Print

Print


David J. Peterson wrote at 2005-04-02 01:24:49 (-0800)
 >
 > Anyone familiar with a language that has gender is probably
 > familiar with the following phenomenon, exemplified by the
 > Spanish below:
 >
 > [Note: For the benefit of those who can't see diacritics, I'm
 > going to leave the tildes out.]
 >
 > nina = girl
 > nino = boy
 > ninas = girls
 > ninos = boys *or* children
 >
 > In other words, when the language lacks a generic word for "child"
 > or "kid", the masculine will be used as a gender-neutral term, and
 > the masculine plural will be used if there are a hundred girls and
 > one boy in the room.
 >
 > Well, as it turns out, Moro, a real language, does *exactly* the
 > opposite.
 >
 > ombja = boy
 > Ne4a = girl
 > lembja = boys
 > Je4a = girls *or* children (e.g., 100 boys and 1 girl, or all boys,
 > too)
 >
 > And there can be no mistake about this.  We asked our consultant to
 > tell us a story about anything so that we could transcribe it,
 > figure it out, and have more than words and sentences to go by.
 > The story he told us was a brief personal history.  In the relevant
 > part, our consultant was talking about his brother, who had five
 > children (Je4a), three boys and two girls.  Our consultant then
 > told how he has four children (Je4a again), two boys and two girls.
 >
 > So, there you have it: A virtually undocumented language until now
 > strikes a blow for women's rights!
 >
 > Well, maybe it's not as fantastic as all that, but it is
 > interesting.
 >

It's very interesting.  The obvious question (which I've missed if
it's been asked in the other replies) is whether this is part of a
systematic pattern, as in Spanish.

The other obvious question, now that the matter of a relation between
such features and male or female dominance in society has been raised,
is whether you know anything about gender roles in Moro society that
might have some bearing on this.