THEORY: Language for a Multi-Species Society: Sex-Based Genders Among Neuter
|From:||John Vertical <johnvertical@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, July 9, 2005, 13:27|
--- In email@example.com, Tom Chappell wrote:
Hi Mr. Theory Man!
>If a species reproduces sexually -- that is, each organism in the species
>has two parents -- then what is basic is, one parent may contribute more
>genetic material -- may resemble the offspring more closely -- than the
>other; or, one parent may invest more bodily substance or energy or other
>biological value into the act of reproducing the offspring than the other.
>If either of these is true, then the other is also probably true; and
>usually the parent that most closely resembles the offspring -- that
>contributes the most genetic material -- is the one that invests the most
>biologically into the reproduction.
>That parent may be called that offspring's "mother".
I was about to comment that even if the Y-chromosome is generally smaller
than the X, males would still contribute equal amounts of genetic material
for female children ... and that for some species, the Y-chromosome actually
carries *female* traits - but then I remembered mitochondrial DNA. This is
probably what you were getting at with "contributes most genetic material",
>Kudzu, for instance, is organized into eight classes.
>Each plant has three sexual organs -- a short one, a medium-length one, and
>a long one.
>Each organ can be either an pistil or a stamen.
>Suppose Kudzu flowers had to make contact with each other to reproduce.
>Suppose fertilization could occur only if a short organ and a long organ of
>opposite sex made contact, or if two medium-length organs of opposite sex
>made contact.<rest of description sneeped>
I could imagine adding another twist to this kind of a scheme - that there
must be contact between more than one pair of sexual organs, and that
fertilization must occur in the same direction. With the Kudzu system, this
would become rather unwieldy, but with a greater number of sexual organ
configurations it'd work. Even sexes which cannot fertilize each other only
for geometrical reasons could result :)
>In determining the (sex-based) gender of an organism, there are six
>questions that need to be answered; I am assuming that each answer is
>ideally either "yes" or "no".
>1. Is it, right now, capable of becoming a mother?
>2. Has it ever been, in the past, capable of becoming a mother?
>3. Will it ever be, in the future, capable of becoming a mother?
>4. Is it, right now, capable of becoming a father?
>5. Has it ever been, in the past, capable of becoming a father?
>6. Will it ever be, in the future, capable of becoming a father?
>I assume a "yes" answer to question 1 implies a "yes" answer to questions 2
>and 3; and a "yes" answer to question 4 implies a "yes" answer to questions
>5 and 6.
Why? Not only does this assumption rule out species that may change their
sex only _once_ (there are multiple such ones in lower vertebrates, mostly
fishes: for example, the leader of a shoal being male, and after its death,
the oldest female takes its place), it technically rules out ANY sex changes
at all; including infertility at young and/or old age(s). For for a being
that has just changed its sex for the first time (say, a girl on her first
period), question 2 (or 5) will be "no", but 1 (or 4) will be "yes". Ditto
for the 1-3/4-6 connection and the last sex change in an organism's life.
Also, I think a more alien reproduction system could be constructed by
having two or more clearly distinct kinds of "father", but that's not
>The thing is, if we just stick to sex-based gender, but allow for all the
>variation available on our own planet, even if we ignore the possibilities
>of parthenogenesis, facultative (or otherwise) asexual reproduction, or the
>(admittedly non-terrestrial-- at least, not naturally) possibility of more
>than two parents, the number of genders -- 25 -- rivals the number of noun
>classes in any natural language system I've heard of.
You're assuming that all sex-changing possibilities exist. I find it hard to
believe that a species would contain both arbitrary hermaphrodites,
individuals which may sex-change arbitrarily many times, and individuals
which may sex-change exactly X times (into exactly sexes Yn1, Yn2, Yn3 ...
on their nth change).
And I'm not convinced that natlang gender systems have really much to do
with the reproductive gender anyway, it's more about the geno/fenotypical
gender (if even that.) Though if someone knows a counterexample where there
exists (eg) one gender for fertile and one for infertile women, do slap it
into my face.
>That's one of the reasons in my conlang I thought about backing off from a
>25-gender sex-based system to the following;
> "living vs nonliving", "animate vs inanimate", "sapient vs nonsapient"
>This gives me an 8-gender system.
> (Yes, I know, before developing computers and robots, and going to space
>and meeting aliens, probably everything "animate" would be "living" and
>everything "sapient" would be "animate", so the primitive words would be in
>only four of the eight genders.
Even the theoretical existence of sapient non-living beings seems dubious to
me, but I'll pass that for now - just wanted to say that abandoning your
complex sex-based gender system was something of an anticlimax. If you only
wanted to point out that such a system might in some cases be too unwieldy,
you certainly could have done it much more concicely as well... but now I
was left wondering if you really *had* some grand vision of how to construct
that 25-gender system in your conlang.
>But I want to allow for all eight genders, because I want to allow
>non-biological sapients to be citizens, even if not full citizens, of my
>future fictional commonwealth.)
>Tom H.C. in MI
So this is a multi-species auxlang? OK, this explains the doubts I had about
the existence of all the different sex-change possibilities.
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