Marcus Smith wrote:
> Robert Hailman wrote:
> >This is definitely possible, but a society that got rid of it's gender
> >system wouldn't likely adopt a new one. I'm not educated in this area at
> >all, are there any known examples of a gender system appearing in a
> >language that had previously lost it's genders?
> There's probably  way to tell that kind of thing, because most languages have
> not been written long enough for the records to show.  But I don't see why it
> couldn't happen.  Changes in a language are gradual, so by the time a new
> system started, no one would be alive who remembered the old one.

I suppose this is the sort of thing that won't be known for a few
thousand more years, after writing has been around for a longer time.
It'd be interesting to find out, though.

>  I'd accept your argument
> >much more readily if it's been known to happen, because to me, and maybe
> >it's just my lack of education in the field showing, the speakers of a
> >language that got rid of a language wouldn't accept a new one. A lot of
> >English speakers can't comprehent why other languages have more
> >complicated gender systems, and probably would resist having one in
> >English, too.
> Systems like that aren't something that just appear over night.  They creep in
> gradually.  The speakers wouldn't even realize its happening, I'm sure.
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.

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.

> Would English speakers object to the idea of having a classifier system like
> Chinese?  I'd bet "No."  But that is hypothesised to be one of the steps in in
> the creation of a new gender system.  Once every noun must be associated
> with a
> particular "counter", you start reducing the number of them, then you
> phonologically reduce them so that they are inflections on the noun, and POOF:
> Gender.  (Not quite as easy as it sounds, of course.)

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.

> >Also, some languages lose gender distinctions, others gain more. But
> >what are the odds of a language losing one system and simultainously
> >gaining another? I say simultaniously because I'd imagine the electrical
> >and synthetic distinctions would come in as the male/female
> >disctinctions were lost.
> I would suggest that the change would not be simultaneous.  Languages don't
> change that fast.  There would undoubtablly be a period where the language had
> no gender of any kind.
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.