Downward Women

The last syllable of words referring to the female sex (gentle / fair sex) is often either unstressed, soft-sounding or the sound falls to [i]. The sound of the English word [women] is the most prominent example since it changes to [i] even though it is written with an [o] or an [e] whereas in [men] by contrast it rises. The sound of the Iranian word for women [zhin], which can be found in Slavic languages such Russian as well, is no different. However, the German word [Frau] raises the sound and reflects more self-confidence.

Arabic does not even have a word for women except the words  امراة and نساء . The first one [?Imra?ah] refers to a woman as a human being and the second [nisaa?] refers to women collectively or in general. The Arabic second person singular pronoun for women انتِ  [?anti] is a downward  sound whereas the male formانتَ  [?anta] is  an upward sound.

Interestingly, nouns referring to anything inanimate or animate as long as they do not include human beings and regardless of their grammatical gender only take adjectives in the singular feminine gender.

It remains to be seen in how much this game of rising and falling sounds reflect the male attitude to women in many other languages.


Bremen, 6 September 2016