Re: Help Systems & Gender Differences

Subject: Re: Help Systems & Gender Differences
From: Mike Pope <mikep -at- ASYMETRIX -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 11:57:00 PDT

>> Who knows? Anyway, if you buy this theory, then yes, gender is a
>> "basic human need" that would now have been superseded by new,
>> improved ways to indicate grammatical functions of nouns.

>Hm. So languages that don't mark gender? How do you account for
>them? Or languages that have 20 or so noun classes?

I think I didn't complete the circle here. Per this theory, gender arose
to accommodate a grammatical function but became a thing onto
itself. The "basic human need" was to mark grammatical function.

My point was that the "purpose" of gender was lost, however, its function
taken over by other methods (case, say), and that it's therefore
a bit of a fossil. And that even case marking has largely
disappeared in a language such as English that uses word order
to mark grammatical function.

Can we posit a rule that languages with complex noun classes also
have very free syntax? And this one: languages with complex
noun classes also have grammatical gender. Would you happen
to know if either is true?

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