Gender and Language, Vol 10, No 2 (2016)

SEX-FOR-GENDER metonymy? A consideration of three expressions from Akan

Grace Diabah
Issued Date: 15 Jul 2016


Social constructionists consider gender as socially constructed, fluid and context-specific. An individual can thus behave in ways considered as either masculine or feminine in various contexts, irrespective of their sex. However, speakers of Akan (in Ghana) sometimes talk about people who behave in ways considered as contradictory to sociocultural expectations about gendered behaviour for ‘their sex’ as metonymically having two sexes. In this paper, I discuss three Akan metonymic expressions that exemplify this: Kojo besia (Monday-born male who is also female), ɔbaa barima (woman-man) and ɔbaa akokɔnini (female-rooster). I argue that such expressions derive from a conceptual metonymy ‘SEX-FOR-GENDER’, and discuss how the analysis of such expressions contributes to theoretical perspectives on gender and language and to our understanding of metonymy. Although the understanding and interpretation of these metonymies appear quite essentialist, I argue that it may also be read as lending some support to the argument by some social constructionists that sex, like gender, is a social construction.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v10i2.19393


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