Linguistics thread

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby dEhiN » 2020-09-07, 4:12

Linguaphile wrote:Of course eventually you have to tell them they are called grammatical genders because every other Spanish-learning situation is going to call them that and you can only refer to them as "el-words" and "la-words" for so long. :mrgreen:

Yeah, that makes sense! But I'm glad you've introduced learners to the concept using the idea of classes instead of gender. I think there are languages in Africa that solely use the term class and have something like 4 or 6 (or maybe more?) classes. The grammar is literally broken down into Noun Class I, Noun Class II, etc. I wonder where the term gender came from with respect to grammatical gender. Why does it seem that IE languages tend to use them, while from what I know, other languages either don't at all or only sparingly? For example, I believe in Tamil, noun classification is first done along the lines of inanimate and animate. Then, within animate, there's deity (or God) and human. And it's only with human that you get masculine and feminine.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby OldBoring » 2020-09-09, 8:08

But grammatical gender is sexist!

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby md0 » 2020-09-09, 8:32

You are not helping your rhetorical point by giving examples of semantic gender though :roll:
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2020-09-10, 20:34

dEhiN wrote:I think there are languages in Africa that solely use the term class and have something like 4 or 6 (or maybe more?) classes. The grammar is literally broken down into Noun Class I, Noun Class II, etc.

Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as having 19 noun classes. Most modern Bantu languages retain fewer (Swahili has about 16), but Shona actually exhibits 20.

dEhiN wrote:I wonder where the term gender came from with respect to grammatical gender.

From Greek γένος originally. The Romans calqued this with the cognate term genus. English-speakers borrowed the term itself from Anglo-Norman and then used it to calque the Latin meaning of "grammatical gender" during the Enlightenment.

dEhiN wrote:Why does it seem that IE languages tend to use them, while from what I know, other languages either don't at all or only sparingly?

You don't know enough other languages? Have a look at WALS feature 31A. Sex-based grammatical gender can be found on every continent, though it's especially prominent in Europe, Southwest Asia (including the Caucasus), and Australia.

dEhiN wrote:For example, I believe in Tamil, noun classification is first done along the lines of inanimate and animate. Then, within animate, there's deity (or God) and human. And it's only with human that you get masculine and feminine.

Pre-Proto-Indo-European is believed to have started with a simple animate/inanimate system. At some point, the inanimate plural because to be used for abstracts. This then became the basis for a new noun class with both singular and plural forms into which existing animate semantically feminine nouns (like *dʰugh₂tḗr or *gʷḗn) were folded.

In Women, fire, and dangerous things, Lakoff discusses how noun classification system develop and how some of them come to distinguish female persons grammatically and then class those with other types of nouns.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2020-09-11, 19:25

linguoboy wrote:
dEhiN wrote:I think there are languages in Africa that solely use the term class and have something like 4 or 6 (or maybe more?) classes. The grammar is literally broken down into Noun Class I, Noun Class II, etc.

Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as having 19 noun classes. Most modern Bantu languages retain fewer (Swahili has about 16), but Shona actually exhibits 20..

FWIU this is misleading because the even-numbered "classes" are just the plural forms of the odd-numbered ones, e.g. class 2 is simply the plural of class 1, class 4 is the plural of class 3, etc. In Swahili in particular, this would give eight classes, except even there, two of the classes barely include any nouns, so the vast majority of nouns just fall into six classes in reality (and even some of those six classes are relatively small).

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2020-09-11, 22:45

vijayjohn wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
dEhiN wrote:I think there are languages in Africa that solely use the term class and have something like 4 or 6 (or maybe more?) classes. The grammar is literally broken down into Noun Class I, Noun Class II, etc.

Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as having 19 noun classes. Most modern Bantu languages retain fewer (Swahili has about 16), but Shona actually exhibits 20..

FWIU this is misleading because the even-numbered "classes" are just the plural forms of the odd-numbered ones

Why is that "misleading"? In many if not most cases the affixes are completely different. It's not like there's a consistent pluralising element which can be added to any singular noun class to yield the plural forms. Each set of correspondences has to be memorised individually.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Linguaphile » 2020-09-12, 1:17

linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
dEhiN wrote:I think there are languages in Africa that solely use the term class and have something like 4 or 6 (or maybe more?) classes. The grammar is literally broken down into Noun Class I, Noun Class II, etc.

Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as having 19 noun classes. Most modern Bantu languages retain fewer (Swahili has about 16), but Shona actually exhibits 20..

FWIU this is misleading because the even-numbered "classes" are just the plural forms of the odd-numbered ones

Why is that "misleading"? In many if not most cases the affixes are completely different. It's not like there's a consistent pluralising element which can be added to any singular noun class to yield the plural forms. Each set of correspondences has to be memorised individually.

Sure, they have to be learned individually, but that's (usually) a separate concept from noun classes per se. German has three classes (genders), but seven common ways to form plurals. We don't say that means German has seven noun classes or some number of noun clases formed from a combination of those three genders plus the different plural endings possible within each gender; it's still just three classes/genders even though there are multiple ways to form their plurals.
On a similar note, grammatical cases are generally not counted separately for singular and plural either, even though they too usually require memorizing singular and plural affixes (or changes) separately for each grammatical case. (To put it this way: Estonian has 14 cases, not 28. Still, you have to learn the singular and plural forms. The fact that you have to learn 28 forms does not mean there are 28 cases. Linguists could have decided to count them that way, but... they didn't.)
I know grammatical cases aren't at all the same as noun classes, but in terms of a discussion of "how many forms have to be memorized" and how they are traditionally counted by linguists, it seems to make a fair comparison. Neither noun classes nor grammatical cases are specifically about "how many forms you have to memorize". (In fact, in some Finnic languages, some grammatical cases have multiple forms even for a single word, some of which change its meaning and some of which don't; again, more forms to memorize but not more cases!) Noun classes and grammatical cases are about the ways in which languages categorize (in the case of classes) and use (in the case of grammatical cases) words and concepts, not about how many forms there are to memorize. Most of the time, for most languages, linguists have considered singular and plural forms to belong to the same categories, even when they take different forms and whether or not there is any regularity or "consistent pluralising element" for forming them.
For Bantu languages, that's not how they are counted, but it's an anomaly. Bantu linguistics counts noun classes in a different way from the way they would be counted in most other languages, considering singular and plural to be separate classes. I agree with Vijay - for the purposes of comparing them with non-Bantu languages, it's misleading, because the number of noun classes for Bantu languages are simply counted in a different way (by tradition) from the way they are counted in most other languages and that effectively doubles the number of them.

Edit: see also this from Wikipedia:
Critics of the Meinhof's approach notice that his numbering system of nominal classes counts singular and plural numbers of the same noun as belonging to separate classes. This seems to them to be inconsistent with the way other languages are traditionally considered, where number is orthogonal to gender (according to the critics, a Meinhof-style analysis would give Ancient Greek 9 genders). If one follows broader linguistic tradition and counts singular and plural as belonging to the same class, then Swahili has 8 or 9 noun classes, Sotho has 11 and Ganda has 10.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2020-09-12, 20:26

I think the main reason for considering the classes separately is that the singular-plural mapping is not one-to-one, not in the protolanguage nor in its descendants. Or, to quote your source:
Wikipedia wrote:Additionally, there are polyplural noun classes. A polyplural noun class is a plural class for more than one singular class.[4] For example, Proto-Bantu class 10 contains plurals of class 9 nouns and class 11 nouns, while class 6 contains plurals of class 5 nouns and class 15 nouns. Classes 6 and 10 are inherited as polyplural classes by most surviving Bantu languages, but many languages have developed new polyplural classes that are not widely shared by other languages.

Especially if you're doing comparative work, it makes more sense to say that, for instance, Swahili nouns in class 9 and class 11 take plurals in class 10 than it does to propose two distinct noun classes which just happen to coincide 100% in their plural forms. This approach also avoids, for instance, classing mass nouns as inherently plural or singular; all you have to say is that they take class 6 prefixes.

Noun class is, after all, chiefly a shorthand for talking about what kind of agreement a noun takes. With Indo-European languages, it's pretty easy to separate out gender and number agreement and treat them as orthogonal categories. A plural noun in Spanish takes the same verb forms regardless of what gender it is. But what works for I-E is not necessarily the ideal approach for languages with very different morphology.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby dEhiN » 2020-09-16, 3:33

linguoboy wrote:
dEhiN wrote:Why does it seem that IE languages tend to use them, while from what I know, other languages either don't at all or only sparingly?

You don't know enough other languages? Have a look at WALS feature 31A. Sex-based grammatical gender can be found on every continent, though it's especially prominent in Europe, Southwest Asia (including the Caucasus), and Australia.

Lol, I stand corrected!

linguoboy wrote:Pre-Proto-Indo-European is believed to have started with a simple animate/inanimate system. At some point, the inanimate plural because to be used for abstracts. This then became the basis for a new noun class with both singular and plural forms into which existing animate semantically feminine nouns (like *dʰugh₂tḗr or *gʷḗn) were folded.

Maybe it's been too long since I kept up with linguistic lingo, but could you explain what you mean by existing animate semantically feminine nouns? I know you give some examples, but I guess I'm confused on how there can be feminine nouns when talking of a simple animate/inanimate system? Actually...I guess from the examples, semantically feminine nouns means nouns used for human females?

In that case, what happened to all the inanimate nouns in Pre-Proto-Indo-European? When the inanimate plural morphed into a new noun class, and when existing animate semantically feminine nouns got folded into this new class, did the existing inanimate nouns also stay a part of this class? Or did they get rearranged to reflect that the class system was now no longer animate/inanimate?
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2020-09-16, 9:44

dEhiN wrote:Actually...I guess from the examples, semantically feminine nouns means nouns used for human females?

And female animals, too, if I’m not mistaken.

dEhiN wrote:In that case, what happened to all the inanimate nouns in Pre-Proto-Indo-European?

They became the PIE neuters.

dEhiN wrote:When the inanimate plural morphed into a new noun class, and when existing animate semantically feminine nouns got folded into this new class, did the existing inanimate nouns also stay a part of this class? Or did they get rearranged to reflect that the class system was now no longer animate/inanimate?

It wasn’t all inanimates. IIRC, the core were mass nouns, which is why it made sense to treat them as plurals originally. In the new system, they were instead treated as singulars and corresponding plurals were created (where semantically justifiable) by analogy with the existing animate forms (the basis for the emerging masculines).

If you look at, say, Latin, you can readily see the resemblances between the neuter plural endings and the famine singular endings. Then compare masculine and feminine plurals and you can see how the latter may have been modeled on the former.
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