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--- On Sat, 5/22/10, Larry Sulky <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>>On Sat, May 22, 2010 at 10:06 AM, MacLeod Dave <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>>I thought about that, but what if the situation were reversed? Let's
say women always made more money than men, men stayed in the kitchen
and weren't able to vote, etc. I suspect they would look at the ilai
pronoun and say "oh look at that, women not only rule over men but
they also get their own pronoun, while when you say ili there's no way
to know whether it's a group entirely consisting of men or not. When
will men get their own plural pronoun?"

>Nice try, Dave. ;-) "We're not assuming that the default condition is male! No, not at all! In fact, we're elevating women by having a special pronoun for them! Yeah, that's right! And it's worked for Esperanto!"

>C'mon, Dave! All the cool kids are doing sex-neutral auxlangs! Don't be a dweeb!

It generally does work better in such cases to analyze the genders as feminine and non-feminine (with an added "inanimate" category in this case). And yes, that does give females a special position: males are generic, while females are special.

"[I]t's worked for Esperanto!" It sure has; Eo has far and away more users and a larger corpus than (say) Ido, which does the sex-neutral bit. There are whiners; there always are. And perhaps Eo truly will acquire a gender-neutral pronoun someday, just as the rest of its lexicon is trending in a gender-neutral direction. However,

1. As noted, the current arrangement doesn't really insult anybody, except perhaps men, and we're used to it. (It's the same setup as Volapuk had, incidentally.)

2. The gender-neutral idea is not natural for a lot of people. LFN's generic "el" is a major mistake; if they had a more normal system--even one like Ido's--they would likely do better. And bear in mind how false a simplistic Whorfian view can be: Japanese does not have gender as such, but has the society that generated and used it been particularly fair to women?

3. Therefore it will be a problem only for those determined to make it a problem. This is actually a good thing: it's always better to weed such people out as early as possible. Otherwise they will sow discontent and instability in a budding language with too few users to stand the strife.

Steve