Re: THEORY: Language for a Multi-Species Society: Sex-Based Genders Among Neuter
|Date:||Saturday, July 9, 2005, 17:14|
Hello, John, and thank you so much for your reply.
I debated whether I ought to post my response to the list.
Maybe I should.
In any case, I think you were very kind to me.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, John Vertical <johnvertical@H...>
> --- In email@example.com, Tom Chappell wrote:
> >Hello, everyone.
> Hi Mr. Theory Man!
(I guess I'm starting to earn that "title"! :) )
> >If a species reproduces sexually -- that is, each organism in thespecies
> >has two parents -- then what is basic is, one parent maycontribute more
> >genetic material -- may resemble the offspring more closely --than the
> >other; or, one parent may invest more bodily substance or energyor other
> >biological value into the act of reproducing the offspring thanthe 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 investsthe 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 generallysmaller
> than the X, males would still contribute equal amounts of geneticmaterial
> for female children ... and that for some species, the Y-chromosomeactually
> carries *female* traits - but then I remembered mitochondrial DNA.This is
> probably what you were getting at with "contributes most geneticmaterial",
That is exactly right.
Actually, any "cytoplasmic DNA" at all.
There are some organelles which an organism might suddenly need many
more or many fewer of.
Some of these, it might need many more or many fewer organelles when
it does not need many more or many fewer whole cells.
Some of these, the biologically sensible approach is to move the
reproductive machinery for the organelle out of the reproductive
machinery for the whole cell -- the nucleus -- into the cytoplasm.
Some of these organelles have their own nucleic acid (DNA or RNA as
the case may be), in other words.
Usually, only one parent contributes any of these "cytoplasmic genes"
to the offspring.
The first competition between the parents is who gets to be that
Whoever wins that one then has a bigger stake in the offspring than
the other, and therefore loses all the later competitions -- that is,
winds up being the one who contributes a bigger gamete, more "yolk"
material, keeping the fertilized zygote in what now may be
called "her" body, sitting on or guarding the
fertilized "egg", "nursing" the offspring, etc.
> >Kudzu, for instance, is organized into eight classes.
> >Each plant has three sexual organs -- a short one, a medium-lengthone, and
> >a long one.
> >Each organ can be either an pistil or a stamen.
> >Suppose Kudzu flowers had to make contact with each other toreproduce.
> >Suppose fertilization could occur only if a short organ and a longorgan of
> >opposite sex made contact, or if two medium-length organs ofopposite 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, andthat
> fertilization must occur in the same direction. With the Kudzusystem, this
> would become rather unwieldy, but with a greater number of sexualorgan
> configurations it'd work. Even sexes which cannot fertilize eachother only
> for geometrical reasons could result :)
"Total out-crossing classes" could indeed exist for just such reasons.
Another possible reason -- one that does come up in nature on Earth --
might be the timing of estrus.
There might be 12 "sexes", say;
one fertile only in January through March;
one fertile only in February through April;
one fertile only in March through May;
one fertile only in April through June;
one fertile only in May through July;
one fertile only in June through August;
one fertile only in July through September;
one fertile only in August through October;
one fertile only in September through November;
one fertile only in October through December;
one fertile only in November through January;
one fertile only in December through February.
Each "sex" would be inter-fertile with 4 other sexes;
2 of them would also be inter-fertile with each other.
Another reason that does come up in nature on Earth is certain
There are bacteria which are big enough to live in the ova of certain
moths or butterflies.
Some of them will, if living in an ovum, produce a certain
spermicide; while their conspecifics, if living in the testis of an
infected male, produce an antidote for that spermicide which will
perfuse the sperm of that male and protect it.
Thus an infected female can be fertilized only by an infected male.
Some moth-or-butterfly species can be infected by two such bacteria
species, whose spermicides are not undone by each other's antidotes.
This creates a weird situation.
Males from any of the three populations can fertilize uninfected
females; but uninfected males can fertilize only uninfected females.
Uninfected females can be fertilized by males from any of the three
populations; but infected females can be fertilized only by males
with precisely the same infection.
> >In determining the (sex-based) gender of an organism, there aresix
> >questions that need to be answered; I am assuming that each answeris
> >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 toquestions 2
> >and 3; and a "yes" answer to question 4 implies a "yes" answer toquestions
> >5 and 6.
I assume that "present capability" implies "near-past capability",
and "past capability" includes "near-past capability", so "near-past
capabality" implies "past capability". Thus, 1-Y implies 2-Y and 4-Y
Similarly, "present capability" implies "near-future capability",
and "future capability" includes "near-future capability", so "near-
future capabality" implies "future capability". Thus, 1-Y implies 3-
Y and 4-Y implies 6-Y.
> Not only does this assumption rule out species that may changetheir
> sex only _once_ (there are multiple such ones in lower vertebrates,mostly
> fishes: for example, the leader of a shoal being male, and afterits death,
> the oldest female takes its place),
No, it doesn't. Here would be the life history of such a fish:
Larva: 1-N 2-N 3-Y 4-N 5-N 6-Y
Young Adult (Female): 1-Y 2-Y 3-Y 4-N 5-N 6-Y
Senior Leader (Male): 1-N 2-Y 3-N 4-Y 5-Y 6-Y
Dead: 1-N 2-Y 3-N 4-N 5-Y 6-N
------------------------------------- ^ (only if it were a leader)
> it technically rules out ANY sex changes
> at all; including infertility at young and/or old age(s).
No. For instance, for an ordinary human female:
Girlhood: 1-N 2-N 3-Y 4-N 5-N 6-N
Fertility: 1-Y 2-Y 3-Y 4-N 5-N 6-N
Post-Menopause: 1-N 2-Y 3-N 4-N 5-N 6-N
For an ordinary human male:
Boyhood: 1-N 2-N 3-N 4-N 5-N 6-Y
Manhood: 1-N 2-N 3-N 4-Y 5-Y 6-Y
For an evirato or castrato, a male soprano made a eunuch before
puberty, his gender would change from
1-N 2-N 3-N 4-N 5-N 6-Y
1-N 2-N 3-N 4-N 5-N 6-N.
For a man made a eunuch as an adult, his gender would change from
1-N 2-N 3-N 4-Y 5-Y 6-Y
1-N 2-N 3-N 4-N 5-Y 6-N.
Those would be the appropriate grammatical gender-changes, in the
proposed conlang, for the "male-to-female sex-change surgeries" done
in modern times *here* in OurTimeLine, since we have not yet found a
way to make these patients biologically and physically fertile.
> For for a being
> that has just changed its sex for the first time (say, a girl onher first
> period), question 2 (or 5) will be "no", but 1 (or 4) will be "yes".
Well, I just "assumed" that when 1 went to "Y" it would
instantaneously drag 2 to "Y" along with it, at least, so fast that
it would happen before anyone could say anything, or finish
pronouncing a word that required a gender-morpheme.
The thing is, 2 refers to "the past";
How long ago did the "past" begin?
Yes indeed, there was a time in the past when I couldn't, say, read
or write English; but there was also a time, also in the past (albeit
a more recent past), when I could.
I made this assumption partly to simplify things, but also partly
because I thought it really made sense.
So, for girls, when 1 goes to Y, 2 goes to Y along with 1; and for
women, as long as 1 stays Y, 3 will also stay Y.
For boys, when 4 goes to Y, 5 goes to Y along with 4; and for men, as
long as 4 stays Y, 6 will also stay Y.
> for the 1-3/4-6 connection and the last sex change in an organism'slife.
Not quite sure I understood this.
In case the previous questions were partly based on misunderstandings
which have now been cleared up;
Is the above question still relevant?
> Also, I think a more alien reproduction system could be constructedby
> having two or more clearly distinct kinds of "father",
Maybe three parents; two each contribute half the nuclear DNA, and
the third contribute the cytoplasmic DNA.
Or, maybe the third parent could contribute the edit-RNA.
Or, maybe the third parent could contribute all the nucleoli and/or
all the ribosomes.
> but that's not
> relevant here.
At any rate, I chose not to talk about it in my first post.
But if you can come up with something, I, for one, would be glad to
hear about it.
> >The thing is, if we just stick to sex-based gender, but allow forall the
> >variation available on our own planet, even if we ignore thepossibilities
> >of parthenogenesis, facultative (or otherwise) asexualreproduction, or the
> >(admittedly non-terrestrial-- at least, not naturally) possibilityof more
> >than two parents, the number of genders -- 25 -- rivals the numberof noun
> >classes in any natural language system I've heard of.
> You're assuming that all sex-changing possibilities exist. I findit hard to
> believe that a species would contain both arbitrary hermaphrodites,
> individuals which may sex-change arbitrarily many times, andindividuals
> which may sex-change exactly X times (into exactly sexes Yn1, Yn2,Yn3 ...
> on their nth change).
As you noticed later, this was intended for a multi-species conlang.
AFAIK you are correct in thinking no Terrestrial species includes so
much hermaphroditism and sex-change.
Ignoring non-fertile individuals such as workers in hives, I am aware
of the following six patterns existing *here*:
1. Every individual is born, lives, and dies, just one sex.
2. Every individual is born, lives, and dies an ambi-capable
3. Every individual is born male, and after enough maturity, becomes
4. Every individual is born female, and after enough maturity,
5. Every individual cycles between male and female.
6. Individuals change sex irregularly depending on unusual
circumstances; but at any given time each individual is just male or
female, not hermaphroditic.
A single-species conlang might only need to fit one of these
patterns; but I was hoping to create one that would fit a society
that could accept contributions from all of them.
> And I'm not convinced that natlang gender systems have really muchto do
> with the reproductive gender anyway, it's more about thegeno/fenotypical
> gender (if even that.) Though if someone knows a counterexamplewhere there
> exists (eg) one gender for fertile and one for infertile women, doslap it
> into my face.
It has been my experience that children who are obviously too young
to be physically able to reproduce are sometimes referred to as "it"
in English by English-speakers.
Of course, this is more likely if the child in question cannot yet
talk; even more likely if the child cannot yet walk or crawl; and
likeliest of all if the child has not yet been born.
But sometimes it happens when the child can walk and talk.
No, I have never heard an English speaker refer to a post-menopausal
woman as "it".
People who refer to persons born with ambiguous genitalia, or persons
who have undergone sex-change operations, or persons who have been
sterilized, as "it", usually do so pejoratively -- always, AFAIK, in
People who have to refer to naturally ambi-capable hermaphroditic
organisms, such as planarian worms, as "it", seem to feel quite
uncomfortable that English makes them choose a "neuter" pronoun for
an organism which is "both" rather than "neither".
> >That's one of the reasons in my conlang I thought about backingoff from a
> >25-gender sex-based system to the following;
> > "living vs nonliving", "animate vs inanimate", "sapient vsnonsapient"
> >This gives me an 8-gender system.
> > (Yes, I know, before developing computers and robots, and goingto space
> >and meeting aliens, probably everything "animate" wouldbe "living" and
> >everything "sapient" would be "animate", so the primitive wordswould be in
> >only four of the eight genders.
> Even the theoretical existence of sapient non-living beings
> seems dubious to me,
Remember that in my proposed conlang's proposed gender system,
the "living" gender applies to things that can grow or spread or
A "sapient" machine that was not capable of adding onto itself nor
reproducing itself would be regarded as "non-living".
Remember also, that "sapient", in this proposed conlang's proposed
gender system, applies to things that can produce ("utter") and
understand new sentences and learn new languages.
Therefore if current AI research is not a dead end, in a SF future a
machine could be "sapient".
On *our* Earth, in *OurTimeLine* *here*, however, *now*, it is the
case that all "sapients" are "animate", and all "animates"
> but I'll pass that for now - just wanted to say that abandoningyour
> complex sex-based gender system was something of an anticlimax.
I have /thought/ about shelving the idea for my first conlang.
Maybe I won't shelve it after all.
Maybe I will, but then, if I ever have a second conlang, I'll use it
for my second one.
Your encouragement makes it more probable that it's first appearance
will be sooner rather than later.
> If you
Well, not /only/...
> wanted to point out that such a system might
> in some cases be too unwieldy,
Some languages have almost that many noun-classes.
> you certainly could have done it much more
> as well...
Well, yeah,... <hangs head, scuffs shoe ...>
> but now I
> was left wondering if you really *had* some grand vision of how toconstruct
> that 25-gender system in your conlang.
So far, the "grand vision" is only /to/, not /how/.
Maybe a 2-phoneme prefix with 3 variable distinctive-features per
> >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 commonwealth.)
> So this is a multi-species auxlang?
Dang! Muti-species, yes, but Not an auxlang!
Kind of a fictlang-engelang hybrid.
I expect it to wind up with 1 speaker, (0 fluent).
And I don't expect to "evangelize" for more.
> OK, this explains the doubts I had about
> the existence of all the different sex-change possibilities.
> John Vertical
Thanks again for writing.
Tom H.C. in MI