Re: THEORY: Language for a Multi-Species Society: Non-SexBased Gender Among AIs
|Date:||Wednesday, July 20, 2005, 22:36|
Hello, John, Doug, and others. Thanks for writing.
[TERMINOLGY: "RATIONAL" vs "SAPIENT"]
Having read more of Greville G. Corbett's "Gender", I think the
prevailing terminology for "people who can talk" vs "people who can't
talk" on the Animacy (or whatever) Hierarchy or Scale, is "RATIONAL",
not "SAPIENT" as I had proposed.
So, I am going to "change" my conlang's grammarians' (they only exist
in my imagination, after all) terminology from "Sapient vs
Nonsapient" genders to "Rational vs Nonrational" genders.
[SUB-GENDERS AND MORE ON THE SEX-BASED PART]
Corbett says in "Gender" that Slavonic languages are
Slavonic languages mostly have three genders, as most IE languages
do; and these are usually called Masculine, Feminine, and Neuter.*
Each of these genders is developing two "subgenders"; Animate and
Not all categories target words have to agree with the subgenders;
and whether agreement with the subgender is required depends on the
combination of gender and number of the controlling noun.
It is something like (I am making this up so details may vary);
if the controlling noun is Feminine, then the target word has to
agree with the sub-gender, whether the controlling noun is singular
if the controlling noun is Masculine Plural, then the target word has
to agree with the sub-gender,
but agreement is optional if the controlling noun is Masculine
if the controlling noun is Neuter Singular, then the target word has
to agree with the sub-gender,
but sub-gender agreement is impossible if the controlling noun is
Also, languages vary a lot in which categories of words are targets
In English, for instance, practically the only thing that has to
agree in gender is the 3rd-person pronoun that co-refers to the
So I was thinking that I might make the 25-type "sex-based genders"
actually all be sub-genders of "Living"; and make them apply only to
the pronouns used to refer [+L] nouns' referents.
[SEX-BASED "GENDERS" AS SUB-GENDERS OF "LIVING"]
First, "Living" entities are those that can grow or spread or
Sex-based genders will apply only to those that can spread and
multiply, in the sense of, reproduce themselves.
So "Living" entities that can only grow or spread, but not multiply,
will be of "neuter" subgender.
The main subgender will be Feminine, which will apply to all entities
which can "bear" young. This will include asexually-reproducing
organisms, and machines that can copy themselves.
There will also be a subgender of Masculine, which will apply to any
entity that can "fertilize" a Feminine entity (cause/assist "her"
to "bear" "young" that will then "resemble" both "her" and "him".)
These will not be mutually exclusive; some entities will be both
Feminine and Masculine, some just Feminine, some just Masculine. But
there will be no Masculine entities of any species that does not also
contain Feminine entities; whereas, any entity that can reproduce
itself without the help of another will be Feminine.
[REGISTERS AND SPECIALIST LANGUAGE (HUSBANDMEN'S LANGUAGE)]
I notice in reading dialog of stories set on farms amongst people who
are all multi-generational farmers, that their usual word for a pig,
for instance, isn't "pig"; it's "gelt" or "boar" or "sow" or
something. In other words, even when they are not talking about
reproduction, the important animals -- the ones they are in the
business of caring for -- are always referred to in a way that evokes
the reproductive capacity, as well as the reproductive history, of
This was even if the species in question was not one that milk was
I imagine a group of plant-husbandmen (marihuana-hemp growers, for
instance, where that was legal) might also refer to male plants and
female plants by different terms all the time, whether or not they
were talking about the plants' reproducing.
So, I think the Feminine and Masculine subgenders of the Living gender
could have variants for "past feminine", "future feminine", "past
masculine", "future masculine".
The difference between a Heifer and a Cow could be the difference
between a 'futFEM' and a 'FEM'.
The difference between a Bull and an Ox could be the difference
between a 'MASC' and a 'pastMASC'.
Summarizing, everybody's language could have four sub-genders of
Living; [-FM]="Neuter" and [+F-M]="Feminine" (which one of these
should be unmarked?), and [+M-F]="Masculine" and [+FM]
These sub-genders would be marked only on pronouns.
In "Husbandsmen's Register" (Hunters, Herdsmen, Zoologists, and
Farmers would speak it of Living Animals; Foresters, Farmers, and
Botanists would speak it of Living plants; Nursery-keepers and
Physicians would speak it of Living Rationals) these subgenders would
acquire nuances. An entity which was -FEM could nevertheless be
+PastF (maybe it was spayed) or +FutF (maybe it is immature) or both;
and entity which was -MASC could nevertheless be +PastM (maybe it has
been gelded) or +FutM (maybe it is immature) or both. So, in this
register, Living would have the whole 25 subgenders. Again, I would
mark these only on pronouns.
Everybody then has 12 new subgenders;
[+RAL], [+RL-A], [+AL-R], and [+LC-RA] would each split into 4
subgenders; [+FM], [+F-M], [+M-F], [-FM].
(Note [+L-C] can only be Neuter.)
Note that the Husbandsmen's Register does not really multiply the
total number of genders by 25. Each style of husbandsmen adds the
extra sub-sub-genders just to one kind of Living entity.
[+RL] Physicians have now 42 new subgenders;
instead of 4 kinds of [+RAL] they now have 25 kinds,
instead of 4 kinds of [+RL-A] they now have 25 kinds.
[+LC-R] Farmers likewise have 42 new subgenders;
25 (instead of 4) kinds of [+AL-R],
and 25 (instead of 4) kinds of [+LC-AR].
The other specialists use just 21 new subgenders each.
Hunters, Herdsmen, and Zoologists have 25 kinds of [+AL-R] instead of
Foresters and Botanists have 25 kinds of [+LC-RA] instead of 4.
Alright, what does anyone think?
Slavonic genders are usually called Masculine (which contains all or
most semantically male sex-differentiable nouns, as well as all non-
sex-differentiable Declension I nouns), Feminine (which contains most
semantically female sex-differentiable nouns, as well as all non-sex-
differentiable Declension II nouns and regular Declension III nouns --
semantically female Declension I nouns are "hybrid" gender), and
Neuter (which contains all Declension IV nouns and most irregular
Declension III nouns, except for one semantically-female irregular
Declension III noun).
Tom H.C. in MI
--- In email@example.com, John Vertical <johnvertical@H...>
> >I have been reading Anna Siewierska's "Person", in which I cameacross a
> >version of the Animacy Hierarchy that extends the lower endsomewhat.
> >The version (of the Animacy Hierarchy) in question is her (51)c.on her
> >page 149, which looks like this:
> >human > animate > inanimate > abstract
> Well, what do you know! That's almost exactly the hierarchy /gender system
> I'm currently using in Uwjge!
> Using your markup, hers are [+SA(L)C] [-S +AC] [-SA +C] [-SAC].Mine are
> approx. [+S] [-S +AC] [-SA +C] [-SAC].
> (I can't speak for her system, but myself, I find theliving/unliving
> disctinction not really useful enough to make it as basic as agender.)
> >(Abstractions cannot speak new sentences, nor understand newsentences, nor
> >learn languages --- so they can't be Sapient.)
> I think some would position God or gods and other spiritual beingsas [+S
> >(Abstractions cannot move from one place to another under theirown motive
> >power and control --- so they can't be Animate.)
> This might be a little stretched ... but how about dreams? They'recertainly
> not concrete, and yet they can be quite animate.
> >Remember when we said that infectious diseases would be(nonsapient
> >inanimate) Living? (Because they can grow or multiply or --- thisis the
> >key one in the "infectious disease" case --- spread.)
> >Well, an idea or organized group of ideas which happens tobe "infectious"
> >or "contagious" --- a "meme", in not-too-unmodern SF parlance ---could be
> >considered "Living". Of course, it would also have to beconsidered
> A good analogy. I think people who haven't discovered germs yetwould likely
> consider real diseases "abstract" as well...
> >[Nonsapient] [Inanimate] Living Abstract (Memes, e.g. -- growingor
> >spreading religions or schools of thought or movements in politicsor art
> >or litcrit or whatever)
> >[Nonsapient] [Inanimate] Nonliving Abstract (really, really boring
> >ideas, for example)
> Drawing the line between these two groups is not easy. Even thememeticists
> themselves do not agree which ideas are memes and which (if any)are not.
> Now, your examples are quite obvious ... but what about publicopinion?
> History? Widely accepted beliefs & theories - and not only "theoryof
> evolution" level, but also "grass is green"? With this disctinctionin
> place, the language would end up having at least some of your ownbeliefs
> >I could abbreviate this, I think into a "bit vector"; for example,
> >[+S +A +L +C] == Sapient Animate Living Concrete
> >[+S +A -L +C] == Sapient Animate Nonliving Concrete
> >[+S -A -L +C] == Sapient Inanimate Nonliving Concrete
> >[-S -A -L +C] == Nonsapient Inanimate Nonliving Concrete
> >[-S -A -L -C] == Nonsapient Inanimate Nonliving Abstract
> >That requires only 13 characters to write the gender, instead of32 to 40.
> >Thanks for writing,
> >Tom H.C. in MI
> And if you group all the pluses and minuses together, and skipundefined
> distinctions, as I've done in this message, you can save a fewfurther
> John Vertical
> PS. I'll reply to your other messages as soon as I have the time...my
> available internet time is currently relatively limited.
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