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R: Genders

From:Mangiat <mangiat@...>
Date:Wednesday, September 6, 2000, 20:22
Chollie wrote:

> Luca Mangiat wrote: > "I was wondering about a conlang I'm sketching down. I'd like to insert
> male-female gender distinction. How would this happen? In which gender
> inanimate objects go? How do Arabic and Hebrew treat inanimate objects, > plants, flowers, animals ? Is each category tied to a special gender, or
> their ending to determinate it? What distinction could there be between
> and female in the oldest stage of the tongue? PIE seems to treat female > nouns as a inanimate plural (but I'm sure feminists would rather call it
> group plural' : ). How is the whole thing in PSemitic?" > > The gender system in Semitic languages is rather complicated.
> speaking, in the Semitic languages, substantives can be marked as feminine > (*-at or *-t) or unmarked.
This is also shared by Egyptian: AFAIK its feminine ending was *-(e)t (sen = brother (or was it son?); senet =sister/daughter). I remember I noticed this when I read that 'Qohelet' was a feminine name (which sounded quite strange to my ears).
> Most unmarked substantives are masculine, but > quite a few are always treated as feminine. In each language, there are > some substantives that may be treated as either feminine or masculine (60
> so in Arabic; in Hebrew, you can find baqar "cattle," 'orach, "way" 'aron, > "ark," gan, "garden"). Also, in all Semitic languages you can find proper > names that are marked as feminine and treated as if they were masculine. > Some collective nouns take a feminine marker to indicate one out of
> collective mass (the so-called "nomen unitatis").
Similar to what happened to IE. Cool!
> This is especially common > in Arabic, but examples can be found in every Semitic language. Also, > apparently the feminine marker can be used to indicate a neuter concept - > Akk. damiqtum "a good thing," Hebrew ra'a "evil (thing), Ge'ez 'ekit > "wickedness." > In all of those Semitic languages, the "unmarked" substantives that
> interpreted as feminine include words denoting animate females (e.g. > "mother"), paired parts of the body (!), and a disparate group of other, > inanimate objects, that varies from language to language (and in Arabic,
> inanimate plurals are construed as feminine singular!). > It is uncertain what the status of gender was in PSemitic. The ending > -at appears to have originally been associated with verbal adjectives. It > is also, interestingly enough, the marker of the fem. sing. predicative > adjective/suffix conjugation. So, in essence, the marker -at/-t appears
> have originally been a way of deriving forms from a root, and only later > came to be associated with the feminine gender. > > -Chollie