From:    Chris Bates <[log in to unmask]>
> Okay, so I've doing some more swahili recently.. and more and more I've
> been wondering how the gender system actually survives in its current
> form. With the amount of agreement there is in a sentence, with
> adjectives agreeing in class (and thus in number) with their nouns, the
> verb agreeing with both the subject and object and also having
> compulsory indication of tense/aspect and mood (well, in bantu verbs,
> the -a at the end of the dictionary form is an indicative mood marker,
> although some verbs borrowed from arabic don't change to indicate mood)
> and all of these being separate morphemes glued together instead of
> merging... It seems to me that the need to be concise would have led to
> either some of the affixes fusing, or just being dropped, a long time
> ago, especially since word order in swahili is generally fixed so the
> agreement seems to serve little purpose.

Is Swahili a pro-drop language?  If so, you won't always see those
nominal arguments in the surface forms, and so the redundancy drops

> Its very interesting just... I
> would have thought that the need to state things in the most concise way
> possible (allowing for sufficient redundancy to make communication
> reliable) would be one of the primary driving forces of language
> evolution. The one thing that the gender system seems to have going for
> it is the fact you can use it to derive new words sometimes, ie:

You're forgetting that language is not just about concision; it's
also about making sure your interlocutor heard you correctly.  Lots
and lots of languages put up with massive redundancy because a language
conveyed by sound will always have lots of noise that needs to be
filtered out.  More redundancy can thus be a means to ensure you're
actually communicating rather than just mouthing off, so to speak.

Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637