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Marcus Smith wrote:

> Tom Wier wrote:
>
> >> I've even read a (a really old) book that suggested that English has SEVEN
> >> genders. In addition to your four, he separated the inanimate uses of
> >> "she" (like a car or boat) and "he" (don't remember his examples, and I
> >> usually don't use he of inanimates), and the use of "it" with babies and
> >> sometimes young children.  A bit excessive in my opinion.
> >
> >Could he come up with good syntactic reasons for doing that?  I can't
> >imagine that he could legitimize that based on morphology.
>
> Nope.  No justification for what he said at all.  He wasn't even being adamant
> that it was truly the case, just suggesting the possibility since it was just
> as realistic (to him) as claiming English had three based on the pronouns.

Well, then he didn't really understand what a linguistic "gender" means.
Gender means, like Nik said, that their is some sort of lexical categorization
going on whereby the speakers treat the classes differently.  But it's more than
just that:  the genders are a *result* of, not a precondition for, the syntactic
and morphological patterns found in the language.  We can only say that a
gender exists if there is a grammatical reason to say they exist.  The examples
you cited show not the existence of separate grammatical categories, but of
individual lexical items being *subcategorized* into those lexical categories.
The author you speak of seems to be confusing various optional subcategorizations,
and even metaphorical categorizations, which by definition break all the rules,
with the categories themselves.

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Tom Wier <[log in to unmask]>
"Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero."
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