Cross-cultural semantic equivalence of some gender-related words
Keywords:cultural studies, semantic equivalence, negative connotation, gender-related words
This paper explores similarities and differences between two cultures, English and Serbian, in terms of connotative equivalence of some gender-related words. In both languages there exist myriad pairs of words that historically differentiated male and female gender only, but which, over time, have unexplainably gained different connotations. Usually the semantic change can be seen in words describing women; words which once used to be neutral or positive have acquired negative and/or sexual connotations. The well-known example of bachelor and spinster (neženja and usedelica in Serbian) is just one among many. Based on the male/female pairs of words analysed in these two languages, the paper examines the following: (1) whether it is possible that in both cultures such words (un)intentionally carry the same derogatory and pejorative meanings, (2) whether semantic derogation equally applies to male and female words, and (3) whether and how often the connotation changes to negative when words refer to women. Finally, it addresses the issue of potential semantic derogation when using different job titles for men and women in both languages.
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