The division of GENDER

2022. №1, 59-84

Olga Steriopolo
Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Berlin, Germany;
Elena Steriopolo
Kyiv National Linguistic University, Kyiv, Ukraine;


The paper investigates the connection between grammatical gender of human nouns and social gender and biological sex of their referents, focusing on the instances of mismatch between them. We analyze data from various languages and conclude that discrepancies between the biological sex of an individual and grammatical gender used in reference to that individual can be accounted for via sociological factors, namely the social roles, status and social behaviours that are considered (in)appropriate in a given society. We propose a pyramid structure, in which grammatical gender is based on social gender, and social gender, in turn, operates in relation to the assumed biological sex of a referent. We show that although there is not always a canonical correspondence between the three levels of the pyramid, there is a hierarchical dependence of the diff erent gender levels upon each other.

For citation:

Steriopolo O., Steriopolo E. The division of GENDER. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2022, 1: 59–84.


We are very grateful to the editor, Lev Kozlov, and the anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful suggestions and discussion of this work, as well as to Christin Schütze and David Ronder for their helpful advice. This research was supported by a DFG (German Research Foundation) research grant to Olga Steriopolo (STE 2361/4-3).