masculinity and means of its representation in language is a problem which is still under discussion in academic circles and in need of a thorough investigation.

The number of works devoted to the description of means and methods of masculinity representation in English and other languages is big enough to cover thoroughly most aspects of the problem, including the linguistic features of the concept "man ", linguistic expression of masculinity as a social and cultural category of gender, the construction of gender in discourse, features of male verbal behavior, the dynamic aspects of the masculinity representation in language, and many-sided detection of stereotyped use of language units denoting a man [1, 3, 4, 5], but the question of the semantic value of masculinity markers, their status, age and relational connotation remains unresolved.

The purpose of the article is to analyze and compare the semantic value of masculinity markers within age, relational and status oppositions.

Modern English has extremely limited the explicit means of marking the names of men, compared to corresponding marking of names of women. Such elements as -man/man-, -boy/boy-, -master/master have traditionally been seen as explicit markers of masculinity in English.

Explicit gender marker of masculinity -man/man-. The peculiarities of masculinity marker -man/man- usage were studied by many authors, focusing on its productivity, valence, etymology, gender neutrality / markedness of the person’s names marked by it, stereotyped perceptions of the latter, and discourse features and diachronic trends of their usage.

This priority over other gender markers is explained by:

• high diachronic and synchronic performance of the marker;

• a high proportion of its derivatives in the total number of gender marked names of persons;

• semantic meaning (the combination of gender neutral and gender-marked sememe in the lexemes, activation of which in speech is socially significant and often stereotypic;

On the whole 564 names of persons explicitly marked with -man/man- were found in lexicographic registers, which is 52% of the total number of explicitly marked maskulinisms. The most productive derivational model of maskulinisms with -man is "noun + -man". It is characterized by a wide range of relational models and meanings:

• "instrumentative - agentive (M)" with the meaning "a man, using a tool X in his work", where X – is a derivation basis (axeman, bowman, gadman, hammer-man, hatchet man);

• "objective-agentive (M)" with the meaning "a man, that commits an act aimed at an object X, its manufacture, maintenance, sales, etc.", where X – is a derevation basis (bookman, brakesman, businessman, cattle man, coalman, clay-man, glassman, horseman, meatman, muffinman, newsman, proseman, lumberman). This group includes a very significant subgroup of maskulinisms formed on the relational model "trasportive - agentive (M)", with the meaning "man, that drives a vehicle X", where X – is a derivation basis (boatman, bulldozerman, cabman, carman, cartman, coachman, draftsman, ferry-man, gigman);

• "inclusive-agentive (M)" with the meaning "a man, who belongs to a group X", where X - is a derivation basis (banksman, assemblyman, crewman, gangsman, infantryman, juryman, militiaman, office-man);

• "locative-agentive (M)", with the meaning "a man, that performs a specific activity or resides in location X", where X - is a derivation basis (woodsman, townsman, stockman, ship-man, ranchman, backroom man);

• "temporative-agentive (M)", with the meaning "a man, performing activities within time X or by moment X", where X – is a derivation basis (day-man, minute-man, four-minute man);

• “agentive - agentive (M)", with the meaning "a man, that is a person X», where X – is a derivation basis (sailor-man, yeggman, fellowman, boss man, liegeman);

Derivational model "Adjective + man" is not widely used. There are no more than 5-7% maskulinisms modeled on it. The relational model "descriptive - agentive (M)", with the meaning "man, possessing the feature X", where X – is a derivation basis (bad man, my man, old man, fresh man, front man, dead -man, funny man, gentleman, superman, new man) is typical. Derivational model "Verb + man" is even less productive. It is worth mentioning that the identification of the basics as nominal or verbal is complicated (bindleman, gagman, patrolman, serviceman and stuntman). In our study we were guided by Webster's dictionary information on the type of derivation base when determining it [6]. Relational model "performative-agentive (M)" with the meaning "man, performing activity X", where X – is a derevation basis, is typical of this group of men’s names (workman, weigh-man, watchman, repair-man, pitchman, ploughman, hangman, hit man, freezeman).

Considering marker of masculinity -man/man- in terms of its basic and connotational meanings implementation following pattern have been found:

• marker -man/man- is traditionally used in the most general meaning "man" without the implication of social, age and relational features of the referent (he-man, mass-man, everyman, huntsman, townsman, bondsman, clergyman, Englishman);

• the portion of the lexemes, which implement -man/man- marker’s meaning "man-worker, employee, subordinate" is significant (aircrewman, bankman, cley-man, feather-man, fly-man, foot-man, transit man);

• in some cases marker -man/man- activates the meaning "husband of a woman, lover, boyfriend, father" (bridesman, houseman, old man).

Explicit gender marker of masculinity -boy/boy-. Explicit marker of masculinity -boy/boy- is the second most popular marker (75 lexemes found). Like most others, this group of masculinisms is characterized by a noun derivation model. It is quite various in terms of relational models:

• "objectivity - agentive (M)" with the meaning "a boy, who commits an act aimed at object X, its manufacturing, maintenance, sales, etc.", where X – is a derivation basis (cowboy, herd-boy, horseboy, ticket boy);

• “inclusive-agentive (M)" with the meaning "a boy, belonging to group X", where X - is a derivation basis (schoolboy, choir-boy, homeboy);

• "locative - agentive (M)", with the meaning "a boy, that performs a specific activity or resides in the X-location", where X - is a derivation basis (backroom boy, boy uptown, hospital-boy, house-boy, shop-boy, pantry-boy);

• "agentive- agentive (M)", with the meaning "a boy, who is a person X", where X - is a derivation basis (lover boy, toy boy).

The second in productivity is a derivational model "Adjective + man", which corresponds to the relational model "descriptive - agentive (M)", with the meaning "a boy, possessing feature X" (gold boy, big boy, blue boy). Maskulinisms marked with -boy/boy- with a verbal basis are not numerous (flyboy, plough-boy).

According to Webster's dictionary, the lexeme boy has a number of meanings. Most of them are implicated by the marker of masculinity -boy/boy-:

• "a boy, young man (under 18)" (Boy scout, charity-boy, choir-boy, day-boy, gown-boy, hospital boy);

• "an inexperienced young man" (hawk-boy, ball boy, potboy, bug boy, cowboy, office-boy);

• a person of lower social status or nation" (derogatory) (blue boy, toy boy, rah-rah boy);

• "a man" (colloquial) (backroom boy, big boy, wide boy, boy in blue).

The marker -boy/boy- has got a characteristic meaning "worker, employee, servant" (stockboy, shop-boy, pantry-boy, lather boy, jack-boy, knife-boy, bus-boy, page-boy). In the paradigm of EMM -boy/boy- is the formant, which implements additional meanings "a lover, sexually attractive man, boy" (lover boy, playboy, rent boy, blue-eyed boy, toy boy).

Explicit gender marker of masculinity - master (master-). Formant –master / master- is not defined as a gender marker in modern linguistics. Studies on its productivity, morphological status, derivative models aфre rare [2: 55]. However, considering following arguments, we believe -master/master- to be an explicit marker of masculinity:

• as a part of a person’s name -master/master- constantly realizes the meaning of masculinity;

• there is a steady tendency to form pairs of semantically related masculinisms marked with -master/master- and feminitisms, explicitly marked by semiaffixes -mistress/mistress- , -lady/lady- and others;

• In pairs such as webmaster - webmistress the only differentiating semems are "masculinity" and "femininity"/the fact allows to define the elements exactly as gender markers;

• Semiaffix -master/master- is both productive in diachrony (total diachronic capacity - 128 units [2; 55]) and in synchrony (total number of derivatives - 66).

Derivative model "noun + master", "adjective + master" are typical of the marker - master/ master- [2: 55]. This group has such relational models:

• "deskriptive - agentive (M)" with the meaning "master, who has feature X", where X - is a derevation basis (dancing-masrer, drawing-master, riding-master, sailing-master);

• "objective-agentive (M)" with the meaning "master, who operates an object X", where X - is a derevation basis (horse-masrer, form-master, concert-master, toast-master);

• "locative - agentive (M)" with the meaning "master, who works in the location X ", where X - is a derivation basis (harbour-masrer, dock-master, station-master).

The meaning of EM -master/master- as a part of maskulinisms is not homogeneous. Following subgroups were distinguished according to the connotations:

• master - "agent" (paymaster, weigh-master, bridge-master, horse-master);

• master - "a teacher, a mentor" (writing-master, resident master, careers master, schoolmaster);

• master - "an administrator, leader, chief" (chair-master, chapel-master, job-master);

• master - "an owner" (horse-master, barge-master, botmaster, ship-master).

Analyzing the semantic meanings of explicit markers of masculinity, we noted some significant differences specific to each of them and their derivatives, correspondingly. Several semantic oppositions within the paradigms of maskulinisms marked by different markers were outlined.

Gradual opposition on base of age connotation is quite regular among the markers of masculinity. The names of the men marked with -boy/boy- usually imply connotations "a child, young age" according to the main meaning of the lexeme boy (boy scout, charity-boy, choir-boy, day-boy, gown-boy, hospital boy, schoolboy). For example: headboy - headman, schoolboy - schoolman, scout boy - scout master, gownboy - gownsman. However, in this group, there is the evident tendency to express seme "an adult male" in maskulinisms marked with -boy/boy- belonging to the spoken language, slang (backroom boy, big boy, boy with toys, wide boy, boy in blue, boy uptown). Correspondingly, there are two centers of distribution of maskulinisms with -boy / boy- in opposition on base of age connotation.

Formant -man/man- is regularly involved in the formation of men’s names of profession, occupation, as it often implies a connotation "an adult man". But there is also a large number of lexemes nominating men according to social status, nationality, race, religious and cultural preferences, which significantly extends the range of age connotations expressed by the marker. Maskulinsms marked with -master/master- form almost a homogeneous group on basis of age connotation, due to the specificity of the marker. It is mainly used to form the names of men involved in management activities, owning property, property management and almost necessarily expresses the meaning "adulthood" (chair-master, chapel-master, job-master, workmaster, barge-master, botmaster, iron-master, ship-master).

On the basis of age connotation maskulinisms form a gradual opposition, but due to semantic ambiguity of the markers categories of names of men in this opposition are unclear.

The next opposition, which can be clearly seen, is determined by the connotations of status and also has a gradual structure. Distribution of the markers in the opposition is directly proportional to their distribution in the opposition on basis of age connotation, which is caused by inter-dependency between the age and status characteristics of the referent.

The lowest degree in the opposition is occupied by marker -boy/boy-, implying low-status semes "assistant to a master, low-skilled worker, hodman" (clapper boy, bundle boy, cabin boy, hawk-boy, office-boy, pantry-boy, stable boy), "unskilled, low-paid worker" (bell boy, button boy, paper-boy, post-boy). Compare: Batboy - batsman, cowboy - cowman, herdboy - herdman, newsboy - newsman, office-boy - office-man. At the same time, there is a group of maskulinisms marked with -boy/boy- implying a connotation of "high status" (backroom boy, big boy, boy in blue, boy uptown). This subcategory includes language units with age connotation "adulthood" and belongs to the spoken language, slang.

Variability of status characteristics expression can be observed in the group of maskulinisms marked with -man/man-. The highest degree in the opposition is occupied by marker -master/master-. In the subgroup of its derivatives the largest share is the nouns with status connotations "head master, owner, chief". However, in the subgroup there are no maskulinisms denoting referents with low status characteristics. Status correlation is clearly detected among paronymous units: bargeman - bargemaster, coalman - coalmaster, horseboy - horseman - horsemaster, headboy - headman - headmaster. There are cases of neutralization of oppositions: sheepman - sheepmaster, lockman - lockmaster, property man - property master.

As for the ability to express relational characteristics (marital status, family and intimate relationships with women) markers are also unequal. Most of lexemes that express relationships of the men-referent with women (lover boy, playboy, blue-eyed boy, gold boy, toy boy, boyfriend) and men (rent boy), are marked with -boy/boy-. A small percentage of these lexemes are in the group of maskulinisms, marked with -man/man- (bridesman, groomsman, old man). Marker -master/master- is indifferent in terms of referent’s relational characteristics’ expression.

To sum up, we note that explicit markers of masculinity provide a necessary means of gender identity explication and the implication of age, status, relational characteristics of the referent. They are productive at modern stage in many areas of language use. Featuring a variety of semantic meanings, markers of masculinity and their derivative lexemes fill a number of lexical and semantic noun groups.

Prospects for further research of gender noun marketing are to identify discursive and diachronic variability of explicit gender marking.


1. Arkhanhelska A. M. Masculinity and femininity as sociocultural categories on the backgroung of Slavic anthroponymycon, Мovoznavstvo, 2006 (1).

2. Affixoids, affixes and semiaffixes in scientific style and literary norm (1980), Vladivostok, DVNTS АN SSSR.

3. Babash H. А. Language personality and gender stereotypes, M. P. Drahomanov NPU Scientific journal. Modern tendencies of language development. (Seria № 9), Кyiv, 2007 (2).

4. Duduladova О.V. Dynamics of language gender representation in English publicistic discourse, PhD thesis, Kharkiv, 2003.

5. Мartyniuk А.P. Gender construction in English discourse (2004), Kharkiv, Кonstanta.

6. New Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language. – Danbury, Lexicon Publications, Inc., 1993.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

About journal
About KAFU

   © 2017 - KAFU Academic Journal