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|Look up epicene or epicenity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
The adjective gender-neutral may describe epicenity (and both terms are associated with the terms gender-neutral language, gender-neutral pronoun, gender-blind, and unisex).
In linguistics, an epicene word has the same form for male and for female referents. In some cases, the term common gender is also used, but should not be confused with common or appellative as a contrary to proper (as in proper noun). In English, for example, the epicene (or common) nouns cousin and violinist can refer to a man or a woman, and so can the epicene (or common) pronoun one. The noun stewardess and the third-person singular pronouns he and she on the other hand are not epicene (or common).
- The same word can refer to either masculine or feminine signified concept, while retaining its own, either masculine or feminine, grammatical gender. For example, Classical Greek λαγώς (lagṓs) 'hare' is masculine, but can refer to male and female hares (he-hares and she-hares), and ἀλώπηξ (alṓpēks) 'fox' is feminine, but can refer to male and female foxes (he-foxes and she-foxes). For this meaning, the term common gender is different from epicene gender.
- An article, noun, adjective, or pronoun has identical masculine and feminine forms, but they don't follow always one agreement pattern.
In the French language, the noun élève 'schoolchild' and the adjective espiègle 'mischievous' can be either masculine or feminine, but they are differentiated by the article:
|un élève espiègle (masculine)||'a mischievous schoolboy' (or in some cases 'a mischievous schoolchild' when gender is unknown)|
|une élève espiègle (feminine)||'a mischievous schoolgirl'|
The same can happen in French with the epicene elided singular articles (l'), the definite (les) and undefinite (des) plural articles, and the contractions aux (à + les) and des (de + les) when in contact with the noun, so the adjective takes the task of marking the gender:
|les adultes français (masculine)||'the French male adults' or 'the French adults [of any gender]'|
|les adultes françaises (feminine)||'the French female adults'|
For these meanings the term common is also used.
However, there can be cases where the agreement cannot force the disambiguation, even with the presence of pronoun, article, noun and adjective when they are all epicene:
|moi, l'élève moldave (masculine or feminine)||'I, the Moldavian student'|
This can be further complicated when dealing with spoken French (when some orthographical nuances are lost) or when referring to biological entities with non-binary gender attributes, such as the hermaphrodite snail or monoecious plants.
- Gender marking in job titles
- Gender neutrality in English
- Generic antecedents
- Male as norm
- Unisex names
|Look up epicene in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Psychology: A Journey of Discovery 4th ed.
- Dictionary.com: "epicene" (accessed on 10 August 2015)
- Goodwin, William W. : A Greek Grammar, revised and enlarged ed. Boston: Ginn & Company, 1895, p. 35, § 158