Re: Noun genders (was: Re: Is English a creole? (was: Indo-European Studies))

@#$%!?! (
Wed, 26 Jul 1995 06:22:18 GMT

: I have often wondered quite where the idea of gender FOR NOUNS came from; it
: seems so natural (well, it is) for speakers of languages that have it, but so

That probably won't be answerred until we know what the original human
language was. It is important to remember that gender is an abstract
category. While it might have some connection to semantic notions of
sex or animateness, it need not.

One example of how unnatural gender can be, consider the old english
word "wifmann" which became "woman". Even though it undoubtably refer
to females, its gender is masculine. That is because it was a compound
and in OE the gender of the compound was the gender of the second
masc. wifmann "woman"
< fem. wif "wife,woman" + masc. mann "man,human"

Some abstract nouns are feminine possibly because they were originally
goddesses. Although, in some ways that passes the buck, because why
should they have been goddesses rather gods?

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