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What's a gender?

From:Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 20, 2006, 22:15
What constitutes grammatical gender?  Does there have to be an
acknowledged connection to biological sex, as in most European langs?

Chinese and Japanese have different "counting words" or "counters" for
different classes of noun.  For instance, Japanese, "one person" is
"hitori", while "one fish" is "itibi", the suffixes "ri" and "bi"
having no obvious connection with the normal nouns for "person" and
"fish".  I've sometimes heard it said that these classes constitute
gender, but is that generally considered true?  There are an awful lot
of them, and several nouns are in a class by themselves.

The fact that some Japanese counters take the native numbers and some
the Chinese ones (hito vs iti) would seem to define two broad
categories that might constitute gender...

Anyway, just wondering what the criteria are.  If my conlang has noun
classes, does it therefore have gender, or does it depend on more
specific details of how the classes work?

Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>


David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>