|Date:||Wednesday, September 6, 2000, 20:22|
> Luca Mangiat wrote:
> "I was wondering about a conlang I'm sketching down. I'd like to inserta
> male-female gender distinction. How would this happen? In which genderwould
> inanimate objects go? How do Arabic and Hebrew treat inanimate objects,
> plants, flowers, animals ? Is each category tied to a special gender, oris
> their ending to determinate it? What distinction could there be betweenmale
> 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'a
> group plural' : ). How is the whole thing in PSemitic?"
> The gender system in Semitic languages is rather complicated.Generally
> 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 (60or
> 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 ofthe
> 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
> In all of those Semitic languages, the "unmarked" substantives thatare
> 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,all
> 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 appearsto
> have originally been a way of deriving forms from a root, and only later
> came to be associated with the feminine gender.