THEORY: Language for a Multi-Species Society: Sex-Based Genders...
|From:||Doug Dee <amateurlinguist@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, July 10, 2005, 19:08|
In a message dated 7/9/2005 9:27:48 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
>And I'm not convinced that natlang gender systems have really much to do
>with the reproductive gender anyway, it's more about the geno/fenotypical
>gender (if even that.) Though if someone knows a counterexample where there
>exists (eg) one gender for fertile and one for infertile women, do slap it
>into my face.
I've never heard of such a thing either. I did once read that some dialects
of Polish (or was it Czech?) put married women & unmarried women into
different genders. (Married women go into the historically feminine gender, and
unmarried women into the historically neuter gender.) I suppose this is not
terribly surprising, given that a number of IE languages put words for children
generally into the neuter, and this is of course consistent with your remark that
it's not a person's reproductive abilities that determine the gender.
I suspect that a in language that evolved among a species (or group of
species) that featured individuals who changed sex, individuals of multiple sexes,
etc, a sex-based gender system simply wouldn't arise. I suspect that the
reason sex-based gender is fairly common among human languages is that:
1. Sex is (generally) permanent, so that the gender category for a person
will not generally change (except perhaps in the case of a child growing to
adulthood and graduating from neuter in some languages, and the marriage example
2. Sex is often socially relevant (in determining who your potential marriage
partners are, what sort of social roles a person can fill etc.)
3. A person's sex is generally fairly obvious to an observer (apart from the
physical differences between men & women, in many societies they dress
differently, have personal names drawn from different sets, etc.)
In a species with frequent sex-changes, categorizing people by sex for
grammatical purposes would be both less useful and more difficult. In a language
spoken by several species, I suspect it would be more likely to have a
grammatical gender system based on species than one based on sex.
This of course is all speculation.