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A CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS OF FEMINITIVES IN BULGARIAN, POLISH AND RUSSIAN

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Abstract

The subject of this article is the contemporary usage of feminitives (specifically the names of occupations and functions), which traditionally are most often derived from masculine names. The article presents a contrastive analysis of feminitive usage in three Slavic languages: Bulgarian, Polish and Russian. The article examines the problem of linguistic asymmetry in the creation of feminine names in the three languages and presents the views of renowned linguists on the issue.
COGNITIVE STUDIES | ÉTUDES COGNITIVES,19
Warsaw 2019
Article No.: 1922
DOI: 10.11649/cs.1922
Citation: Sosnowski, W. P., &, Satoła-Staśkowiak, J.
(2019). A contrastive analysis of feminitives in Bulgarian,
Polish and Russian. Cognitive Studies | Études cognitives,
2019(19). https://doi.org/10.11649/cs.1922
WOJCIECH PAWEŁ SOSNOWSKI1,A,JOANNA SATOŁA-STAŚKOWIAK2,B
1Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
2Academy of Humanities & Economics in Lodz, Poland
Awojciech.sosnowski@ispan.waw.pl
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9299-4505
Bjstaskowiak@ahe.lodz.pl
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8821-2379
A CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS OF FEMINITIVES IN
BULGARIAN, POLISH AND RUSSIAN
Abstract
The subject of this article is the contemporary usage of feminitives (specifically the names of occu-
pations and functions), which traditionally are most often derived from masculine names. The
article presents a contrastive analysis of feminitive usage in three Slavic languages: Bulgarian,
Polish and Russian. The article examines the problem of linguistic asymmetry in the creation of
feminine names in the three languages and presents the views of renowned linguists on the issue.
Keywords: feminitives; Bulgarian language; Polish language; Russian language; language asym-
metry; contrastive analysis; androcentrism
1 Introduction
1.1 The subject of this article is the contemporary usage of feminitives (in particular the names of
occupations and functions), which traditionally are most often derived from masculine names, and
a contrastive analysis of said usage in three Slavic languages: Bulgarian, Polish and Russian. The
sources of the material presented are the Internet (Internet forums, blogs and social networking
sites) and the press (including the so-called women’s press) in both paper and electronic versions.
The aim of the article is to analyse the feminitive linguistic phenomena present in the language
communication of three Slavic countries: Bulgaria, Poland and Russia. The contrastive analysis of
the Slavic languages used in these countries has become very important as they represent all three
Slavic language groups, namely the southern (Bulgarian), western (Polish) and eastern (Russian)
groups. The aim is to trace the current state of the use of feminine names of professions and to
examine the similarities and differences observed during this analysis.
The term feminitives (Bg. феминитив, Rus. феменитив, Pol. feminatyw) is to be understood
as “nouns that refer to feminine names of professions and functions, most frequently derived from
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A contrastive analysis of feminitives in Bulgarian, Polish and Russian
masculine names with the help of a suffix of the feminativum category or directly from verbs with
a complex suffix of a category of agents” (Łaziński, 2006, p. 246). It can be argued that regular
derivation of feminitives in a given language creates a gender-linguistic balance in said language.
1.2 The continued use of masculine forms in cases referring to mixed-group nomenclature is
a characteristic feature of all Slavic languages, even when women largely outnumber male mem-
bers of the group. Using masculine profession names where there are feminine equivalents is more
typical of some languages than of others. In modern Slavic languages, for example, this happens
in Bulgarian, Polish and Russian, but less often in Slovak or Czech, in which the ease with which
feminine forms can be created from masculine forms is well-known. Many linguists have written
on this subject and other important elements of women’s and men’s linguistic reality. With re-
gards to Bulgarian, researchers include, among others, Borislav Georgiev (Georgiev, 2012), Vladko
Murdarov (Murdarov, 2011, 2012), Vanina Sumrova (Sumrova, 2001–2002), Ljubomir Andrey-
chin (Andre˘ıchin, 1969, 1973, 1974), and Joanna Satoła-Staśkowiak (Satoła-Staśkowiak, 2018).
In the Polish language, notable research includes Jerzy Bralczyk (Bralczyk, 2014), Kwiryna Handke
(Handke, 2008), Małgorzata Karwatowska and Jolanta Szpyra-Kozłowska (Karwatowska & Szpyra-
Kozłowska, 2010), Jan Miodek (Miodek, 2010), and Marek Łaziński (Łaziński, 2006). In the field
of the Russian language, research has been conducted by Veronika Berkutova (Berkutova, 2017),
Anna Vasilieva (Vasil’eva, 2016), Julia Shemchuk, Aleksandra Andreeva A. (Shemchuk & An-
dreeva, 2013), and, based on comparative material of Polish and Russian languages with reference
to Czech, Katarzyna Dembska (Dembska, 2012) and many others.1In this research work, lin-
guistic trends, environmental divisions, stylistic differences, and sometimes the absurdities of the
languages were emphasized.
1.3 Feminist linguistics emerged in the second half of the 20th century, initially in countries such
as Sweden, Germany and the USA, and then spread throughout Europe and other parts of the
world. Its primary purpose was to deny and stop the spread of androcentrism, a phenomenon well-
known in the majority of cultures, due to the historical prevalence of patriarchal social systems.
Nowadays (i.e. in the first half of the 21st century) heterogeneous activity in the creation and use of
feminitives has been observed in various social groups and in different languages. In societies with
a compelling need to change their existing linguistic structures, change can be observed among
language users in the perception of reality and in the understanding of the role of women in modern
society. The creation and use of feminitives or, conversely, their avoidance, clearly characterise
current social relations and relations between the sexes – their way of reasoning, communication,
and attributing characteristics to each other. Language is very closely intertwined to thought.
Therefore, in a situation of changing attitudes towards new language forms, one may advance the
thesis that the creation, codification, description and active use of feminine profession names in
particular languages may lead, in the not too distant future, to a departure from the androcentrism
of culture, which so far has been so strongly expressed on a formal level by language.
2 Linguistic Asymmetry
2.1 Even a preliminary juxtaposition of the studied lexis lends support to the thesis that the
feminine names of professions in the Bulgarian, Polish and Russian languages are currently not
applied equally and symmetrically. A noticeable linguistic asymmetry in the creation of profession
names is observable in all three languages, although more clearly in Polish and Russian than in
Bulgarian.
1Feminitives have recently been described in other Slavic languages, e.g. Belarussian, in the book: «Гiд па
фемiнiзацыi беларускай мовы», Уладзiслаў Гарбацкi (Harbatski, 2012).
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A contrastive analysis of feminitives in Bulgarian, Polish and Russian
2.2 Since the objects under analysis are Slavic languages, it should be noted that the richness
of the Slavic language family in terms of suffixes considerably exceeds the possibilities of deriving
feminine forms in other languages (cf. the relatively few English, German, French suffixes, etc.).
For this research it was necessary to verify what linguistic resources Slavic languages use in or-
der to create the feminine names of professions and functions. The initial observations confirmed
the hypothesis that language users willingly use historically established suffixes. This means that
instead of creating new word formation models, new lexemes are created with existing suffixes.
It seems reasonable to say that the task of linguists is to help codify the standards of creating
feminitives, as at present users of the three languages tend to create these forms intuitively by
themselves. Significant social changes at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st cen-
tury have resulted in women occupying all available professional roles and it is only natural that
language should respond to this phenomenon.
2.3 A very active word formation process in the Bulgarian, Polish and Russian media is currently
taking place with regard to feminitives. The recently created lexemes can be considered neologisms.
In the work “Словарь гендерных терминов”, the term feminist neologism is used with regard to
this phenomenon (Denisova, 2002). The appearance of lexemes included in this group is very often
considered against the background of the processes that have earlier took place in English (e.g. the
departure from words with the particle man in favour of person in a word such as salesperson
instead of salesman or police officer instead of policeman). In fact, the struggle against androcen-
trism in language can be observed in many countries. However, when analysing Slavic languages,
a comparison with the relevant structural changes in the English language is of limited use, since
English does not have gramatical gender. Grammatical gender goes together with other connotati-
ons and intrasystemic possibilities to underline the female sex of a professional (e.g. a combination
of masculine nouns with the feminine form of verbs in the past tense: врач сказала,секретарь
выступила). Therefore, the Slavic languages should be analyzed without contrasting them with
languages of other groups. On the other hand, when it comes to non-linguistic reality, a departure
from emphasizing gender at the level of word-formation is clearly noticeable in speech acts in
English-speaking countries.
It has become common to believe that the need to reduce or balance the asymmetry regarding
the professional nomenclature of women and men has been primarily a concern for the feminist mo-
vement. This view, however, oversimplifies the phenomena observed in society, and consequently
in language. Some linguists rightly emphasize that the “battle for language” or “formal represen-
tation” is not so much about making it more symmetrical with regard to gender as it is about not
discriminating on the basis of gender. This is important to many language users (Karwatowska &
Szpyra-Kozłowska, 2010, pp. 11–56). According to some researchers, the use of masculine names of
professions (especially in cases where feminine names exist) is a sign of androcentrism (Zhukova,
Lebed’ko, Proshina, & Iuzefovich, 2013).
3 Contrastive analysis
3.1 Bulgarian
3.1.1 Traditionally, the Bulgarian language creates the names of female professions based on male
forms, without any word-formation problems. The direction of creating feminine names (from mas-
culine to feminine) is characteristic of all the languages compared in this article. The formative -ka
is used to create the largest group of feminitives in Bulgarian (министърка,прокурорка,съдий-
ка,деканка,войничка,лейтенантка,офицерка). Other formatives include: -ша (президентша,
премиерша,министърпредседателша,депутатша,дипломатша), -джийка (атакаджийка,
хайлайфаджийка), -манк (а) (меломанка,ароматоманка,блогоманка,графитоманка) and
-холичк(а) (работохоличка,книгохоличка,кафехоличка) (Sumrova, 2018).
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It is undisputable that in Bulgarian there is an imbalance between masculine and feminine
forms in names for professions (Babov, 1964). However, the phenomenon of using the masculine
names of professions for both men and women in modern Bulgarian, a practice which started
after the end of the Second World War, conflicts with the nature of the language and has been
criticized by some linguists (Bokale, 2009; Murdarov, 2011; Vlakhova, 2001). Bulgarian researchers
attribute the overall direction of contemporary linguistic changes to a strong Russian influence,
which has given rise to common Bulgarian forms such as жена-космонавт,жена-герой (cf. the
contemporarily derived and actively used Russian model: женщина президент,женщина по-
литик;женщина епископ) (Andre˘ıchin, 1961, 1969, 1974; Babov, 1964, p. 213). However, they
also argue that language trends and the need to distinguish between the formal and colloquial
registers (with the former’s smaller variety of forms) play a significant role in the aforementioned
masculinization.
In colloquial spoken Bulgarian, feminitives such as министърка,професорка and космо-
навтка unlike жена министър,жена професор,жена космонавт do not carry any negative
connotation (Babov, 1964; Vlakhova, 2001). There is a vast difference between the formal and col-
loquial registers in Bulgarian. In the former, the same feminine forms министърка,президентка
or посланичка have a depreciative meaning. (Vlakhova, 2001)
3.1.2 Traditionally, the majority of generic names for professions are masculine nouns (e.g., про-
фесор,прокурор,адвокат,министър,нотариус,съдия etc.). To refer to a woman’s professional
occupation, the female form of the profession is created from the masculine noun (without the
phonetic barriers that can be seen in some Polish feminitives such as adiunktka). However, there is
a small group of occupations for which the opposite is true. These are professions historically as-
sociated with, and dominated by, women and which are generally considered as ‘unmanly’, such as
болногледачка,бродировачка,детегледачка,домашна помощничка or домашна работничка,
камериерка,козметичка,маникюристка.
Last year (2018) the Institute of Bulgarian Language of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
in Sofia published the first linguistic study by Vanina Sumrova, covering more than 1,400 new
(created in the last 25 years) feminitives in Bulgarian. A large part of the material collected
in the study comes from the dictionary Rechnik na novite dumi v balgarskia ezik (ot kraya na
XX i parvoto desetiletie na XXI v.) (Речник на новите думи в българския език (от края
на ХХ и първото десетилетие на XXI в.)) by E. Pernishka, D. Blagoeva and S. Kolkovska
(Pernishka, Blagoeva, & Kolkovska, 2010; pp. 515), which is the richest existing dictionary of
Bulgarian neologisms, as well as a dictionary entitled Rechnik na novite dumi i znachenia v bal-
garskia ezik (Речник на новите думи и значения в българския език) by the same authors
(Pernishka, Blagoeva, & Kolkovska, 2003; pp. 309). The author discusses feminitives in different
contexts (semantic, stylistic, word formation, cultural-linguistic). She makes a successful attempt
to explain the causes behind the start of the masculinization process and its continued duration.
She also describes the intriguing phenomenon of women’s self-nomination, as well as the issue of
language discomfort – the inconvenience of masculinization or the difficulties and language errors
which it causes: Министърът на земеделието и горите Десислава Танева и заместниците
му (примерът е от архива на Службата за езикови справки в ИБЕ при БАН); Съдии от
СГС поискаха оставката на председателя Владимира Янева и заместниците му;Моят
психотерапевт казва, че [.. .] и затова спрях да я посещавам (Sumrova, 2018, p. 104). Sumrova
accurately presents the positions of numerous Bulgarian linguists. The author discusses the “media
revolution” (Znepolski, 1997) – and the invasion of colloquialisms that has played a significant
role in the process of renewing and/or building a new Bulgarian vocabulary. She also agrees with
V. Tabakova (Tabakova, 1995, p. 81), stating that in Europe, as in Bulgaria, “women make up
the majority of the population” (p. 9), and therefore it is important to follow current linguistic
processes and to reflect on their actions with specific examples in Bulgarian.
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3.1.3 Despite the existence of a codified system for creating Bulgarian feminitives, language
users deliberately reject the use of feminine counterparts of the names of professions (built with
the suffix -ка, such as професорка,прокурорка,адвокатка,министърка,съдийка). When re-
ferring to a profession in general, rather than a specific individual belonging to that profession,
the use of a masculine noun is generally perceived as neutral (i.e. referring to both men and wo-
men). In formal speech, the masculine form is also used to denote the position or professional
title of a female individual, e.g. съдия Петрова,адвокат Николова,нотариус Емилова,дозна-
тел Бойчева,прокурор Стаменова,доктор Абаджиева. In such cases, the female gender can
still be observed in other parts of speech referring to the post-holder (e.g. the masculine form
of a profession’s name combined with the feminine form of a verb or participle). The following
sentence provides a good illustration: За министър на околната среда беше избрана Нона Ка-
раджова (cf. Murdarov, 2011, p. 1). However, this practice lacks consistency. When reporting
on the same visit by a female minister, for example, different newspapers used different appro-
aches: Министърът е бил посрещнат на аерогарата – Министърът е била посрещната на
аерогарата.
3.1.4 Similarly to Polish and Russian, the choice of noun form can be influenced by the negative
connotations of some of the forms. This is most often associated with a decrease in the prestige
of a person practising a given profession. Common lexemes such as лекарка,учителка,тъкачка
are semantically neutral. These tend to be occupations that have long been practiced, or even
dominated, by women (typically caring professions, e.g., медицинска сестра,директорка (на
ясла,детска градина,училище)). However, for professions which have only recently become
more inclusive of women, their feminitive forms (e.g. президентка,министър-председателка,
премиерка,главна редакторка,кметка,ректорка,заместник-ректорка) do not possess the
same neutrality. This leads to the current asymmetry of the Bulgarian language and its failure to
fully adjust to contemporary realities (Georgiev, 2012).
The latest data observed in the Bulgarian language corpus shows that the number of feminitives
commonly used by language users is slowly increasing. This may indicate that the fashion for
masculine forms is beginning to change, so contemporary tendencies in Bulgarian should be closely
followed.
3.2 Polish
3.2.1 Some professions in Polish do not have an equivalent word formation counterpart in the
feminine form – e.g. chirurg,górnik,pilot,prezydent. Attempts to create feminine forms from words
such as a psycholog or minister arouse heated discussions and resistance, both among linguists
and in society at large (Handke, 2008). In Polish, a great deal of controversy surrounds the issue
of feminine endings. The former Polish People’s Republic is often blamed for this situation, and
we are reminded that feminine forms were widely used in the interwar period. One of the most
vivid examples is the form doktorka as a term for a woman with a doctorate degree (Dryjańska,
2016).
3.2.2 As in the case of names, the vast majority of the names of professions in Polish, which
have masculine and feminine equivalents, are created from the former (e.g. lekarz and lekarka,
nauczyciel and nauczycielka,urzędnik and urzędniczka,prawnik and prawniczka). This practice
has its roots in history. Some of these forms still carry a pejorative meaning for a significant
proportion of language users (prezes – prezeska,doktor – doktorka,profesor – profesorka,dyrektor
– dyrektorka), or they are not equivalent (sekretarz – sekretarka,położnik – położna). If a profession
does not have a masculine form, it is usually not very prestigious and is assigned to women (because
most men consider it to be unmanly), e.g. niania or przedszkolanka. Moreover, if there is a man
who wants to work as a niania or przedszkolanka (nanny or nursery school teacher), he is not
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taken seriously. In the case of these professions, the situation is analogous to that which can be
observed in Bulgarian.
Feminine names with the suffix -ka (derived from the names of prestigious male professions)
have been recognized in recent decades as unofficial and disrespectful. Hence, in place of dyrektorka
or profesorka, terms expressing respect appeared: pani dyrektor,pani professor. This approach be-
came common after the Second World War. Previously, most of the names of professions had a form
in both genders. In an 18th century dictionary there were even terms such as administratorka,
dozorczyna,karczmarka,klucznica,kuchmistrzyni,piekarka,rządczyna,szafarka,urzędniczka,wę-
glarka,wierszopisyni,wielkorządczyni. At the beginning of the 20th century, profesorka,posłanka
or dyrektorka did not yet have any negative connotation. Currently, if these terms are used at all,
they are not used in the ordinary meaning of the word and are not equivalent to their masculine
forms, e.g. professor (at a university) – profesorka (in a secondary school), dyrektor (of a factory)
dyrektorka (of a kindergarten or school), położnik (doctor) – położna (a nurse specialising in
midwifery).
3.2.3 In order to create feminitives in Polish, the following formatives are used: -ka (doktor
– doktorka,profesor – profesorka), -i(y)ni (zarządca – zarządczyni,językoznawca – językoznaw-
czyni), -a (minister – ministra), -owa (księgowy – księgowa), -i(y)na (wojewoda – wojewodzina),
-icha,-essa/-esa (hostessa), -arka (piekarz – piekarka), -anka (przedszkolanka), -ówka, although
the feminine noun forms of names are generally made from masculine forms with the suffix -ka
(e.g. nauczyciel – nauczycielka,socjolog – socjolożka,psycholog – psycholożka) or -ini/-yni (władca
– władczyni). The ending -a is used with names that are adjectives, e.g. przewodniczący – prze-
wodnicząca,służący – służąca,habilitowany – habilitowana (Łaziński, 2006, pp. 254–258).
3.2.4 The reluctance to use feminine forms in the Polish language to describe women’s profes-
sions can be explained by the frequent semantic shifts in the language, a consequence of which
is that the masculine form sometimes signifies something other than its formal feminine counter-
part, e.g. tirowiec (lorry driver) – tirówka (prostitute), maszynista (train driver) – maszynistka
(typist, a woman typing texts on a trypewriter), kominiarz (chimney sweep) – kominiarka (bala-
clava, a type of hat), ciężarowiec (weight lifter) – ciężarówka (lorry), dziekan (dean) – dziekanka
(dean’s leave), dyplomata (diplomat) – dyplomatka (a type of briefcase), magister (Master’s degree;
a person with a Master’s degree) – magisterka (Master’s thesis), marynarz (sailor) – marynarka
(jacket), pilot (pilot) – pilotka (aviator hat), reżyser (film or theatre director) – reżyserka (film
director’s room, control room). The semantic difference between a feminine and masculine form
describing a particular profession determines the choice of the masculine form as “neutral” and
“more appropriate” for the description. There are no cases in the Polish language of a feminine
form used to name a man’s profession being considered “neutral”.
3.2.5 A strong opinion on the use of feminine derivatives ending in -ka has been expressed by
Maciej Malinowski, who claims that for years women preferred, and were proud of, the possibility
to use the masculine names of professions, because of the perceived inferiority or frivolity conveyed
by the suffix -ka.
“Nobody dared to address a female university professor (pani professor) with words pani pro-
fesorko, say pani doktorko to a female doctor (pani doctor) in a hospital, or say pani mecenasko
to their female lawyer (pani mecenas). Obviously, sometimes rather inelegant words such as kie-
rowniczka,matematyczka,fizyczka,chemiczka were heard, but only in private, behind-the-scenes
conversations” (Malinowski, 2006, p. 1). Maciej Malinowski also draws our attention to phone-
tic considerations, which for certain professions are the reason why women choose the masculine
form, instead of the difficult to pronounce forms adiunktka,architektka,subiektka,pedriatrka. The
author invokes hypothetical examples (with the -ini suffix), such as chirurgini,dramaturgini,kie-
rowczyni, which, in his opinion, additionally emphasise the ridiculousness of such obtained forms.
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Despite these views, numerous examples of using feminitive forms, such as socjolożka,filolożka,
psycholożka,pedagożka,politolożka,antropolożka,polityczka,marszałkini,weterynarka,2are easily
found in the press and on internet forums. This reflects broader cultural, linguistic and societal
shifts. However, the practice remains somewhat controversial, having its supporters and distractors
among both sexes.
3.2.6 The emotional confusion and sensitivity surrounding this issue are illustrated by the fol-
lowing description provided by Jan Miodek, Piotr Komander, Mirosław Mycawka and Jerzy Bral-
czyk: “A matematyczka who is talking to me wants to be a nauczyciel matematyki (God forbid
nauczycielka!), her female colleague introduces herself as a biolożka. A woman complains about
psycholożka and socjolożka, but she has no objection to profesorka and polonistka” (Miodek, 2010).
Miodek recalls, as an illustration of the phenomenon, something that he read in the obituary of
an eminent female scholar, “Wybitna socjolog, długoletni pracownik, przewodnicząca Rady Nauko-
wej, kierownik Zakładu, oddana pracy”, and lists the feminine forms from one edition of “Gazeta
Wyborcza”: “ psycholog seksuolog kliniczny, wiceprezes, publicystka (dwa razy), socjolożka, autorka,
adiunkt, członkini, krytyczka literacka, filozof, przewodnicząca Rady, przewodnicząca komisji, była
komisarz, była minister (Miodek, 2010), in which a mix of masculine and feminine forms is used
to refer to the same person.
Piotr Komander, in the text “Żeńskie nazwy zawodów, czyli poślica i profesora” (Feminine
names of professions, or poślica and profesora), who views some linguistic equal rights techniques
as ironic, writes: “A good example of an unfortunate name change is posłanka who was at first
called posełka. In the meantime, Professor Bralczyk points out that both forms are wrong, since,
following the same pattern as orlica or diablica, the correct form should be poślica. However, forms
ending in -a do not always work. The brave women authors of the proposed changes seem not
to notice that their ideas make perfect fodder for irony and jokes. Premiera sounds like a film or
theatre premiere (Pol. premiera), ministra sounds like the possessive form of the word minister
(czyja? Ministra – whose? the minister’s). Profesora makes one think of a person who is large
boned, rather than a title. In his opinion: “Adding the -ka suffix does not do the trick either. It
often sounds insufficiently serious or infantile (a feature of the diminutive – gwiazdka,kurka) and
even offensive. It is risky to call a university professor pani profesorko. To my mind, words like
mecenaska,ministerka,doktorka,filozofka do not sound right either. Is oficerka a female officer
or a leather boot? Are marynarka,pilotka,literatka,tokarka women or objects? Similarly, what
about drukarka and tapicerka?Reżyserka is a room in a radio or television studio. There is also
a phonetic problem: the pronunciation of forms such as adiunktka,pedriatrka,architektka is not
easy at all.” (Komander, 2017)
Mirosława Mycawka points to certain rules that have become outdated in recent years. These
include the rule related to the use of the -ka suffix. According to the author, when using the
suffix -ka, “we cannot create a feminine form from a masculine noun that ends in a consonant
cluster (e.g. architect). This barrier does not seem to exist anymore, as this form is recorded in
the “Dictionary of contemporary Polish language” and it is more and more often used” (Mycawka,
2001, p. 18).
Jan Miodek writes with sarcasm about the confusion he encountered in the following excerpts:
wybitna socjolog,psycholog seksuolog kliniczny next to socjolożka,pracownik and kierownik next
to członkini and krytyczka literacka, devoted publicystka,przewodnicząca, but wiceprezes,komisarz,
minister.” He later refers to examples of parallel formal usages of terms such as redaktorka naczelna,
redaktor naczelna or redaktor naczelny with reference to female chief editors and główna księgowa
and główny księgowy with reference to female accountants. (Miodek, 2010). Miodek points out that
similar problems do not exist in Czech and Slovak which have a well-established tradition of using
suffixes to create feminine forms (rektorka,dekanka,profesorka,docentka,doktorka,prezeska) or
2“Dorota Sumińska – weterynarka z miłości do zwierząt”. These forms have as many supporters as opponents
(Kozak, 2012).
Wojciech Paweł Sosnowski, Joanna Satoła-Staśkowiak – 8/12 –
A contrastive analysis of feminitives in Bulgarian, Polish and Russian
in German, in which the difference between grammatical genders is less typologically pronounced
than in Slavic languages (the German suffix -in, corresponding to the Polish suffix -ka, is readily
used in lexemes such as Kanzlerin,Ministerin,Rektorin,Dekanin,Professorin) (Miodek, 2010).
3.3 Russian
3.3.1 The history of the literary Russian language shows that feminitives have always been used.
Forms such as княгиня,государыня,боярыня,сударыня,ключница,царица, and героиня have
entered the language for good. There are also independent names for female performers of various
activities such as банщица,ковровщица,веночница, and прядильница. Russian also has femi-
nine forms of professions that have never been given a masculine form, such as повитуха. Thus,
contemporary Russian has inherited a whole group of professional names or titles which have been
treated as norms and which do not have any negative connotations or stylistic colouring, for exam-
ple графиня,знахарка and the more modern трактористка,активистка, and стюардесса. It
should be stated here that feminine forms were most often derived from masculine forms, but the
history of the Russian language also contains reverse cases, e.g. медсестра – медбрат,ведьма –
ведьмак,доярка – дояр.
3.3.2 In Russian there are ways of forming nouns which define the wives of men who practise
particular professions. For high positions, the suffix -ша has been used (e.g. фельмаршальша,ад-
миральша,губернаторша), and for professions of a lower rank: -ха (e.g. дворничиха,слесариха,
мельничиха).
3.3.3 In the 20th century, it became a norm to use feminine names in two cases. Firstly, fe-
minitives were consistently applied to traditional “female” professions, for example доярка and
акушерка, and secondly, in those spheres where women had an important place, such as спортс-
менка and студентка. Other forms were also neutral, e.g. писательница,преподавательница,
and учительница. However, the stylistic rules of the Soviet era required the use of masculine
nouns in documents, such as преподаватель Иванова, and секретарь Петрова. The use of mas-
culine names of professions was also adopted in all formal situations to give a higher rank to the
individual.
Feminine forms were actively used in relation to traditionally “female” professions, such as дояр-
ка and акушерка, and in spheres in which women were prominently represented, e.g. спортсменка
and студентка. In other cases, the female sex of a specific professional was conveyed by the use
of verbs in the feminine gender in conjunction with the masculine noun designating the profession.
3.3.4 Recent decades have seen the active creation of feminine names of professions. So far,
historically inherited word formation resources have been used to this end. The relevant group of
suffixes includes: (а); -ниц(а) and -щиц(а); -иц (а); (а); ин(я); -есс (а); -ис(а), -их (а).
3.3.5 In the collected material the suffix (а)is the most widely applied: авторка,коммента-
торка;директорка;стилистка ;режиссёрка;дизайнерка;администраторка;лидерка;фо-
тографка;менеджерка;архитекторка;поэтка;блогерка;координаторка;пресс-секретарка ;
програмистка;юристка;редакторка;соорганизаторка;журналистка ;лаборантка;редак-
торка;терапевтка;иллюстраторка;аниматорка;геймерка ;реперка;персонажка;фрилан-
серка;профессорка;скульпторка;донорка ;товарищка;мемберка;депутатка ;психоанали-
тичка;галеристка and others. There are several reasons behind the frequency of this suffix.
Firstly, it is the most neutral in terms of style. The aforementioned lexemes, such as доярка,сту-
дентка, and спортсменка, do not carry any negative stylistic colouring. An element of contempt
can only be found in a small group of names with this suffix, e.g. училка , about a female teacher,
or химичка, about a female chemistry teacher. Secondly, this suffix is widely used in other Slavic
Wojciech Paweł Sosnowski, Joanna Satoła-Staśkowiak – 9/12 –
A contrastive analysis of feminitives in Bulgarian, Polish and Russian
languages (Bulgarian, Polish, Czech) and is very productive. Thirdly, it has only minimal seman-
tic constraints, although they still do exist, e.g. матроска (a type of garment), машинистка
(typist), богатырка (the name of the helmet worn by Red Army soldiers). Some terms created
in this way did not last very long, e.g. товарка, derived from товарищ (although the word то-
варищка appeared instead). On the other hand, one can observe the activation of older forms
created according to this model, e.g. танцорка,актёрка (to replace the existing танцовщица,
актриса).
3.3.6 Second in terms of frequency and productivity is the suffix -ниц(а): деятельница;следо-
вательница;руководительница;воспитательница;слушательница;писательница;вдохно-
вительница;создательница;айтишница;предпринимательница;обозревательница;поль-
зовательница etc. The choice of this suffix can be justified by the fact that as early as the twen-
tieth century, the majority of lexemes of this group were considered stylistically neutral (e.g. пи-
сательница). Constraints on its use, on the other hand, can be explained by the above-mentioned
stylistic opposition, i.e. in official language masculine forms were used, for instance руководитель
компании Иванова.
3.3.7 The same can be observed with regard to lexemes ending in -щиц(а). Some of them have
been widely used for a long time (e.g. уборщица,продавщица,сортировщица, and тестиров-
щица), while others are more recent and considerably more colloquial (галерейщица;пиарщица).
This group also includes lexemes with the less frequently used suffix -иц(а). Forms such as царица
and лётчица are well-established. In addition, the following examples of the recent use of this
word formation model, which are currently highly colloquial, have been recorded: докторица ;
физица;шефица. However, even for professions that have well-established female forms, only the
masculine gender is used in formal documentation and job advertisements (уборщик,продавец).
3.3.8 The productivity of the suffixes -ша and -ха (ie: modern derivatives such as судьиха,
президентша, and богатырша) is far lower. In the case of these suffixes, the reason for their
infrequent use lies in their stylistic colouring. In the twentieth century, they expressed a con-
temptuous attitude (e.g. секретарша), and were used in the colloquial style (маникюрщица,
педикюрша). Above all, they had a meaning which has already been mentioned – the wife of
a man who practises a particular profession, for instance професcорша,генеральша.
3.3.9 Another productive suffix is -ин(я). The use of this suffix to create female forms of nouns
referring to professional occupations started in the twentieth century in the context of narrower
professional specializations (филологиня,гинекологиня) and has now been actively adopted by
online bloggers to refer to many other occupations (e.g. министриня,фотографиня,хирургиня,
психологиня,врачиня).
3.3.10 The international suffix -есс(а)(cf. French -esse, Italian -essa) remains a productive
suffix in Russian: авторесса,министресса,премьер-министресса,адвокатесса,физикесса,де-
канесса,академесса,политикесса. The less frequent use of this suffix can be explained by cultural
considerations. As early as in the 20th century, Russian female poets, following the example of
Marina Tsvetayeva, called themselves поэт and rejected the term поэтесса. The least-frequently
used suffix is -иса, for instance директриса,актриса,инспектриса, or автомотриса. The latest
creations in terms of neologisms are feminine adjectival names of professions such as учёная or
пожарная.
The future of feminitives in Russian is in doubt. Maksim Krongauz, commenting on the debate
on feminitives, says: “we do not want to use words we are not used to and which make us smile.
Language use should be natural. I do not think this can be solved. It is too strongly connected
to ideological issues. I will, however, express my linguistic view: the point is that language is
Wojciech Paweł Sosnowski, Joanna Satoła-Staśkowiak – 10/12 –
A contrastive analysis of feminitives in Bulgarian, Polish and Russian
not really going in this direction. As women become increasingly emancipated, as we watch the
progress (in particular, the fact that women have all the professions that exist in the world),
language reflects this to a greater or lesser extent.” (Krongauz, 2018)
4 Summary
It is evident that in all three languages discussed in this paper users are increasingly conscious of
the existing gender imbalance in language, specifically with regard to professions and occupations.
However, a consensus on how gender inclusiveness is best achieved has yet to be worked out.
In English, the issue has been resolved in a relatively straightforward manner by shifting towards
full gender neutrality, i.e. by avoiding any lexemes that are gendered in one way or other (e.g. ‘po-
lice officer’ instead of policeman/policewoman; or ‘actor’ to refer to both male and female actors
instead of referring to the latter as ‘actress’). This solution is not readily available for Bulgarian,
Polish and Russian speakers because of the existence of grammatical gender. Instead, in all three
languages two competing trends are currently observable. One consists of using a single form (ty-
pically masculine) to refer to a profession and to the people pursuing it, regardless of their actual
gender. This entails avoiding feminitives even then they are well-established and acceptable in
formal speech, including in the case of professions in which women traditionally outnumber men.
This trend is particularly pronounced in the formal register. The other trend (observed largely
in online blogs) is towards always using feminine forms when referring to female professionals,
expressly with the purpose of addressing the existing imbalance. This approach often requires the
creation of new feminitives, either because the feminine forms do not exist at all, or because the
existing ones are negatively coloured.
The languages discussed in this paper share similar morphological and word formation me-
chanisms which facilitate the creation of feminine equivalents for the names of professions. The
quantitative analysis of the state of feminitives has shown that the Russian language, despite the
large number of word formation models, remains one of the less consistent language systems, as
there are no clearly regulated rules for creating forms for women’s professions. It can be obser-
ved that language users are increasingly seeking gender inclusiveness with reference to professions
through the derivation of feminine forms, including such synonymic word formation sequences as
физица,физичка, and физикесса, or pairs such as врачиня – врачица (in order to avoid the use
of negatively marked lexemes).
Forms of address, and their implementation in the form of discreet modal operators (Sosnow-
ski, 2016) in the shape of phrases used for a group of people, e.g. Уважаемые студенты и сту-
дентки, remain an unresolved problem. At present, masculine forms dominate when addressing
a group. These tendencies and the views of language users stand in opposition to, for example, the
Slovak language, cf. the article “Všeobecný mužský rod a maskulinizácia v slovenskom, poľskom
a bulharskom jazykovom prostredí” (Košková & Satoła-Staśkowiak, 2017).
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This work was financed by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Both of the authors participated equally in preparing conception and academic editing of this issue.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 PL License
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/pl/), which permits redistribution, commercial and non-commer-
cial, provided that the article is properly cited.
©The Authors 2019
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The category of expressions of politeness includes, among others, forms of address. Forms of address express honorification. Honorification can be defined as a special type of meaning that consists of information about the social and interpersonal relations between the speaker and the addressee, the speaker and the hearer, and the speaker and the protagonist of the predication. As far as their place in the syntactic structure is concerned, forms of address can either be integrated with the other elements of a predication or not. However, they are always part of a predication’s semantic structure. Moreover, forms of address convey the speaker’s attitude to the meaning of the predicate that they want to convey, which consequently means that forms of address also carry a modal element. Modality can be defined as a situation in which an individual is in a particular mental state, i.e. exhibits some kind of attitude to a situation or a type of situations. Forms of address can be categorised as modal operators conveying imperatives, requests, suppositions, etc. The term "operator" can be used for a unit of language when it changes the semantic structure of the predication. My research on honorification is mainly based on contemporary corpora, both monolingual and multilingual. In the present study, I analyse forms of address which carry imperative and optative meanings.
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