Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 00:37 UTC
Features, Office In the comments on our editorial about language purism and the Psystar case, it became quite clear that language is a subject almost everyone has an opinion on - not odd if you consider that language is at the very centre of what makes us "human". Since this appears to be a popular subject, let's talk about the influence computing has had on two very minor aspects of the Dutch language.
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RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
kaiwai
Member since:
2005-07-06

Gender on inanimate objects can be useful: it lets you talk about more than one object with only pronouns like in English you can easily talk about a male and a female using only pronouns without being confusing, but talking clearly about two distinct objects using only pronouns is usually impossible in English. On the other hand, in French, they might have different genders, and therefore get different pronouns. Gender is one of the ways languages get more than one third person / a fourth person (not really sure on the terminology here) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_person ).


But you haven't explained *WHY* it is important - what extra information does it provide to me in my understanding of the information you're transmitting to me. If you say that the table is blue with tongue and grove top and french style table legs - telling me that it is female or male is going to add what benefit to me? If you want to talk about more than one object then say, "I have 4 objects, the first object is.... the second object is .... and the third object is ....."

As for an addition person - I'd love to know where I'd need to use it. I'm not attacking you but every argument I have seen as been the defence of the fluff of old than a robust defence to an otherwise useless piece of syntax sugar.

Edited 2009-10-27 04:43 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by siride on Tue 27th Oct 2009 05:06 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
siride Member since:
2006-01-02

It doesn't. But that's not his point. The reason French still has genders is because Latin had them (and way back when, there was a time when they actually meant something) and the morphological syncretism of Romance and Old French was not enough to erase the distinction between masculine and feminine, so they are still around. But they are also still around because they aid in referring to multiple things in one sentence without having to use extra clarification.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Boomer on Tue 27th Oct 2009 06:17 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Boomer Member since:
2009-10-27

As an undergrad in linguistics, maybe I can help.

People have the notion of gender in language backwards. It isn't that there are languages that actually consider a table to be a female and spoons a male, it's that there are two different noun classes in which Indo-European languages (ie, likely most, if not all, of the languages you have heard of) places biological sex. However, noun classes don't always correlate to biological gender. Some languages have noun classes for animate and inanimate objects - in these, men and women would both be treated similarly. Other languages make distinctions based not only on animacy, but shape or even function. Luganda of Uganda is a language that has not just two or three noun classes, but 17!

As to why some languages have gender and others, like English or American Sign Language don't, that's a much more complicated question. It may be an issue of history, where the language used to say something like "two head of cattle" instead of "two cows", and over time that first form shortened into a single lexical item with a morphological identity referring to animate objects. It may also be an issue of how the human mind works. Chomsky had proposed a system in the mind that is composed switches. When one feature of a language is turned on, like gender or zero anaphora, other features are then turned on or off.

I could go on, but the point is that it's not a matter of a good idea or a bad idea. Languages don't have feature sets like an operating system does, they have much more subtle features of expression that convey more information per sentence than we give ourselves credit for. Grammar is never invented, it just happens.

Reply Parent Score: 6

pg--az Member since:
2006-03-15

As an undergrad in linguistics..


If you go to www.hotforwords.com and type REPAIR into the search box, it's interesting how REpare and PREpare actually DO derive from the same root, just a case of "Linguistic Entropy" hmm ( I like that book "Genetic Entropy", wonder about the details on these "mutations" ).
Also on the same site, OXYMORON has an interesting derivation - according to Marina, ( OXYMORON = oxys + moros ) is ITSELF an oxymoron, to computer people this is the kind of recursive-tail-chasing which blows up computers on Star Trek.
So you see I actually remember these interesting facts, although peripherally I was mainly watching the babe, in this case the medium managed to get a message across, too.

Edited 2009-10-27 08:12 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by Kalessin on Tue 27th Oct 2009 19:34 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
Kalessin Member since:
2007-01-18

Grammar is never invented, it just happens.


Well, unless you're talking about languages specifically created like Esperanto, Elvish, or Klingon. But even then, given enough real usage, they'll start to drift. If a language is static, it's dead. And once it starts drifting, it definitely starts to fall into the "just happens" category.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Coxy on Tue 27th Oct 2009 09:07 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Coxy Member since:
2006-07-01

You should try learning a language other than American and then maybe you would understand. English doesn't really have a case system any more, if it did you see why it is useful.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:48 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
kaiwai Member since:
2005-07-06

You should try learning a language other than American and then maybe you would understand. English doesn't really have a case system any more, if it did you see why it is useful.


And if you used your brain and visited my profile, I am from New Zealand.

For the Americans out there, New Zealand isn't located in Europe. I wish it were, but it isn't.

I also know another language than English; I took Maori when I was at college.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by JacobMunoz on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:29 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
JacobMunoz Member since:
2006-03-17

... if it did you see why it is useful.


Really?

Me Og. Me speak good.


Sorry, I just saw
language other than American
and had to point out how bad your "American" is.

:P

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by kaiwai
by BluenoseJake on Tue 27th Oct 2009 15:45 in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai"
BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

There is no language called American, Americans speak a slightly modified version of English, and they call it...wait for it...English

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by Biff on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:35 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
Biff Member since:
2009-10-27

Which sentence do you like to hear ?

Hey, you have a really pretty girlfriend!

or

Hey, you have a really handsome girlfriend!


Pretty and handsome have the same meaning and still the sentences above have a complete different meaning.
When I tell you the second sentence in your face, I'm sure I'm ending up with a black eye.

Reply Parent Score: 1