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Re: Gender in language (was Re: way-OT: regularity of german v. english [was: <snip>])

just in case this hasn't been answered yet ...

on Wed, 22 Oct 2003 10:54:24PM -0500, Ron Johnson insinuated:
> On Wed, 2003-10-22 at 20:47, Erik Steffl wrote:
> > Nori Heikkinen wrote:
> > > on Sun, 19 Oct 2003 12:38:45PM -0700, Erik Steffl insinuated:
> > ...
> > >>  of course, you can create various complex and ambiguous sentences in 
> > >>english, the point is that you can take few forms of sentences and
> > >>have a working language (that's pretty much what BASIC (talking
> > >>about programming language) is).
> > > 
> > > you can do that in both languages.
> > 
> >    let's say you have a function called isRed(x) (returns true if x is 
> > red). Now how would you call this function in german? it would never be 
> > in agreement with all possible x (grammatically). not sure if this is 
> > the best example - perhaps in this case it would be acceptable to use 
> > istRot, regardless of gender of x. point is you would run into problems 
> > like this trying to use german, you would very rarely come up with 
> > problems of this nature in english...
> Being a native speaker of American, I've always wondered
> - What is the purpose of "gender" in grammar/language?

purpose? none.  it's just categories that certain words fall into.

> - Is it only the European/Latinate languages that have the gender
>   concept?

nope -- swahili for one.  the only languages that have just two
genders that *i* know about are the latinate languages, but that
doesn't mean there aren't more.

> - Why English doesn't have gender, since it's predecessor, German,

not to mention french,

>   does have gender?

languages evolved, pure and simple.  who's to say why this particular
feature got lost over the years?



    .~.      nori @ sccs.swarthmore.edu
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