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[The Birds and the Bees of Gender]

From:Edward Heil <edwardheil@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 30, 1999, 22:18
Michael Mouatt <arcangel@...> wrote:
> Could someone please explain gender to me (as it relates to language). =
> just can't seem to understand the necessity of verb - noun agreement. > Doesn't it just add a whole stratum of complexity? Why must there reall=
> be a 'le' and a 'la' in French? English is an asexual language, isn't > it? Why is this so if it is a Germanic language with influences from > French? > =
> Please help, > Michael the Gender Confused
Gender agreement dds redundancy. Human communication often suffers from noise; gender agreement is an extra bit of informational glue with which = to stick pieces of a sentence together. If you mis-hear a sentence and your= mis-hearing it makes the genders wrong, you know that you probably lost something important (assuming a competent speaker) and you'd better ask t= hem to re-state what they said. That's one reason. :) Genders are (as someone else explained well) one subtype of noun classifi= er system. Many languages (e.g. Japanese, Dyirbal) have classifier systems,= and as George Lakoff demonstrated in his _Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things_,= classifiers tend to denote what he calls "radial categories" -- categorie= s with prototypical central members and extensions from that center in unpredictable directions. Proto-Indo-European had a very small classifier system, with three catego= ries, Masc., Fem., and Neuter (perhaps originally only two, Animate and Neuter)= , whose prototypical subcategories were men, women, and inanimate objects respectively. Ed ____________________________________________________________________ Get free e-mail and a permanent address at 1