genders?

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Hammurabi
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genders?

Post by Hammurabi » Sat Apr 22, 2006 7:24 pm

Hi guys!

I have just read Cratylus from Plato (not yet in greek :cry:) and I found very interesting the strong explanation, sometimes even sarcastic, to language.
Well, I could talk about a thousand nice things within this dialogue but now, I've realized that he never mention anything about the gender of the names.

There was a thing that catch my attention in the first pages of the Wheelock's Latin, it says: "latin, like english, has three genders..." then he explains about the grammatic gender and all that, yet... for me english doesn't have three genders in fact, because it only put a difference betwen man and woman, and things, which is imopossible to avoid in any language, but even so, the adjectives and noun's modifiers never change and indicate this difference. For me english hasn't the plenty of the gender's conception.

However many other languages have genders, specially latin, greek and their derivates. I grew up speaking latin languages, and for me it is pretty normal and even, poetic that the inanimate things have also a gender. But where this inanimate gender come from? for me it is obvious that it is a result of the mental relationship of a thing to the essence of the masculine and feminine, and inanimate which are man and woman and things, but how? which are the ways we can relate things in order to have a gender such as "masculine" and "feminine"?

:?
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Hammurabi
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Post by Hammurabi » Sat Apr 22, 2006 7:43 pm

I was thinking about a really interesting word: sea

"sea" is usually feminine:

greek: η θάλαττα
spanish: la mar
french: la mer
latin: mare (n)

I found a really nice referrence and maybe explanation to this relationship in the Joyce's Ulysses:

"Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him."

:shock:
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Post by Sanskrit » Sat Apr 22, 2006 8:33 pm

Hhm, in sanskrit the word for sea is masculine, saagara.

Modern English has lost its grammatical gender, but does have the three genders which are used for nouns and pronouns: generally masculine is used for concrete words, feminine for abstract words and neuter for animals.

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Post by Chris Weimer » Sat Apr 22, 2006 9:49 pm

While English generally lost the distinction between genders, it's still there. The pronouns he, she, and it still reflect that distinction, and no, it's not impossible to avoid. I believe that certain African languages do not keep distinct males v. females. Contrary to what you may think, gender has absolutely nothing to do with "sex". Proto-Indo-European had two genders - masculine and neuter. Feminine actually developed from masculine. I'm sure you can think of words in Latin that look like they should have been masculine but were actually feminine, no? Malus? Or the old PIE word for neice, *snorus. Gender is merely a way of classifying nouns in a language.

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GlottalGreekGeek
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:03 pm

Well, as a native speaker of English, when I started learning Frencch I thought inanimate objects having a gender was plain weird (and stupid ... sheesh, why make poor foreigners memorize that silly nonsense even though it doesn't contribute to communication at all). Of course, there is the classic English 'ship' - every ship goes on her maiden voyage...

According to the brief section on English grammar in one of my French grammars, English has four genders - masculine, feminine, common and neuter. A boy is masculine, a girl is feminine, a child is common, and a body is neuter.

Isn't the masculine gender of PIE really the common gender?
Modern English has lost its grammatical gender, but does have the three genders which are used for nouns and pronouns: generally masculine is used for concrete words, feminine for abstract words and neuter for animals.
That does not sound like the Modern English I know...

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Hammurabi
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Post by Hammurabi » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:20 pm

Hi!
Chris Weimer wrote:Gender is merely a way of classifying nouns in a language.
I think that there should be a more profound explanaition for the genders in certain languages, I mean, like Plato said "the names are not only words, but a notion of the essence of the object that is named"
And I didnt mean "sex" when I mentioned man and women in the gender conception, but the association of the gender conception, in other words the feminine and the masculine as a separated definition.

As I tried to say with the Joyce quotation, the sea is something that was realated with the feminine by "shore" cultures like roman and greeks because they knew, maybe not consciousness, that the sea represented their subsistence and origins, that's maybe why they thought on it as a mother and related it with the generator rol of the feminine. Maybe we can also think about the masculine tendence of the "sun" the same way.

I just want to say that genders in languages have profound implications and can tell a lot of the philosophy, conception of reality and existence and obviously culture of the people that created them.



:oops: :oops: :D
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Post by Sanskrit » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:26 pm

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:
Modern English has lost its grammatical gender, but does have the three genders which are used for nouns and pronouns: generally masculine is used for concrete words, feminine for abstract words and neuter for animals.
That does not sound like the Modern English I know...
I guess I was confused with Dutch, where concrete words are often masculine and abstract words are feminine. In English objects, abstractions and animals are all neuter, according to wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_gender
My mistake. :wink:

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:31 pm

I remember in the flim Jules et Jim, they discusss how, in French, war (la guerre) is feminine, and in German (insert german word for war) it's masculine/neuter (it's beeen a while since I saw the movie). Like Hammurabi, the characters looked for some cultural/philosophical difference between the French and the Germans based on that difference, though it was only a brief scene.

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Hammurabi
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Post by Hammurabi » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:45 pm

I've just found more about Sea by Joyce...

just wanted to share it with you guys.

"-God! he said quietly. Isn't the sea what Algy calls it: a great sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. EPI OINOPA PONTON. Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks! I must teach you. You must read them in the original. THALATTA! THALATTA! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look."

I gess that Joyce clearly also thought in sea as a part of the feminine.. even in a language that has no genders but for men and women.

:D :oops: :shock:
Last edited by Hammurabi on Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Bert » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:47 pm

Sanskrit wrote:I guess I was confused with Dutch, where concrete words are often masculine and abstract words are feminine.
That may very well be the general rule. I don't know. Ship is fem. in Dutch as well.
BTW Sanskrit, do you know if there is a rule concerning when to use which of the two definite articles in Dutch (de, het?)
I know which goes with which word but I don't know the rule.

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