Semantically misogynistic

A language where son is a son but daughter is just a girl

In Azerbaijani, as opposed to the specific words used to describe a son, oghul, and a boy, oghlan, the word used to designate a daughter is identical to the word girl, qiz, making it virtually interchangeable.

The kinship system of the Azerbaijani language presents a very interesting case. Despite having a rather simplistic system of kinship terms for blood relationships similar to English, there is a very complex meaning structure, similar to Russian, when it comes to marital ties and familial relationships.

Azerbaijani kinship terms for consanguineous relationships are in many ways similar to American English. As defined by Burling (1970), such terms are based on egocentricity and are used to represent: a) sex, b) generation or age, and c) consanguinity (p. 19). Despite the neutral cover terms for parent (valideyn) and child (ovlad) as well as spouse (heyat yoldashi) that are similar to English, Azerbaijani kinship terms for immediate family reveal deeply sexist attitudes.

Table 1. The kinship terms used for immediate family members in the Azerbaijani and English languages

Contrary to the specific word used to describe a son, oghul, and a boy, oghlan, the word used to designate a daughter is identical to the word girl, qiz, making it virtually interchangeable. This could be related to societal perceptions of girl’s role in a family. Historically, boys have been viewed as the continuation of the bloodline, whereas girls have been considered temporary dwellers of the home until they get married and move to their husbands’ home (UNDP Azerbaijan, 2007). Thus, it would have made sense to assign the son a specific role of oghul, as opposed to the daughter who will marry and leave as any other qiz (girl).

Moreover, the word designating a wife, arvad can also be used to refer to any woman in a somewhat derogatory way. On the contrary, the word designating a husband, ar, can also signify strength and heroism.

Compared to Russian, Azerbaijani has a more complex kinship system for designating members of extended family. According to Quseynzade (2013), compared to just sixteen gender-specific Russian terms used to designate marital and familial relationships, Azerbaijani accounts up to twenty such terms (some presented in Table 2). Wardhaugh (2010) contends that such designations in Russian are increasingly becoming irrelevant with changes in family relations. I would argue that his assertion could only be representative of urban areas and younger generations; in most rural areas, very much similar to Azerbaijan, such terms are still widely used.

Table 2. List of terms used to designate members of extended family (adapted from Quseynzade (2013)

Such a complex kinship system that is entrenched with misogyny might suggest two things about societal norms in Azerbaijan: 1) men are viewed as the source of power, continuation of the lineage while women are devalued; 2) familial ties are important in maintaining that said power and are used to reinforce the gender roles.

Sources:

Burling, R. (1970). American Kinship Terms Once More. Southwestern Journal Of Anthropology, 26(1), 15–24. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/soutjanth.26.1.3629266

Quseynzade, V. R. (2013). Korpus Russkikh i Azerbaydjanskikh terminov svoystva v aspekte kontrastivnoy lingvistiki [Body of Russian and Azerbaijani terms of affinity from the perspective of contrastive linguistics]. Aktual’nie voprosi sotsialnikh issledovaniy i sotsialnoy raboti: materiali mezhdunarodnoy nauchno-prakticheskoy konferentsii, 51, 12–17. Retrieved from http://sociosphera.com/files/conference/2013/k-11_05_13.pdf

UNDP Azerbaijan. (2007). Baku, Azerbaijan. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/nhdr2007gendereng.pdf

Wardhaugh, R. (2010). An Introduction to sociolinguistics. Wiley-Blackwell, 229–252

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