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OT: Gender Bending Moro

From:David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Date:Saturday, April 2, 2005, 9:24
Having just seen Sin City, and being too disturbed to fall asleep,
I decided to send an e-mail about something truly amazing our
class discovered about Moro today (Kordofanian language of

[Note: This is for real.  April Fool's day is over with, and I'm
pretty sure our consultant doesn't know about the custom.]

Anyone familiar with a language that has gender is probably
familiar with the following phenomenon, exemplified by the
Spanish below:

[Note: For the benefit of those who can't see diacritics, I'm
going to leave the tildes out.]

nina = girl
nino = boy
ninas = girls
ninos = boys *or* children

In other words, when the language lacks a generic word for
"child" or "kid", the masculine will be used as a gender-neutral
term, and the masculine plural will be used if there are a hundred
girls and one boy in the room.

Well, as it turns out, Moro, a real language, does *exactly* the

ombja = boy
Ne4a = girl
lembja = boys
Je4a = girls *or* children (e.g., 100 boys and 1 girl, or all boys, too)

And there can be no mistake about this.  We asked our consultant
to tell us a story about anything so that we could transcribe it,
figure it out, and have more than words and sentences to go by.
The story he told us was a brief personal history.  In the relevant
part, our consultant was talking about his brother, who had five
children (Je4a), three boys and two girls.  Our consultant then
told how he has four children (Je4a again), two boys and two

So, there you have it: A virtually undocumented language until
now strikes a blow for women's rights!

Well, maybe it's not as fantastic as all that, but it is interesting.

ObConlang, I immediately thought of Laadan.  When I went to
look it up, though, it appears that the site I was familiar with
has disappeared...  That site actually had some of the grammar
online.  The sites I can find now are a kind of history of the
construction of the language, and a blog.

In my own languages, I (very artificially) create a male, female
and gender-neutral version of every human term that usually
has a gender (e.g., "man", "cousin", etc.), and then for the rest,
they all tend to be gender neutral ("worker", "monarch", etc.).
I know it's artificial, but that's the way I like to do it.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that datum, and maybe spark
a discussion of gender/noun classification in conlangs.  Now
I'll try to go to sleep...  *shudder*

"sunly eleSkarez ygralleryf ydZZixelje je ox2mejze."
"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

-Jim Morrison


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