LINGUIST List 8.686

Thu May 8 1997

Qs: Gender, Predicates, Null subject

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  1. James Giangola, voice x gender preferences
  2. Adam Schembri, Predicate/verbal classifier
  3. Casilde A. Isabelli, null subject parameter

Message 1: voice x gender preferences

Date: Mon, 05 May 1997 18:05:47 -0700
From: James Giangola <>
Subject: voice x gender preferences

Greetings, fellow LINGLISTers,

Our company needs to resolve a marketing issue in the near future.
The answers to the following sociolinguistic questions will facilitate
the decision-making process.

(1) Is there any statistical evidence that American men prefer to hear
women's voices and that American women prefer to hear men's voices in
applications such as consumer electronics products and
telecommunications services? Now just for the sake of argument, let's
pretend that except for gender, all else is equal as much as possible,
e.g. age of speaker, perceived level of education,
pleasantness/warmth, lack of regional associations, etc.

(2) Contradicting the 'opposites attract' notion that women prefer
men's voices in such applications, I've heard that both genders
generally respond more comfortably to *women's* voices since it is
women who are generally associated with the roles of caretaker and
teacher in our formative years, at least here in the U.S. Any support
for this claim?

(3) Again assuming an information-giving context, what are the
characteristics of men's or women's voices that are preferred? (I can
imagine what they would be, but I'm looking for research here.) For
instance, long distance carrier MCI's canned messaged are in an
innocuously friendly but nonetheless professional-sounding basso
voice. In sharp contrast, Rio de Janeiro's Galea~o international
airport has (or used to have) an unforgettable, alluringly sexy, dark,
possibly 'dangerous' older-woman-with-a-slight-case-of-smoker's-throat
contralto telling passengers where to board.

In case it's relevant, the typical user-profile for our
product/service is North American, upper socio-economic class (sales
execs and business owners, cellphone/Internet savvy). There *may*
exist the possibility for users to select the gender they wish to

I will post a summary of responses.


James Giangola, Voice User Interface Designer
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Message 2: Predicate/verbal classifier

Date: 7 May 1997 14:41:02 +1000
From: Adam Schembri <>
Subject: Predicate/verbal classifier

 Subject: Time: 2:10 PM
 OFFICE MEMO Predicate/verbal classifiers? Date: 7/5/97

I am currently investigating polymorphemic predicates of motion,
location and extent in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). In research
on such constructions in other signed languages (such as American Sign
Language and British Sign Language), comparisions have been made
between these predicate forms and those in Athabaskan languages such
as Navajo. In particular, the handshape element in such signs have
come to be known as a "classifier", a term that has gained widespread
acceptance in the signed language literature. I am not really
comfortable, however, with this term for signed languages. One of my
reasons for this is that I have read a number of works by Craig
(1994), Croft (1994) and Engberg-Pedersen (1993) which suggest that
the so-called predicate classifiers in Athabaskan languages are not
really classifiers at all, since the classificatory verb stems found
in such languages actually do not contain an overt classifier
morpheme. Certainly my reading of Young and Morgan (1987) on Navajo
seems to confirm this. What do linguists working on Athabaskan
languages feel - is the use of the term "predicate classifier" a
misnomer? Is the relationship between the so-called classificatory
verb stems and their nominal referents in Athabaskan more like English
"drink" (ingest fluid) versus "eat" (ingest solids) or "flow" (move:
liquid) versus "ooze" (move: viscous substance)?

Craig (1994) claims that spoken languages such as Cayuga, Diegueno and
Imonda (PNG) DO contain verbal classifiers - classifier morphemes
affixed to the verb root. Has there been work on any other languages
which have verbal classifiers?

Please reply to me directly and I will post a summary to the list.

Adam Schembri
Department of Linguistics
University of Sydney
NSW 2006
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Message 3: null subject parameter

Date: Thu, 08 May 1997 00:04:36 -0500
From: Casilde A. Isabelli <>
Subject: null subject parameter

I was wondering if anyone has a bibliography or references of any
recent (90's) work done with the null subject parameter in SLA, or any
new studies on the NSP. Thanks a bunch to anyone who will contribute
any info! Cassie

Casilde A. Isabelli
University of Illinois
Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
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