On Sun, 30 Nov 2003 21:24:05 -0600, Nik Taylor <[log in to unmask]>

> Paul Bennett wrote:
>> The different Japanese counting words? I don't know the technical term
>> (nor
>> enough Japanese to quote them), but they're a gender system if ever I
>> saw
>> one
> They're not gender, they're classifier.  The term is Counter, and
> they're *only* used with numbers.

Ah, but where's the line between classifier and gender? Does Uatakassi have
genders, or obligatory classifiers? How about natlangs (there must be some,
surely?) where adjectives morph for number, but nouns don't. Or, for the
syntactic gender of the noun? Or, where adverbs morph for the gender of the
agent of their verb, but adjectives are immutable?

That a classificatory system shows up obligatorily and uniformly only in
the numbers used to count things of different types should (in my mind) not
mean it is automatically not considerable as either the start of, or last
gasp of a gender system. In fact, I'd rather draw the opposite conclusion
(my knowledge of Japanese 100 or 1000 years in the past (or future) being
as slim as it is ;-)

ObQuasiDeepQuasiSillyQuestion: What does "gender" mean, when you distill
the dictionary definitions into one word, but merely "type", after all?

>> and wa/ga/etc mark subject and so forth in non-gender ways
> ?  They're cases, nothing more.

Yes. My point exactly. The thread was about the distinction between gender-
marking, case marking and articles, and about how this may relate or not
relate to pronouns. I gave what I felt to be an example of a language where
the marking functions are indeed formally distinct.

>> And pronouns? Does Japanese even have "real" pronouns?
> What do you mean by "real" pronouns?  Pronouns that work the same way as
> in the IE languages, such that they cannot be etymologically traced back
> to nouns (altho, even there, you have things like "Usted" < Vuestra
> merced), and that have their own inflections?

Naively, yes. Hence, the scare quotes around the word |real|, showing the
application of a word with a meaning I don't personally subscribe to, used
for effect.

> If so, no.

Okay. I didn't think so, however, my knowledge of Japanese is sketchy, at
best. I only knew less than half (even that might be generous -- maybe two
or three (ish)) of the example pronouns you gave, (in fact, the first time
I embarked on learning Japanese, the instructional material was clear to
explicitly state that Japanese has no pronouns whatsoever, which I later
found out to be somewhat of an exaggeration (to say the least)) although I
am familiar with the use of nouns as pseudo-pronouns. I wasn't fully aware
it was widespread in the third person, which is good information to know.