2015 | 17/4 | 13–23
Article title

Rodzaj gramatyczny a płeć: przykład neutrum ekspresywnego w odniesieniu do osób i zwierząt w jednej z polskich gwar na Ukrainie

Title variants
Grammatical Gender and Sex: the Example of the Expressive Neuter with Reference to People and Animals in one of the Polish Dialects in Ukraine
Languages of publication
This article discusses the phenomenon of the expressive use of the neuter gender with reference to people and animals, e.g. dialectal Polish: [about a dog] si zezłościło byłu (‘it had become angry’), [about a man] pszylieciało (lit. ‘it flew here’, i.e. ‘it came quickly’), [about a woman] takie było wradne (‘it was so vicious/mean’). The primary exemplifications originate from one of the Polish dialects in Ukraine (Pl. Łanowice, Ukr. Лановичі), but examples have been also provided from other Polish dialects (in Poland) and from colloquial Polish. This type of expressive use of the neuter form was also mentioned by Daniel Weiss (1993, 96-7). The present analysis demonstrates that – in contrast to Daniel Weiss’s assumptions – this phenomenon is not limited to the pronoun to or the reduplicated toto. In the Polish language, both within dialects and colloquial language, the expressive neuter is used primarily with a depreciative undertone. In the provided examples, the speaker expresses his/her negative emotional or intellectual (evaluative) attitude towards a person, animal or behaviour. Therefore, in this respect, the grammatical gender fulfills a derivative pragmatic and semantic function. The expressive connotation becomes marked through the choice of the neuter gender (in the singular), even with reference to a group of people, e.g. Bandery wujka zabili ... wujka zabiło (‘Bandits killed the uncle… it killed the uncle’). In colloquial Polish, such grammatical means can be also used to express humour, e.g. Długie toto, jak Don Kichot przynajmniej, chude toto, gęba pociągła i mizerna, nos orli niestety, uszy odstające, a do tego od dołu takie długie nogi, a od góry takie długie ręce (‘It’s long, at least as long as Don Quixote, it’s thin, with a long and gaunt mug, unfortunately a hooked nose, ears that stick out, as well as those long legs at the bottom, and those long arms at the top’) (the well-known actor Jan Kobuszewski talking about himself). In studies of Polish inflection, depreciativeness is sometimes distinguished as a separate category with a semantic function, placing the masculine-personal (virile) nouns (unmarked, e.g. urzędnicy ‘civil servants’) in juxtaposition to their depreciative (non-virile) forms (marked, e.g. urzędniki). The mechanism which has been outlined in this article allows for the presentation of yet another possible use of grammatical gender, that is the neuter gender, fulfilling a pragmatic and semantic function.
Physical description
  • Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN Warszawa
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
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