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Reading a newspaper article published today I was confused by the following sentence:

Об этом 20 мая заявила депутат парламента, исполнительный секретарь исполкома оппозиционного блока «Победа» Марина Таубер.

Since we have "заявила" the subject is feminine. What is the subject from a grammatical viewpoint? I would say that it is депутат, which is masculine, while Марина Таубер is a "приложение", but then we should write "заявил", so I would rather have written this sentence as follows:

Об этом 20 мая заявила депутатка парламента, исполнительная секретарша исполкома оппозиционного блока «Победа» Марина Таубер.

or maybe as follows:

Об этом 20 мая заявил депутат парламента, исполнительный секретарь исполкома оппозиционного блока «Победа» Марина Таубер.

Which of the three sentences are correct? More generally, what is the rule?

3 Answers 3

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Many profession names lack well-established, free of demeaning connotations feminitives. Депутатка, писательница, поэтесса, докторша don't sound quite as honourable as their masculine counterparts депутат, писатель, поэт, доктор. I think it's for the same reason that in English we say 'Madam Chairman' and not 'Madam Chairwoman'.

With that in mind, many choose to use masculine profession names when speaking of women. Sentences like your example use the so-called "semantic agreement" for the predicate: since the subject refers to a woman, the predicate is feminine (заявила vs заявил).

There are, however, many established feminitives: учительница, студентка, пианистка. But even they can be replaced with masculine names to make them sound more noble: Она – настоящий учитель.

To even things out a bit, there's a handful of feminitives that lack masculine counterparts: няня, прачка, швея, балерина.

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    Here is another very confusing example to add to the list: the terms "машинист" and "машинистка" refer to two different professions. Originally, both terms used to mean "machinist" — a machine operator, male and female respectively. However, historically the terms evolved. Now "машинист" most often refers to a train driver, while "машинистка" — to a typist. When referring to a female train driver or a male typist, the confusion is usually clarified with additional words. Commented Jun 17 at 14:15
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I would like to add one detail to the answers already posted that is often forgotten. The correct way to form a feminitives is the ending “ца” or “ка”: депутатка, авторка, певица, учительница. Feminitives ending in "ka" have only recently begun to really spread, and they not only communicate what gender the person is talking about, but also what the ideological position of the person who is speaking is: if a person says "депутатка" or "режиссерка", then he communicates his/her pro-feminist position. However there is another way, more familiar to people who speak and read a lot in Russian - the ending “ша”: "генеральша", "докторша". There are many more of these words in Russian literature and in Russian speech, and they do not carry any an ideological message. Unfortunately, they actually have a different meaning. "Генеральша" is not a female general, but a general's wife; "докторша" is the doctor's wife and so on. In general, for now I would recommend using the "депутатка" form only if you want to communicate your pro-feminist views. "Депутат" is still perceived as a gender-neutral form. This may change over time, but this is the way things are right now.

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In this case the main subject is name Марина Таубер. Also, in Russia we use a lot of profession names as an gender-neutral, like in case of "депутат". You can say "заявила депутат" and it will be correct (if, and only if you named her before). But if you don't wanna take an exam, I'd recomend you to use feminitives. In non-formal language most commo way is -к-, and you are correct with option "депутатка". You may know, that feminitives is hot topic for Russian onlain-language because of feminist's activism from one side and conservator's from another. I am profeminist and prefer "депутатка", as you see.

In aldfashion we had another option: "депутатша" (Chekhov use "авторша" for the female writer), but as commentor before say, for native speakers it рфму demeaning connotations now.

So, the formal order is "депутат, она" after the femail name, non-formal was include option "депутатка" if you want it, and you also can use "депутатша", but someone can read it as ironic ore depreciating.

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  • If "the main subject is name Марина Таубер", what is the grammatical function of депутат?
    – Bruno
    Commented May 21 at 15:30
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    Here main subject is compound: "депутат парламента Марина Таубер". It becomes more obvious if you shuffle parts of this sentence just a bit: "Об этом 20 мая заявила депутат парламента Марина Таубер, (who is also) исполнительный секретарь исполкома оппозиционного блока «Победа»". The last part then is "дополнение", that's what "приложение" as you named it is actually called in russian textbooks.
    – ZuOverture
    Commented May 22 at 9:36
  • депутатша is a completely acceptable word when referring to deputy's wife.
    – alamar
    Commented May 23 at 13:08

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