Contrastive Analysis between the Yin-Yang Philosophical Concept in East Asia Cultural Sphere and Grammatical Gender in Romanic Languages

Authors: Tak-sum Wong (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)
Speakers: Tak-sum Wong
Strand: General Sociolinguistics
Session Type: General Session


In the East Asia Cultural Sphere, a.k.a. Sinosphere, the concept of yin-yang (female- male) has been last long and has been applied in daily life such as divination, medicine and calendar-making. In many languages around the world, grammatical gender exists, which affects the forms of other related words in the same sentence (‘agreement’). The yin-yang concept in East Asian philosophy describes two primal opposing but complementary concepts found in the universe while in many cases the grammatical genders of the words are assigned arbitrarily. Apparently, the relation between the yin-yang concept and grammatical gender seem to be loose. However, tracing to their source, the origin of both yin-yang and grammatical gender is arguably derived from the perception of
the things in the environment during the primitive period since the birth of the proto-languages. In this study, 79 pairs of nouns that are assigned with yin and yang properties in traditional East Asia philosophy are collected. The yin and yang’s are then compared with the grammatical gender of the corresponding words in four European languages, namely,
French, German, Italian and Spanish. After that, the yin and yang in the philosophy of East Asia and the grammatical gender of European language are compared. Consequently, two identical aspects and eleven distinct properties are generalized:
yin-yang ————-grammatical gender
not necessarily present———–mandatory to each noun
two classes across different EA languages————-varying depending to the language
varies, depending on the opposite word————fixed to each noun
not affecting other words in the same clause——–affecting the form of other words within the same clause
assignment fixed across different languages————-assignment varies in different languages
nouns, adjectives, verbs———– only nouns and pronouns
fixed for different word class———–related to word class
opposite concepts implying different yin-yang————— opposite concepts can receive identical gender assignment
no way to identify from the word form——–can be identified from the word form
Table 1 Distinctive properties between yin-yang and grammatical gender

Keywords: European Languages, Sinosphere, Grammatical Gender