LINGUIST List 14.3404

Tue Dec 9 2003

Disc: Re: Grammatical Gender

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Israel Cohen, Grammatical Gender
  2. Ivan A Derzhanski, Re: 14.3367, Disc: Re: Grammatical Gender

Message 1: Grammatical Gender

Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 01:23:34 -0500 (EST)
From: Israel Cohen <>
Subject: Grammatical Gender

Michael Beard wrote:
>> ... an addition to this line of reasoning would be to examine other
languages' terms for ''gender'' and whether or not there are any
biological associations due to an unfortunate/accidental case of
synonomous ambiguity. <<

Hebrew has so-called male & female gender that is *not* based on
sex. There is a rough correspondence with convexity (male) and
concavity (female) and with giving (male) and receiving
(female). Therefore, the term for female breast(s), SHaD(aim) is

Subject-Language: Hebrew; Code: HBR 
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Message 2: Re: 14.3367, Disc: Re: Grammatical Gender

Date: Sun, 07 Dec 2003 10:01:29 +0200
From: Ivan A Derzhanski <>
Subject: Re: 14.3367, Disc: Re: Grammatical Gender

Quoth "Michael Beard" <>:

> Is anyone familiar with, for example, the old Sanskrit
> grammarians' term(s) for how nouns were classified?
> [...] I'm sure there are plenty of examples from other
> languages that show there is no association between biology
> and noun classification systems.

There certainly are, but Sanskrit is a poor example. Here are the
terms, along with their other meanings:

`gender': _liGga_ `mark, sign; symbol; male sexual organ'
`masculine': _puMs_ `man, male; servant; soul';
`feminine': _strI_ `woman';
 _strI-liGga_ `female sexual organs'
`neuter': _napuMsaka_ `emasculated', cf. _napuMsa_ `eunuch'

> The term "gender" itself is the main problem here,
> not nominal classifications in languages.

I think it is the other way around: if a language has noun classes,
and most words for men (and perhaps male animals) belong to one class
whilst most words for women (and perhaps female animals) belong to
another, then whatever word is used as a term for noun class is
likely, though in no way guaranteed, to develop the meaning `sex' (as
a biological distinction), and the terms of the masculine and the
feminine class are likewise prone to being used for male and female
sex, respectively.

- Ivan A Derzhanski
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