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Re: [ot] Linux gender in French

* Christophe Courtois (christophe@courtois.cc) wrote:

>  As there is almost no logic, this normal. And it changes from language to 
> language: when speaking German I always wonder which gender to use for 
> half of words - and they have three genders... :-(
>  When learning Latin, I had to learn many of them too - as French comes 
> from it, you could expect some coherence - but no! 
Like any issue in language, it has its own "logic", though to look at
it that way is probably a mistake.  Languages change, and they borrow
from other languages. In Latin and Greek (I use these because of
nodding familiarity), it supposedly makes life easier to gather
together words that seem to be similar in construction.  They have
similar endings, put there by people who needed to make some
distinctions between, say, having the farmer (agricola) do something
to the cow (vaccam), instead of the opposite (agricolam, vacca).
These are from the same declension, which is "feminine", except for a
few words like agricola.  

When you bring people together who speak different languages, there
will be borrowing until the point of fusion (one supposes, though the
only near-modern example of which I am aware is medieval English).
Some things don't fit, and maybe a new classification is created, or
some other kind of fiddle is done to try to attain regularity.  

The main point is, I think, that regularity is a fiction, but we keep
trying to attain it because it makes communicating easier.  Gender in
language has nothing to do with men and women.  It's a convenient
fiction employed to determine whether to say "la" or "le", and it is
imperfect.  We decide where to put things by consensus (l'Academie
Francaise notwithstanding), though the creator of a term probably has
an advantage.

Don't let it get you down,

Cam Ellison Ph.D. R.Psych.
From Roberts Creek on B.C.'s incomparable Sunshine Coast

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