[tlhIngan Hol] Expressing "neutral gender"

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Tue May 28 14:13:18 PDT 2019

> On May 28, 2019, at 3:17 PM, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:
> On 5/28/2019 2:52 PM, Will Martin wrote:
>> A person using English to talk about an entity needs to know whether that entity is a “he”, a “she”, or an “it”, or you can’t replace the noun with a pronoun, and talking about the entity gets awkward.
> Style guides have begun recommending the gender-indeterminate they for these situations.
This points out the arbitrary nature of gender, since English could just as easily have come up with masculine, feminine, and mixed versions of plural pronouns, but instead arbitrarily decided that while singular had to indicate whether singular entities were insees or outsees, but plural ones didn’t have to.

>> You gave no indication what the relevance is of the alien being male or female or not.
> No, he didn't, and he doesn't have to. He just asked if there is a way to say someone is of neutral gender. This is a perfectly reasonable and complete question. It doesn't require special context to answer.
Okay. Of course, the less context a person provides, the easier it is to be misunderstood. Communication is always incomplete. Context makes it more complete.

>> I made no reference as to whether a Klingon would culturally feel an interest in the biological sexual category of an alien. As a human using the Klingon language, without any context, I didn’t understand what the interest is in the sexual category of an alien. That’s really it. 
> Okay, so you were not answering his question, you were pontificating on some completely different question.
Yep. As so many of us here like to do so often, yourself included. It just bothers you when *I* do it.

>> I was just trying to point out that while speaking English, because of the unusual way that English ties grammatical gender to biological sex classification, you might have a bias pushing to you want to focus on that.
> First of all, English using biological sex in its very limited system of genders is not all that unusual.
> Second, mayqel's native language is Greek, not English.
Thanks. That’s more missing context. I wonder how Greek handles gender. I’d enjoy it if he explained how Greed does it, from a native perspective. No one has described to me how Greek handles gender.

>> I’m not saying that the Klingon language lacks sex-based grammatical gender for a reason. It’s completely arbitrary, as is the case in every language.
> Not the case. Languages develop the way they do for reasons, not arbitrarily. "Singular they," for example, is becoming common as a reaction to the perceived sexism of using "impersonal he." Thou and thee disappeared in part due to social classes becoming more equal.
Not really. Thee and thou disappeared during the Restoration period because English people were falling all over themselves trying to be more French. Guys were waking up in ditches after drinking brandy from mugs made for ale, because they were clueless about the higher the alcohol content of hard liquor. Read Samual Pypes Diaries for stories about stuff like this. And it was cool to bow and pretend to defer to the second person as being of greater number than the first person. They were pretending to speak to royalty, who had for centuries demanded that people refer to singular royals as if they were plural.

“We are not amused."

This is why Quakers refused to drop thee and thou for centuries because they recognized it as pretentious, which it is. It had much more to do with royalty than it did with greater equality of the classes. Quakers were big on the rightness of equality among all of humanity, and they were the LAST ones to give up on thee and thou. Some Quakers still use these words when speaking among themselves. They call it “plain speech”, which is nothing like an attachment to bygone days of inequality among classes.

Style guides are pushing the singular asexual “they” because they are trying to figure out a trend that will work. Efforts at creating a new pronoun failed. Maybe this will work better.

Or not. We don’t know yet.

There’s also the other way to fix the “you” plural/singular problem with the northern “youse guys” or the southern “y’all”. Likely, we’ll never get everyone to agree on either. If we did, then the old plural would be the new singular and we’d have a new plural.

It really is arbitrary, and since nobody controls the language, it just depends on whatever trend catches on and sticks. “Cool” still works. “Groovy”? Not so much.

Language isn’t particularly reasonable. Efforts to find the reasons for language stuff happening are driven by the desire to have reasons for things. It’s a strong human desire, even when an effect has no single, determinable cause.
> I said earlier that English effectively has no gender, but it actually does have some, also based on biological sex: widow/widower; steward/stewardess; waiter/waitress (a whole bunch of -ess endings in fact) and so on. And the female forms of these are starting to disappear as reactions to the perceived sexism of the language.
> This stuff isn't arbitrary.
Again, you are confusing linguistic gender for sex. There are a lot of languages with linguistic gender drawn on boundaries other than sex and plenty of languages with no gender. English has lots of gender stuff based on masculine, feminine and neuter.

Getting back to the original question about an alien that isn’t male or female, how would one handle that in French? They have masculine and feminine, but they have no neuter. Do we consider French to be incomplete because THEY don’t have a quick, convenient way to describe an alien that isn’t male or female? Any French speakers here with suggestions as to how to say “The alien is neuter” in French?

The original post seemed to be in a huff about how incomplete Klingon is because it doesn’t work like English to describe a neuter alien.

Do we criticize English as being incomplete because it doesn’t have an easy, convenient way without borrowing a word from German to describe pleasure derived from misfortune experienced by others?

All languages are incomplete.


Like this is something to get worked up about?

>> Do you care if a chair is a boy chair or a girl chair?
> No, he cares if an alien is neuter. How do you translate The alien is neuter?

loD be’ ghap rurbe’ nov.

Or I’d just point and say, {nov ‘oH} or {nov ghaH} depending on whether I considered it to be capable of using language, and if someone wanted to read maleness or femaleness or the need to be one or the other, that would be on them and not on me, unless someone explained a context about why I’d care whether it was male, female, or neuter.

Unless I believe that males should dominate females or vice versa, or unless there’s some other big cultural difference in how males or females should be handled or treated or thought about, or unless I intend to try to mate with one of these aliens, WTF difference does it make whether it’s male or female or neither? Give me enough context to make me care.

Alien means “Not like me.” So, if it’s not like me, and I don’t want to mate with it, why even feel curious as to whether it’s male or female or neither? It’s not part of my culture, human or Klingon. It’s alien. What it does when it has sex IF it has sex is none of my business or concern. This is the extreme of sexism: Caring about whether an alien is male or female or neuter.
> -- 
> SuStel
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charghwI’ vaghnerya’ngan

rInpa’ bomnIS be’’a’ pI’.

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