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Re: Semantic Content of Grammatical Gender?

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  • Lars Finsen
    ... I think I have heard the US first lady called Mrs. President or some such thing. Formerly, it seems to have been a tradition in the US of marrying not
    Message 1 of 19 , Jan 31, 2009
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      Den 31. jan. 2009 kl. 23.13 skrev Chris Peters:
      >
      > One other example I've heard about this (which may be an urban
      > legend, so please correct me if my understanding is in error): "El
      > Presidente" in Spanish means "The President, while the feminine
      > equivalent, "La Presidente", means literally "The First Lady." And
      > this fact (??) led to some interesting linguistic dilemmas when
      > various South American countries started electing their first women
      > heads of state ...

      I think I have heard the US first lady called "Mrs. President" or
      some such thing. Formerly, it seems to have been a tradition in the
      US of marrying not only into your husband's last name, but also into
      his title. I have seen some things like this in old British
      literature, too. But I guess this stuff is bygone now, isn't it?

      LEF
    • Ina van der Vegt
      ... There s alse Dutch secretaris/secretaresse, which was originally the same word with different genders, but grew into different functions (And, thus,
      Message 2 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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        2009/1/31 Chris Peters <beta_leonis@...>:
        >> One little nit: If I understand you corrrectly this is not always so. > There is a difference between 'el papa' and 'la papa.' That's the only > one that comes to mind, but there may be others.> > Charlie
        >
        >
        > One other example I've heard about this (which may be an urban legend, so please correct me if my understanding is in error): "El Presidente" in Spanish means "The President, while the feminine equivalent, "La Presidente", means literally "The First Lady." And this fact (??) led to some interesting linguistic dilemmas when various South American countries started electing their first women heads of state ...

        There's alse Dutch secretaris/secretaresse, which was originally the
        same word with different genders, but grew into different functions
        (And, thus, different words) over time.

        While 'Hij is een secretaresse' (He is a 'secretaresse') is not a
        usual sentence. 'Zij is een secretaris' (She is a secretary) is one
        I've heard before.
      • Benct Philip Jonsson
        ... It s the same with Swedish _sjuksköterska/sjukskötare_ which used te be female/male nurse but now mean graduate nurse vs. a much lower grade of
        Message 3 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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          Ina van der Vegt wrote:
          > 2009/1/31 Chris Peters <beta_leonis@...>:
          >>> One little nit: If I understand you corrrectly this is not always so. > There is a difference between 'el papa' and 'la papa.' That's the only > one that comes to mind, but there may be others.> > Charlie
          >>
          >> One other example I've heard about this (which may be an urban legend, so please correct me if my understanding is in error): "El Presidente" in Spanish means "The President, while the feminine equivalent, "La Presidente", means literally "The First Lady." And this fact (??) led to some interesting linguistic dilemmas when various South American countries started electing their first women heads of state ...
          >
          > There's alse Dutch secretaris/secretaresse, which was originally the
          > same word with different genders, but grew into different functions
          > (And, thus, different words) over time.
          >
          > While 'Hij is een secretaresse' (He is a 'secretaresse') is not a
          > usual sentence. 'Zij is een secretaris' (She is a secretary) is one
          > I've heard before.
          >

          It's the same with Swedish _sjuksköterska/sjukskötare_ which
          used te be 'female/male nurse' but now mean 'graduate nurse'
          vs. a much lower grade of nursing assistant, and both can be
          prefixed with _manlig/kvinnlig_ 'male/female' at need.
          My Sprachgefühl is conservative in that _manlig
          sjuksköterska_ sounds totally wrong to me. I'm probably not
          the only one, since there is a prejudice in some circles
          that all male nurses are gay.

          BTW does _male nurse_ sound right to you English native
          speakers? To me it's up there with _Ms. Chairman_,
          but it may be that my feelings for the Swedish term.

          /BP 8^)>
          --
          Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          "C'est en vain que nos Josués littéraires crient
          à la langue de s'arrêter; les langues ni le soleil
          ne s'arrêtent plus. Le jour où elles se *fixent*,
          c'est qu'elles meurent." (Victor Hugo)
        • caeruleancentaur
          ... Back in the 60s I was a nurse. That was before I went into the seminary. It was the usual term then. I don t believe it is politically correct anymore,
          Message 4 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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            > Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...> wrote:

            > BTW does _male nurse_ sound right to you English native
            > speakers? To me it's up there with _Ms. Chairman_,
            > but it may be that my feelings for the Swedish term.

            Back in the 60s I was a nurse. That was before I went into the
            seminary. It was the usual term then. I don't believe it is
            politically correct anymore, unless a distinction must be made.

            It's rather redundant to say, "He's a male nurse."

            However, way back then the U.S. Navy was not giving commissions to male
            nurses, only the to women. I had to join the army. In that case one
            would have to specify "male" nurse.

            Charlie
          • caeruleancentaur
            ... A few others have come to mind. (BTW I m talking about Spanish.) la policia = the police el policia = the policeman Nouns naming professions: el
            Message 5 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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              > > Daniel Bowman <danny.c.bowman@> wrote:
              > >
              > > This was meant to oppose gender particles in French and Spanish,
              > > which have absolutely no semantic relationship with their nouns
              > > unless the noun is an animal or a person ("la table" is
              > > semantically no different than "le table").
              > >

              > caeruleancentaur <caeruleancentaur@...> wrote:
              >
              > One little nit: If I understand you corrrectly this is not always
              > so. There is a difference between 'el papa' and 'la papa.' That's
              > the only one that comes to mind, but there may be others.

              A few others have come to mind. (BTW I'm talking about Spanish.)

              la policia = the police
              el policia = the policeman

              Nouns naming professions: el psiquiatra, la psiquiatra.
              Or of this form: el dermatólogo, la dermatólogo.

              Charlie
            • Brett Williams
              ... Male nurse sounds natural enough to me, but dated. Madam Chairman I love. Kinda genderbending. I wish we could keep it and just square it up even by
              Message 6 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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                On Sun, Feb 1, 2009 at 5:58 AM, Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...> wrote:
                > BTW does _male nurse_ sound right to you English native speakers? To me it's
                > up there with _Ms. Chairman_, but it may be that my feelings for the Swedish term.

                "Male nurse" sounds natural enough to me, but dated.

                "Madam Chairman" I love. Kinda genderbending. I wish we could keep
                it and just square it up even by calling the men "Mister Chairwoman".
                No?

                <3,
                mungojelly-l, who if he were a male nurse would reinforce the trend
              • Fredrik Ekman
                ... Funny. I recently wrote an article about one of the earliest known pure artlangs; Percy Greg s Martial language. (The entire article is in the first issue
                Message 7 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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                  Daniel Bowman wrote:

                  > About 5 years ago, I started experimenting with grammatical gender in my
                  > conlang, Angosey. I decided that it would be neat to have a particle
                  > that could change the entire meaning of a noun. For example, one
                  > particle would designate the noun as a physical object, another as an
                  > emotion, situation, etc.

                  Funny. I recently wrote an article about one of the earliest known pure
                  artlangs; Percy Greg's Martial language. (The entire article is in the
                  first issue of Rick Harrison's Invented Languages, and the mag just
                  happens to lie right in front of me as I write this.)

                  Greg basically has the same kind of function in his language that you
                  describe. Here is an example (c and k seem to be equivalent):

                  dâcâ weapon/hammer
                  dâco stroke/striking [as given]
                  dâca anvil
                  dâcoo blow/beating [as received]
                  dâky (not used)
                  dâke a thing beaten

                  Dak or dâc is the root meaning "to strike" (it can also be used as a verb,
                  and probably as an adjective).

                  > I'm running into the same problem with Angosey. When I coin a new word,
                  > I have to decide what category a certain meaning should belong to, and
                  > it's getting to the point where distinguishing via semantics is akin to
                  > splitting hairs.

                  Unfortunately, I think that what you are striving for (and what Greg seems
                  to have strived for as well) is entirely impossible, for the very reason
                  that language by its very nature has to be a set of relatively arbitrary
                  symbols. As soon as you take that arbitrariness away, you also take away
                  the possibility for that language to function as a living language. It
                  cannot evolve; it cannot express immaterial concepts; it cannot, in fact,
                  do much of anything beyond working as a mental exercise.

                  > My mind wanders further, into Sapir-Whorf territory. If I learn a
                  > language (or create a language) with strict semantic categories, does it
                  > affect how I see the world?

                  As I stated above, I do not think that such a language is impossible, and
                  it mirrors my belief that a stric interpretation of S-W is also
                  impossible. The reality that surrounds us shapes our thoughts. Our
                  thoughts shape language. Of course, language can (and does) to some extent
                  help to shape our thoughts in return, but if a language does not conform
                  to reality, then the language will have to change. That is why Newspeak is
                  never going to happen.

                  Fredrik
                • Ollock Ackeop
                  On Sat, 31 Jan 2009 16:13:52 -0600, Chris Peters ... There is a difference between el papa and la papa. That s the only one
                  Message 8 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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                    On Sat, 31 Jan 2009 16:13:52 -0600, Chris Peters <beta_leonis@...>
                    wrote:

                    >> One little nit: If I understand you corrrectly this is not always so. >
                    There is a difference between 'el papa' and 'la papa.' That's the only > one
                    that comes to mind, but there may be others.> > Charlie
                    >
                    >
                    >One other example I've heard about this (which may be an urban legend, so
                    please correct me if my understanding is in error): "El Presidente" in
                    Spanish means "The President, while the feminine equivalent, "La
                    Presidente", means literally "The First Lady." And this fact (??) led to
                    some interesting linguistic dilemmas when various South American countries
                    started electing their first women heads of state ...
                    __________________________________________

                    Looks like an urban legend to me. Word-reference shows "first lady" as
                    "primera dama". Also, it lists the feminine of "presidente" as "presidenta"
                    -- not "presidente" -- which is interesting, maybe the irregular marking
                    comes from those countries wanting to emphasize that they have a female
                    president?

                    I also didn't find anything like this involving the synonym "mandatario"
                    (political leader).
                  • Chris Peters
                    ... Could it possibly be a dialectical thing? There are a number of Spanish-Speaking countries in the world, after all.
                    Message 9 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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                      > From: ollock@...> Looks like an urban legend to me. Word-reference shows "first lady" as> "primera dama". Also, it lists the feminine of "presidente" as "presidenta"> -- not "presidente" -- which is interesting, maybe the irregular marking> comes from those countries wanting to emphasize that they have a female> president?>

                      Could it possibly be a dialectical thing? There are a number of Spanish-Speaking countries in the world, after all.

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                    • Ollock Ackeop
                      ... Chinese measure words can get like this. I can get how a river, a dragon, a road, a pair of pants, a fish, and (maybe) a dog are all long, thin things
                      Message 10 of 19 , Feb 1, 2009
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                        >Then, in 2006, I went to Tanzania and learned Kiswahili. Kiswahili's gender
                        >system is superficially similar to Angosey's, but I got really frustrated by
                        >the way it was being taught. For example, we would learn one gender
                        >particle that referred to "fruits and liquids" only to learn that "car" was
                        >in the same category, and so on. I think it would have been a lot less
                        >confusing to have just taught it as a grammatical (rather than semantic)
                        >distinction, like "le/la" is in French.
                        >
                        >I'm running into the same problem with Angosey. When I coin a new word, I
                        >have to decide what category a certain meaning should belong to, and it's
                        >getting to the point where distinguishing via semantics is akin to splitting
                        >hairs.

                        Chinese measure words can get like this. I can get how a river, a dragon, a
                        road, a pair of pants, a fish, and (maybe) a dog are all "long, thin things"
                        (条). But why is a cow a "head" (头), while other livestock animals use 直
                        or 个?

                        >Has anyone else attempted a grammar that made strict semantic distinctions?
                        > Did you run into similar problems, and if so, how did you solve them?
                        >
                        >My mind wanders further, into Sapir-Whorf territory. If I learn a language
                        >(or create a language) with strict semantic categories, does it affect how I
                        >see the world?

                        I tried to do this with Aeruyo. Originally, I had classes for immortal,
                        mortal, inanimate, and abstract. I've modified that since:

                        I immortal beings, planes of existence
                        II spiritual forces, moral concepts
                        III mortal beings, abstract concepts or social constructs invented by mortals
                        IV inanimate (soulless) objects (including physical undead, mechanical
                        beings, etc.), concepts relating to the physical world

                        Also, I've cut down on how much I derive things from a single root. The
                        root "o-" still can derive to "ghost/soul", "mortal", or "corpse" depending
                        on gender, but for most abstract concepts, I've used separate roots when
                        there is both an "immortal" and "mortal" form of the concept.

                        I had planned on adding in some illogical/arbitrary stuff for flavor. But
                        then, since the conculture is a group of extraplanar "ascended" beings, it
                        might not be necessary.
                      • Njenfalgar
                        2009/1/31 Daniel Bowman ... I have made conlangs with semantic distinctions, but usually I a) go for naturalistic, which means
                        Message 11 of 19 , Feb 2, 2009
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                          2009/1/31 Daniel Bowman <danny.c.bowman@...>

                          > Has anyone else attempted a grammar that made strict semantic distinctions?
                          > Did you run into similar problems, and if so, how did you solve them?
                          >

                          I have made conlangs with semantic distinctions, but usually I a) go for
                          naturalistic, which means messy, so I don't solve problems, I just let them
                          make things interesting, and b) don't develop my langs in very much detail,
                          so that I only rarely get to the point where there are problems.

                          But maybe the Vietnamese system could be of inspiration. There are rather
                          correct semantic distinctions, apart from some words which are in the wrong
                          category (rivers, knives and roads are animals). As a first: Vietnamese has
                          a great many categories (long object, round object, object one can sit
                          inside of, house, king, vehicle, sheet of paper...). I've been learning the
                          language for several years now, and I can read books (with the necessary
                          patience), but sometimes I still discover new categories I had not seen
                          before. So that solves the problem for a great many words already. And when
                          it comes to the remainder of the words (those which still don't fit), the
                          solution is simple: they don't have a class. Usually it's the more abstract
                          nouns that remain, and as a rule uncountable nouns are classless. And
                          lastly: there is one class for just "objects". So if necessary, any
                          leftovers can be placed there.

                          Greets
                          David


                          --
                          Idustvok va yentelkvil gifpir, puk gifpir, ivan kitil.
                        • David McCann
                          ... French has a couple of dozen like that: la pendule clock , le pendule pendulum la critique criticism , le critique critic la trompette trumpet , le
                          Message 12 of 19 , Feb 2, 2009
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                            On Sun, 2009-02-01 at 11:32 -0000, caeruleancentaur wrote:

                            > A few others have come to mind. (BTW I'm talking about Spanish.)
                            >
                            > la policia = the police
                            > el policia = the policeman

                            French has a couple of dozen like that:
                            la pendule 'clock', le pendule 'pendulum'
                            la critique 'criticism', le critique 'critic'
                            la trompette 'trumpet', le trompette 'trumpeter'
                            la manche 'sleeve', le manche 'handle'
                            la livre 'pound', le livre 'book'
                            Obviously the loss of final syllables has helped by creating homophones
                            of unrelated words, as in the last case.
                          • Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
                            2009/2/2 David McCann ... As a French person, I experience those pairs as homonyms, rather than as a single word with different
                            Message 13 of 19 , Feb 2, 2009
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                              2009/2/2 David McCann <david@...>

                              > On Sun, 2009-02-01 at 11:32 -0000, caeruleancentaur wrote:
                              >
                              > > A few others have come to mind. (BTW I'm talking about Spanish.)
                              > >
                              > > la policia = the police
                              > > el policia = the policeman
                              >
                              > French has a couple of dozen like that:


                              As a French person, I experience those pairs as homonyms, rather than as a
                              single word with different meanings depending on gender. They may be related
                              words, but they are nonetheless different words (that just happen to be
                              pronounced the same way)


                              >
                              > la pendule 'clock', le pendule 'pendulum'


                              "Pendule" is only for clocks with a pendulum. It originally is an
                              abbreviation of "horloge à pendule": pendulum clock. Since "horloge": clock
                              is feminine, the abbreviation took over the gender of the original headword.
                              Nowadays, we just think of it as a separate noun.


                              > la critique 'criticism', le critique 'critic'

                              la trompette 'trumpet', le trompette 'trumpeter'


                              It's a common phenomenon in French to call a musician by his instrument, or
                              a specialist by his specialty. It is basically an abbreviation of the same
                              type as above ("le joueur de trompette": the trumpet player becomes "le
                              trompette" where the gender is taken over from the omitted headnoun).

                              It varies wildy in usage though. Although you don't often hear someone call
                              a pianist "le piano" (we just use "le pianiste"), you do indeed sometimes
                              hear "le trompette" (although it's more common to hear simply "le
                              trompettiste"), but also "le violon" for "le violoniste", despite the fact
                              that the instrument is masculine as well. Unlike the example of the
                              "pendule" above, in my ear expressions like "le trompette" or "le violon" to
                              refer to musicians still very much feel like abbreviations rather than fully
                              separate nouns. The expression "joueur de" is omitted, but feels very
                              present. I would also use those expressions only in the context of
                              discussing musicians in an orchestra. When referring to musicians in other
                              contexts, I would only use "trompettiste", "violoniste" and other words in
                              "-iste".


                              >
                              > la manche 'sleeve', le manche 'handle'
                              > la livre 'pound', le livre 'book'
                              > Obviously the loss of final syllables has helped by creating homophones
                              > of unrelated words, as in the last case.


                              It's true in both those cases. "la manche" comes from Latin "manica", which
                              meant both "sleeve covering the hand" and "glove". "le manche" comes from
                              Latin "manicus", which in some expressions meant "handle". They are related,
                              but only indirectly, and were already of different genders in Latin. Sound
                              changes ended up making those nouns homonyms. In the same way, "la livre"
                              comes from Latin "libra", while "le livre" comes from Latin "liber". Once
                              again, sound changes ended up making homophones.

                              The thing to remember here though is that although they may be related
                              words, the words in those pairs (except in the cases I explained) just feel
                              like different nouns, not like derivatives of a single one depending on
                              gender.
                              --
                              Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.

                              http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
                              http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/
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