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Here's my really evil idea of the week.

There are two genders, animate and inanimate, and a system of cases that
includes nominative, accusative, ergative and absolute.

If the subject of an intransitive sentence is animate, it is in the
nominative case.
If the subject of a transitive sentence is animate, it is in the ergative
case, and the object (irrespective of gender) is in the absolute case.
If the subject of an intransitive sentence is inanimate, it is in the
absolute case.
If the subject of a transitive sentence is inanimate, it is in the
nominative case, and the object (irrespective of gender) is in the
accusative case.

Pete