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.
Thread beginning with comment 391262
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE: Comment by kaiwai
by cefarix on Tue 27th Oct 2009 04:42 UTC in reply to "Comment by kaiwai"
Member since:

Well, for one thing, it enriches the expressiveness of the language. It's also a very natural, human thing. My native language Urdu, also has male and female genders for all nouns and verbs are modified according to the gender of their subjects and objects. In fact, in Urdu, and many other languages, its not possible to say something without a gender involved.

To remove gender from say, French, would be as wrong as saying "Me hot" instead of "I am hot" in English.

Why is it there? Because that's how the French language developed: it was there in Latin, and it was there in Proto-Indo-European, and beyond that, we don't know.
What purpose does it serve? It conveys information, just like any other part of speech.
Does its absence result in something lacking in content? Yes, indeed.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by Loki_999 on Tue 27th Oct 2009 08:02 in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
Loki_999 Member since:

It was also there in old English as well... but we got rid of the crap only keeping it for some things such as referring to ships as "she" instead of "it" which is just anthropomorphizing rather than really keeping the old rules around.

Not saying English doesn't have its own issues, after all, it is also an evolved language, not a perfect language.

When people ask me about the history of the English language i usually say something like:

"Well, first we were invaded by the Romans while we were speaking early Gaelic/Germanic type languages around the regions, then we got invaded by the vikings, then the church influenced the language, France invaded us and we had a French Royal family but we got our own back and invaded France and gave them a British Royal Family for a while..... basically English has been modified over the years by everyone who invaded us or who we invaded to the point that Old English is barely recognizable to a current inhabitant of the British Isles."

And this I think, is a good thing. Because of all this English is a very flexible language and many students find words from their native languages in English due to cross-pollination.

Cant remember the words now, but over the last couple of years was even amazed to discover some words of Russian origin in English. Also, if you learn a but of Russian then some of the words in Stanley Kubrick's - A Clockwork Orange, are instantly recognizable.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai
by JoeBuck on Tue 27th Oct 2009 18:49 in reply to "RE: Comment by kaiwai"
JoeBuck Member since:

The fact that so many languages make it so hard to write anything in a gender-neutral way is often a big problem. My 11-year-old daughter is very sensitive to sexist language and assumptions lately; if her native language were not English, things would be much worse.

Douglas Hofstadter of Gödel, Escher, Bach fame wrote an interesting essay about what life would be like if we used a different human attribute than gender to make language distinctions:

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by cefarix on Tue 27th Oct 2009 20:52 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
cefarix Member since:

Well, I would have to disagree. Having genders, plurality, politeness, tenses, etc in language enriches it and lets us communicate in a richer way. Language represents human communication, so it's no surprise that it contains very human concepts in its grammar, such as gender.

A language containing grammatical gender has nothing to do with a piece of literature in that language being demeaning to either men or to women. Such a piece of literature can also be written in a language in which gender is less ingrained into the grammar. In other words, sexism != grammatical gender.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by kaiwai
by ari-free on Tue 27th Oct 2009 23:20 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by kaiwai"
ari-free Member since:

Mailperson? isn't that specieist and offensive to carrier pigeons and other non-persons that deliver the mail?

Reply Parent Score: 2