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Re: feminine, masculine and... ?

From:Carlos Thompson <carlos_thompson@...>
Date:Monday, September 25, 2000, 3:58
H. S. Teoh wrote:
> > Hey, I like this idea of distinguishing between noun categories, > more than just physical gender. I especially like the idea of > having a separate grammatical gender for conceptual objects. > Perhaps I should think about incorporating more genders into my > conlang, since currently, it's based on physical gender, so most > nouns are neuter -- it might be better to split up this rather > large category of neuter nouns so that at least abstract nouns > are distinguished from genderless physical nouns.
I guess when you mean physical gender you mean sexual gender... Well, even if there is a relationship between gramatical gender and sex in indueuropean languages, this relationship is more like: words for females are usually femenine and words for males are usually masculine, but femenine and masculine can be used to non-sexual concepts or even for epicene concepts: "la persona", "la girafa", "el guepardo". IIRC, German has three genders: masculine, femenine and neuter and many non-sexual concepts are either masculine or femenine. Swedish developed a four gender: real, including most non-sexual concepts that was originally masculine or femenine (an masculine, femenine and real nouns are usually called en-words, against neutral nouns which are ett-words: if you don't care about pronouns or adjectives in -e, there are only two genders: en-words and ett-words). When I was designing my last YANC (yet another new conlang), I was planing to make a three gender system: animate, real and neuter, with animate further divided in masculine, femenine, child, and epiceme. Adjectives would agree in the higher division of genders. All animate nouns would be either declinable: horse-MASC: stallion, horse-FEM: mare, horse-CHILD: colt, horse-EPI: horse; or be either masculine, femenine or child. Even non-sexual animates are either masculine, femenine or child: this includes: low order animals, organizations, spirits, nations, computer programs, things like fire, weather and running water, etc. Inanimates would be divided in real or neutral. Real would share some case declessions with animates, and some rules would help distinguishing between real and neuter in many cases, but most of the cases it would be an arbitrary classification. When I actually used the idea for Protoandinean, I simplified things a bit (I guess a protolanguage could be as complex as any other natlang, but I thing that a reconstructed protolanguage shouldn't be too complex, unless you make too many arbitrary decisions). First: there is no further divisions in animates. Second: inanimates are divided in more semantical cathegories: count and mass nouns (all animates are countable). In conclusion: gender doesn't have to be semantical, but semantics could help in classification (like masculine/femenine in IE). and: sex is not the only possible classification. -- Carlos Th