The Reanalysis of German -end as a Marker of Gender-Sensitive Language Use. A Process of Exaptation


The Reanalysis of German -end as a Marker of Gender-Sensitive Language Use. A Process of Exaptation. (2015). JournaLIPP, 4, 85-96.


This article demonstrates the emergence of a new grammatical marker which has the function of expressing gender-sensitive language use. We propose that this linguistic innovation is a product of an individual’s use of language rather han a result of intentional planning. Both language-internal and language-external factors lead to linguistic innovations. This claim reflects that of Keller (2003), who explains that there is, on a macro-level, a spontaneous order triggered by concrete language use on a micro-level. To give an example, the participle suffix -end is currently used to meet the maxims of gender-sensitive language use. This is clearly a morphological innovation. What we thus observe is a process of reanalysis which can be interpreted as exaptation in the evolutionary sense of the word’s meaning. Exaptation means the evolution of a new function on the basis of an old form (see Gould/Vrba 1982; Simon 2010). In this article, we will demonstrate with select case studies from reformulated texts found in legal documents (e.g. the German Road Traffic Act) and study regulations that the present participle suffix -end (‘-ing’) is reanalysed in order to highlight gender-sensitive language use. Furthermore, this article will address the insistent dominance of the generic masculine in language. It seems that the generic masculine is a basic and highly economic grammatical category, verifiable not only in already engendered nouns but also in pronouns. The dominance of generic-masculine forms is also evidence for the great importance of generic language use in general.