Dr. Angeliki Alvanoudi is a Lecturer at the School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, an Adjunct Lecturer at James Cook University, Australia, and a Research Associate at the Institute of Modern Greek Studies. She is a sociolinguist specializing in language and gender, language in interaction, and language contact. She is the author of Grammatical Gender in Interaction: Cultural and Cognitive Aspects (Brill, 2015) and Modern Greek in Diaspora: An Australian Perspective (Palgrave Pivot, 2018).
Genders or noun classes are grammaticalized agreement systems that correlate with certain semantic characteristics, such as animacy, sex, size, or shape, and are realized outside the noun itself. The semantics of gender has attracted sociolinguists’ attention early on. In person reference, gendered terms are known to mark distinctions of cultural importance, as they label social gender and encode cultural meanings related to gender ideologies (e.g. the masculine-generic-associated inference ‘man as norm’). In claiming that language constructs social gender, sociolinguists often tacitly presuppose that language mediates the way in which speakers interpret experience. However, little is known about the cognitive aspects of gendered language structures. Are there affinities between gender systems in languages, social gender practices, and habits of thinking about the world? The presentation addresses this question, by integrating sociocultural and cognitive perspectives in the study of gender and building on the findings of my previous work on Greek talk-in-interaction. Focus will be on inferences associated with the use of gendered terms and brought to the ‘surface’ of the talk through speakers’ actions. These inferences are fuelled by ideologies regarding gender roles and behaviors, such as normative femininity and masculinity, and gender asymmetry. My goal is twofold: to show how the grammatical gender-culture-cognition complex manifests itself in real conversational time, and to explain how language can sustain gender inequality by guiding speakers towards a gendered categorization of the world on the basis of social hierarchy.