Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Gender (was: LANGUAGE LAWS)

From:Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
Date:Saturday, October 24, 1998, 5:34
Raymond A. Brown wrote:
> Yes, and I've come across a theory that the familiar IE three gender system > is the result of two 'different architectures' - an animate/inanimate > division & a male/female division - but I don't recall which is thought to > be the older system.
Animate/inanimate is thought to be older. It is thought that the feminine began as a sub-class of the animate gender. The theory states that long ago, there were no genders. Instead, this early PIE had an ergative case-system. Since animate nouns were more often agents than inanimate nouns, they developed a nominative-accusative system, with the old ergative becoming nominative. Inanimate nouns eventually also acquired the nominative-accusative system, simply losing the ergative (which is why, according to the theory, nominative and accusative are frequently the same for neuter nouns in IE languages, e.g., Latin bellum/bellum, cf. pater/patrum). Thus, an animate/inanimate distinction arose. Later, a subclass of the animate nouns, which included feminine nouns, became differentiated from the other animate nouns, to form a new gender. Since it included most of the feminine animates, it eventually became a feminine gender (i.e., feminine animates that were "masculine" drifted over to the "feminine" gender). I'm not sure how widely accepted this theory is, tho. -- "It's bad manners to talk about ropes in the house of a man whose father was hanged." - Irish proverb ICQ: 18656696 AOL: NikTailor