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The meaning of Gender - change my mind

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/23/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,011 times Debate No: 118694
Debate Rounds (3)
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A. "A set of grammatical categories applied to nouns, Shown by the form of the noun itself or the choice of words that modify, Replace, Or refer to it. Often correlated in part with sex or animateness, As in the choice of 'he' to replace 'the man', 'she' to replace 'the woman' or 'it' to replace 'the table'. "

B. "One of the categories in such a set, As masculine, Feminine, Neuter, Or common"

People erroneously use the word gender to describe people, When the meaning has always been clearly about grammar.


Words get their meaning from common use. Without the meaning we pour into words, Words would just be sounds or scribblings on paper. We agree, By convention, To associate certain sounds with certain meanings, And we call those "words. "

Most words have more than one meaning because they are used in more than one way. The various meanings of a word are called the "semantic domain" of that word. If you look in a dictionary, The semantic domain of each word is captured by numbering the various definitions for that word. A good dictionary will list them in order from most common to least common.

Dictionaries don't dictate the meaning of words. Rather, They attempt to capture the common uses of words. In other words, A word doesn't carry it's meaning because the dictionary defines it that way. Rather, Words get their meanings from common use, And dictionaries just try to capture it.

But dictionaries do have to pass some sort of quality assurance by the publishers of those dictionaries. So they are reliable sources of information about the meanings of words.

"Gender" has more than one meaning. Pro is entirely correct in how he define's "gender. " The problem with his position is in his use of the word, "The. " The definition he gave is not THE definition of Gender. Rather, It is A definition of "gender. " "Gender" has more than one definition because it is used in more than one way.

We sometimes use gender to refer to whether a word is masculine or feminine. This is the grammatical sense of the word, "Gender. " That's the definition Pro is going with.

But we sometimes also use "gender" to refer to pipe fittings. A male pipe fitting has its threads on the outside while a female pipe fitting has its threads on the inside.

Sometimes, We use "gender" to refer to whether a person is male or female. You see the word used this way when you fill out questionnaires. For example, If you go to the dentist for the first time, They'll want you to fill out a piece of paper with your information on it, And one question will be "Gender: male __ female __. " That is not asking you whether you are a masculine or feminine noun. That is asking you whether you are a male or female human being.

In the last ten years or so, The word, "gender, " has begun to take on a new meaning. Whereas it used to be used as a synonym for sex, It has now come to refer to a person's self-identification. This is not a change in meaning so much as it is an additional meaning. I'm not saying it began ten years ago. "Gender" was used this way as early as the 1970's. What I'm saying is that this new meaning didn't come into common use until about ten years ago. But since common use is a sufficient criteria for determining the meaning of a word, "gender" does now carry this meaning.

There are multiple dictionaries that all agree that "gender" carries more meanings than the grammatical meaning. The 1983 edition of Funk & Wagnalls dictionary, For example, Defines "gender" in these ways:

1. 1. A. One of two or more categories of words or affixes based upon differences of sex or sometimes upon other distinctions. B. Such categories collectively, Or a system of such categories, C. The distinctive forms used for such categories.
2. The quality of being male or female.

Miriam Websters defines "gender" in these ways:

1. A. A subclass within a grammatical class (such as noun, Pronoun, Adjective, Or verb) of a language that is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics (such as shape, Social rank, Manner of existence, Or sex) and that determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms.

b. Membership of a word or a grammatical form in such a subclass

c. An inflectional form (see INFLECTION sense 3a) showing membership in such a subclass

2. A. SEX

b. The behavioral, Cultural, Or psychological traits typically associated with one sex

So we can see that in both dictionaries, "sex" is one of the meanings of "gender. "

Since the semantic domain of "gender" includes more than the grammatical meaning, Pro's position is false.
Debate Round No. 1


robjohn forfeited this round.


My opponent has forfeited, And I didn't even get an email about it.
Debate Round No. 2


robjohn forfeited this round.


philochristos forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by philochristos 3 years ago
Dang it. That's my first time ever forfeiting. I forgot about this debate. I guess they don't send email notifications anymore when it's your turn.
Posted by SorghumJohnson 3 years ago
Come on now, "gender" is a word. In most cases, The precise definition of words, Without some reference authority, Are arbitrary. Are you proposing a debate over the "current" "popular" definition of a word without a historical context or controlling authority to pin its meaning down? The ensuing debate would be lost in equally "current" and "popular" sentiments without any rock solid foundation.

The working definitions of words change over time. Without pinning it town or adding more construct to it, You're setting out a sucker bet for anyone who might be naive enough to take you up on the debate.

On the other hand, I might be tempted if you would accept the premise that when it comes to the meaning of English words, Oxford dictionary is the final authority, In which case you would lose in one stroke since Oxford begins its noun definition as referring to either of the two sexes, Male or female. There is less flexibility to argue with the convention that people with a y chromosome in every cell are defined as male, And others are defined as female. At least to the extent of the assertion that it is incorrect to use male and female to apply to people. On the other hand, If you could show that there is a substantial contingent of people who have y chromosomes in some cells but not others, You might be able to pull a rabbit out of the proverbial hat.

With respect to the pronoun argument, I could take issue with your presumption of their point in existing in the first place. Employment of the term "replace" to explain the function of pronouns seems overly harsh. Pronouns are merely a tool for economizing language to save time, Breath, And/or keystrokes. Since it's perfectly possible to convey an idea without using pronouns at all, It stands to reason that the moment one overly complicates them or taxes their brevity, They cease to be of use at all.
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