--- In [log in to unmask], Larry Sulky <larrysulky@...> wrote:
> On Sat, May 22, 2010 at 12:51 PM, steve rice <ansric@...> wrote:
> > --- On Sat, 5/22/10, Larry Sulky <larrysulky@...> wrote:
> >
> > It generally does work better in such cases to analyze the genders as
> > feminine and non-feminine (with an added "inanimate" category in this 
> > And yes, that does give females a special position: males are generic, while
> > females are special.
> >
> Better? Really? Can we have some evidence, please?

In science, including linguistics, there is generally a preference for those 
theories that are simple, powerful, and elegant. Such an analysis of the IN 
pronominal system (3rd person) would be

inanimate/conceptual: it
animate-feminine: ila
animate-non-feminine: il

This disposes simply of the fact that "il" covers males and unspecified 
animates. Note that the normal plural is the generic "ili": "ilai" exists only in 
those comparatively rare cases when it's useful to specify an all-female group. 
It would give better symmetry to have a dedicated masculine pronoun as well 
as a generic one, but it's not a fatal issue--indeed, it has no functional import 
at all.

And can we get some of
> the female auxlangers' input on this?

Considering that the Facebook IN group was founded by a self-professed 
female, you may be surprised at the answer.
> And if the IN scheme is better, then while we're busy according special
> pronouns to the traditionally oppressed, and congratulating ourselves for
> it, I'd like to propose the pronoun "ilom" for black people, to make up in
> some small way for the disenfranchisement they have experienced over the
> centuries. That way we can have "il" for the generic and for the presumed
> default of white males, and we can justly exalt females and black people.
> There are other pronouns that could be invented (for homosexuals, perhaps?)
> but I'll leave that as an exercise for the readers. I'm sure we standard
> generic default white men can withstand yet another such insult.

You got quite a lot of mileage out of misreading that remark of mine. If you will 
count to a zillion in the language of your choice and re-read my post, you will 
likely find that I was not claiming that IN is superior; I merely observed that 
there is a better way of analyzing the pronoun system than the traditional m/f/
n. In fact, feminine/non-feminine works quite well for Romance languages in 
general; its descriptive and explanatory power are far superior to the older 
> > "[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.
> I always suspected it was the sex-neutrality that doomed Ido!

And you were right. But seriously, the point is that what you seem to consider 
a fatal flaw has not doomed Eo; nor has its absence made Ido victorious. 
These considerations lead me to suppose that it's a fairly minor issue. (You 
might recall, however, that I have consistently said that Ido's personal 
pronoun system is the best. I'm not opposed to it.)
> > There are whiners; there always are.
> Oh, okay. I'm just whining. Silly me... forget I said anything or that my
> concerns might have any merit.

Gladly. Remember that I initially mentioned an actual functional issue: the final 
consonant clusters are hard to pronounce. I suggested a solution (at this 
point I would say change the plural to -s and append -i to final consonants as 
needed), but I did so as a theoretical matter: if I could go back in time, I 
would suggest such a thing. But I oppose needless reforms, and it's possible 
that the final consonant clusters will not prove insuperable. I am open to 

> I must learn to use that technique: marginalise the opponent and you
> marginalise the opponent's argument.

The opponent's argument is self-marginalizing: IN can function just fine 
without the tweak. I actually wish it had a pronoun system closer to Ido's, but 
it doesn't, and it can survive without such a thing. (If you disagree, you may 
go argue with the foundress of the FB IN group.) 
> > And perhaps Eo truly will acquire a gender-neutral pronoun someday, just 
> > the rest of its lexicon is trending in a gender-neutral direction.
> WHAT? But why? Clearly there is no need for that!

Formations in -isto are generally considered generic these days; "instruistino" 
seems a bit emphatic or archaic to me, and I think -ulo is going the same way. 
Is there a need for it? Apparently.

And all this I hear about
> contemporary English going to extremes to avoid using "he" as the generic
> animate pronoun? Poppycock! Why, where I work 85% of the employees are
> women, and nary a one of them has any problem being referred to in the
> abstract as "he", I'm quite sure.

English and IN are rather different in their underlying systems, no doubt. Still, 
in English, the generic use of the "male" pronoun is one of the only remnants of 
grammatical gender in a system that otherwise pretty much lacks it. The 
problem is that in terms of what a linguist would call correctness, something is 
correct if it feels right LINGUISTICALLY and wrong if it feels wrong 
LINGUISTICALLY. How it makes one feel in terms of political correctness is 
neither here nor there. A feminine pronoun (note the lack of quotes) requires a 
feminine referent, the only exception being the personifying sense (e.g., calling 
a ship "she"). The personifying function of the feminine is a special quality it 
possesses, just as the non-feminine possesses the quality of generic use. I no 
more expect a ship to be female than I expect a generic "he" to be male.

But then, I'm literate.
> However,
> >
> > 1. As noted, the current arrangement doesn't really insult anybody, except
> > perhaps men, and we're used to it.
> Oh, my goodness. Us poor men! How we've suffered!
> I just love how it's always men who insist that such arrangements don't
> insult anybody.

"Always"? That seems reckless. I could mention some women (writers, yet!) 
who would agree with me. Oh, wait, there's a new episode of "Women 
Behaving Badly" coming on! What a hoot!
> > 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.
> So have gender-specificity! A specific pronoun for females, AND a specific
> pronoun for males, plus a gender-neutral one for when it doesn't matter.
I would support that. A large part of the problem is that they try to get by on 
only one 3s pronoun, but they lack the infrastructure, so to speak, of 
languages that could actually pull that off. Again, I am not hostile to having a 
dedicated generic pronoun; I just don't see the need to reverse-engineer one 
into being.

> > And bear in mind how false a simplistic Whorfian view can be: Japanese 
> > not have gender as such, but has the society that generated and used it 
> > particularly fair to women?

An eloquent silence, there...
> >
> 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.
> >
> You know me: Strife-sower. Whiner.
> Consider me weeded.
Count to a zillion again, and consider that I am not the Voice of Idiom Neutral. 
Dave is closer to that, and even he doesn't quite qualify. Perhaps the lady on 
FB is.

But history shows that once the tweakers win even a minor victory, the result 
for the language tends to be the death of a thousand tweaks.

Can IN function without this change? Evidently. Can it attract a female 
adherent without this change? It has already done so. The proposed change is 
thus unnecessary, and unnecessary changes, like unnecessary surgery, should 
be avoided.


Can IN function without this change? Evidently. Can it attract a female 
adherent without this change? It has already done so. The proposed change is 
thus unnecessary, and unnecessary changes, like unnecessary surgery, should 
be avoided.