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Corpses (was Re: Gender in conlangs.....)

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 5, 2003, 4:26
On Sun, 2 Nov 2003 21:52:24 -0500, Isidora Zamora <isidora@...>

>My Cwendaso/Tovláug do not have that much knowledge about what happens >after death. They do believe that the soul/spirit/whatever survives, i.e. >it is not annihilated, but that is about all they know. They have a >profound reverence for human life in general, and they treat corpses and >human bones with the utmost care and reverence, and have no fear of >them. They might possibly gender human remains as epicene to give them the >dignity of something human and also so that corpses can be made male or >female by verbal agreement. Or they might also gender them as inanimate to >show up the contrast that the corpse used to be a living, breathing human >being, and now it is most definately not (although it is still most >definately human, and will never cease to be.)
That's an interesting contrast with Zireen cultures, which also affects their languages. A Zireen ceases being a Zireen at death -- a dead Zireen must be referred to as "the corpse of a Zireen" (or "a Zireen who has died", depending on context). While "a dead Zireen" is grammatical, it can only refer to a líve Zireen who is for some reason (by analogy or metaphor) thought of as being "dead". This grammatical complexity is also true of other living beings; the example in my language notes is "a dead dragon".


Isidora Zamora <isidora@...>