[tlhIngan Hol] expressing goddess

SuStel sustel at trimboli.name
Wed Apr 14 08:38:25 PDT 2021

On 4/14/2021 10:29 AM, Will Martin wrote:
> It’s probably worth noting that English and some, but not all, other 
> human languages have a sex-gender bias that ignores that we are not 
> talking about Klingon grammatical gender. We are talking about Klingon 
> words that do or do not differentiate between the sexes. Gender, in 
> Klingon, is never sex related.
> Gender in Klingon separates beings capable of language, body parts, 
> and everything else. There’s nothing there about males or females. 
> That’s grammatical gender.

The difference is between /grammatical gender,/ which is a system of 
classifying nouns according to how they agree with other grammatical 
aspects of the language, and /natural gender,/ which is classifying 
nouns according to characteristics of the referent. Natural gender can 
be sex-based, or it can be based on something else. Animate/inanimate is 
one alternative.

Klingon seems to have a system of noun genders, but it's not a slam dunk 
to say that this is the case. For one thing, the alleged genders have 
minimal interaction with other areas of grammar: aside from needing to 
use the correct plural suffix, the only effects of gender are to connote 
that a noun is "scattered all about" and to be insulting if you refer to 
a being capable of using language as something that isn't capable of it. 
For another, the choice of plural suffix doesn't usually seem tied to 
the noun itself but the context in which the noun is used: Klingon have 
to think about whether to use *-pu'* or *-mey* when referring to 
speaking robots and birds. So while I will sometimes casually call this 
gender in Klingon, it's not necessarily quite so straightforward as 
that. Noun classes are not automatically genders.

> In English, gender separated males, females, and neuters (everything 
> else).
> In French, gender separates males and females, and arbitrarily assigns 
> male and female grammatical gender to everything English would call 
> neuter. A lot of languages do that.

Again, it's not that straightforward. Old English had grammatical 
gender, but during Middle English it mostly dropped away. There are 
still vestiges, though. Many words related to natural gender remain, and 
sometimes those still possess some grammatical gender. Dictionaries will 
still tell you to use /blonde/ to refer to girls or women and /blond/ as 
a more general term. Ships and countries are sometimes referred to as 
/she/ and /her./

And the grammatical gender of Old English didn't always match 
grammatical and natural gender. It had, for instance, words meaning 
/wife/ in all three of its gender categories.

> Grammatical gender is just an arbitrary way of grouping nouns that may 
> or may not have anything to do with males, females, and neuter things 
> or beings.
> This bias toward sex-gender links is at the root of this discussion, 
> since we are basically asking the question as to whether the English 
> glosses, which have sexual gender, carry that sex-related meaning with 
> it to the Klingon word it is linked to, even though, so far as we 
> know, Klingons just don’t habitually consider sex gender as 
> automatically as we do, every time we parse every single noun we ever 
> use. For us, it is essential. For them, it’s probably, “Meh.”

But it's not essential for us. We have tons of words that aren't given a 
natural gender and can't be forced into one. /Farmer, captain, baby, 
hippie, teacher./

> So, through our language, we are constantly asking ourselves about 
> every noun, “Could I have sex with this?” while Klingons are asking, 
> “Can this thing talk to me, or could I lose it in a battle or eat it 
> if I kill the thing it’s attached to?"

No we don't. Grammatical gender is not about sex, and natural gender 
based on sex only applies to those nouns whose referents exhibit sexual 
characteristics. We call dogs and cats /he, she,/ or /it/ depending on 
the characteristics of the animals and our relationships with them, not 
based on whether they are sexually compatible with us. Some people will 
even switch between /he/she/ and /it/ based on how personal they need to 
be in the given situation. I find it very normal to refer to pets of 
known sex as /he /or/she,/ while pets of unknown sex are /it,/ but human 
beings of known sex (or sexual preference) are /he/ or /she,/ while 
those of unknown sex or preference are /they,/ never /it./ A pet of 
unknown sex is never /they./

Similarly, I seriously doubt Klingons base their noun classes around 
concern about how the noun interacts with themselves. Noun classes are 
just built into the language. The plural of *targh* is *targhmey,* not 
because I can't have a conversation with it, but because that's how you 
make the plural of things not capable of language.


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