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gender (was: Re: Writing Systems and Biscriptal...)

From:Matt Pearson <jmpearson@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 1, 1999, 21:45
Tokana distinguishes animate from inanimate nouns,
in terms of which set of determiners the noun occurs

animate:          ne kal        "the man"
inanimate:        te halma      "the book"

This is not grammatical gender, though, but 'natural'
gender:  All people and animals take animate determiners,
while all inanimate objects take inanimate determiners
(plants can go either way, I guess, though they're usually
inanimate).  The only wrinkle is that inanimate nouns
take animate determiners when they're personified.
In "the North Wind and the Sun", for example, the
north wind and the sun would take animate determiners.

Thhtmaa, the language I worked on for the TV show
"Dark Skies", had an elaborate system of noun classes,
each marked by a separate agreement prefix on the
predicate.  There were about three dozen classifiers,
one for ganglia (the creatures who spoke Thhtmaa),
one for humans, one for non-human animals, and
other genders for tools, vehicles, weapons,
abstract concepts, places, times, networks, actions,
round things, short things, long skinny things, etc..
Kind of like Bantu classifiers gone amok.  Again, though,
gender was 'natural' rather than grammatical, insofar
as the gender assigned to a given noun was completely
non-arbitrary.  One day I'd like to try my hand at a
conlang with arbitrary gender, and see what I can
come up with...