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Robert Hailman wrote:

>If linguistics were studied like they are in our modern society, someone
>would definitely figure it out. They'd notice differences in inflections
>and such in colloquial speech as compared to the older written
>documents, I'd suppose. It would take a while for anyone to figure it
>out, though, you're definitely right about that.

You're probably right about that.

>I have a little trouble with the whole "gradually" concept, a line has
>to exist somewhere between gender and no gender, although the gender
>system would grow and diversify after this.

I'm not so sure about that.  I've occassionally been struck with the
classificatory systems of Native American languages in their similarity to
gender (or at least the systems found in Bantu languages, whether you want to
call them gender or not).  Chickasaw, for example, has special words for
existance and possession (same words for both) depending on the class of the
noun: objects with closed tops and open bottoms (like a table or dog) take one
set, objects with close bottoms and open tops (like a cup or purse) take
another, everything else takes another.  I suppose one could call that gender,
but I don't think I would.  I could imagine that this system proliferates and
becomes full fledged gender as in European languages.

>I get it now, I wasn't sure how gender came to be. I'm curious, though,
>as to what would cause this classifier system to exist in a language
>that doesn't have it.

English is the perfect example of this.  We don't say "papers" (with the
relevant meaning), we say "sheets of paper".  We don't say "hays", we say
"bundles of hay".  Words that can't be pluralized need some kind of countable
noun.  The system is also expandable: I don't think I've ever heard someone
say
"sheets of poster board" but I am completely willing to accept such a phrase.
In the distant future, these could become obligatory for all nouns.  They
would
then become stock phrases ("sheets of paper" already is, I think).  The "of"
would be unnecessary so our decendents would just say "sheets paper" and
"bundles hay".  The noun drops out of the normal usage, and people forget what
they are supposed to mean.  (How often do you use the word "bushel" as in "a
bushel of wheat"?)  People would have to guess at which word goes with which
noun because the direct semantic association has been lost, and they simplify
the number of possible classificatory words to make the system easier.  Thus,
English of the 30th century is like Chinese.

>Not neccesarily, the new genders could come in, and then the old ones
>dissapeared because they were irrelevant. I'd find it more believeable
>that a system slowly changed to the technological-distinction system,
>rather than a language losing a system and then shortly after gained
>another one. I'm always open to being wrong, though.

I'm not sure what you mean by irrelevant.  I don't see why gender in German
and
Spanish is so "relevant".  They don't need it for any special reason that
English lacks.  The system is just there, so the speakers have to abide by
it.
Tense is much more relevant to the real world or discourse, but there are
languages that lack any tense distinctions.

Marcus