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THEORY: Language for a Multi-Species Society: Non-SexBased Gender Among AIs

From:tomhchappell <tomhchappell@...>
Date:Saturday, July 16, 2005, 19:46
Hello, Doug Dee, John Vertical, Rodlox, and others; and thanks for

I have been reading Anna Siewierska's "Person", in which I came
across a version of the Animacy Hierarchy that extends the lower end

This inspired me to do something about something that has
been "bothering" me (mildly) for a little while now.

The version (of the Animacy Hierarchy) in question is her (51)c. on
her page 149, which looks like this:

human > animate > inanimate > abstract

I had been thinking for a while that my (so far, merely inchoately
intended) conlang might "need" a separate "gender" for abstractions.

I decided that, in addition to the features of "Sapient"
(vs. "Nonsapient"), "Animate" (vs. "Inanimate"), and "Living"
(vs. "Nonliving"), that I already mentioned in my earlier posts to
this thread, I should add a feature of "Concrete" (vs. "Abstract").

But if I do so I will also have to add some "feature geometry", which
I enjoyed avoiding before (even though it meant I had to admit I
couldn't imagine a Sapient Inanimate Living entity).

The rule(s) will be that
-Anything Sapient has to be Concrete; and,
-Anything Animate has to be Concrete.

(Abstractions cannot speak new sentences, nor understand new
sentences, nor learn languages --- so they can't be Sapient.)
(Abstractions cannot move from one place to another under their own
motive power and control --- so they can't be Animate.)

So there will be only two (2) additional "genders";
"Nonliving Abstract" and "Living Abstract".

Okay, so, those of you who have read this far are going to ask,
"What the CVCC is a Living Abstraction?"

Remember when we said that infectious diseases would be (nonsapient
inanimate) Living?  (Because they can grow or multiply or --- this is
the key one in the "infectious disease" case --- spread.)

Well, an idea or organized group of ideas which happens to
be "infectious" or "contagious" --- a "meme", in not-too-unmodern SF
parlance --- could be considered "Living".  Of course, it would also
have to be considered "Abstract".

In fact, if the "meme" is one which causes the person who "catches"
it to destroy himself/herself along with multiple others, after first
spreading the "meme" to a few, that "meme" might reasonably be called
an Abstract "infectious disease".

So, I end up with ten (10) genders, instead of eight:

Sapient Animate Living [Concrete] ("Humans" *here* and *now*)

Sapient Animate Nonliving [Concrete] (Self-controlled self-propelled
mobile AIs w/o ability to add-on to selves nor reproduce selves)

Sapient Inanimate Living [Concrete] (I don't know)

Sapient Inanimate Nonliving [Concrete] (AIs which are not self-
propelled and can't control their means of motion)

Nonsapient Animate Living [Concrete] ("Animate" *here* and *now*)

Nonsapient Animate Nonliving [Concrete] (Automated self-controlled
self-propelled machines w/o intelligence and w/o ability to add-on to
selves nor reproduce selves)

Nonsapient Inanimate Living [Concrete] (Plants and fungi, e.g.)

Nonsapient Inanimate Nonliving Concrete (Rocks, stars, etc.)

[Nonsapient] [Inanimate] Living Abstract (Memes, e.g. -- growing or
spreading religions or schools of thought or movements in politics or
art or litcrit or whatever)

[Nonsapient] [Inanimate] Nonliving Abstract (really, really boring
ideas, for example)


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 of 32
to 40.


What does anyone else think?


Thanks for writing,

Tom H.C. in MI
where it is unusually hot (90F) and humid (80%) for MI