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#42588 - 09/23/01 12:35 AM Re: Gender and Articles
Bobyoungbalt Offline
veteran

Registered: 11/22/00
Posts: 1289
In reply to your last question, why we have 'a' or 'an' depending on whether the following noun starts with a vowel or a consonant, it's simply a matter of ease of pronunciation as well as how it sounds. Try eliminating "an" and using 'a' exclusively when speaking (recite or read something to hear yourself). When the following word starts with an vowel (or an 'h') there has to be a very slight hesitation between the two and it sounds gulping or breathy. That's why the 'n' is inserted (and creates 'an'); it makes the words flow smoothly without the hesitation or huffing sound you otherwise get, like when we use 'a' before an aspirated 'h'. ('An' was often used before 'h' in Elizabethan English -- see the Biblical verse referring to "an house not made with hands", but the practice was later dropped.) So its not a matter of grammar, syntax, derivation or philology -- just a practical matter of euphony.


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#42589 - 09/23/01 07:27 AM Re: the migratory "n"
Keiva Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/04/01
Posts: 2605
The "n" of "an" has sometimes migrated over time to the noun. Perhaps oversimplifying a bit:
an apron became a napron, which became a napkin.
To the ear, an apron and a napron would sound almost exactly alike.

Another example is the word "eke", but no in the sense with is, today, its almost-exclusive usage (to eke out a living). Using it older sense:
a shortened name = an eke name, which became a nekename, which became a nickname


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#42590 - 09/23/01 07:55 PM Re: Gender and Articles
teresag Offline
journeyman

Registered: 03/12/01
Posts: 60
Loc: Oregon, USA
<green> Now don't all get in a tizzy about me knowing this. Keep in mind that French people tend to have a different view about sexuality in general.</green>

Hmmm....is that a different view about sexuality, or about women? French women don't whistle at a good looking men walking down the street. The French don't fequently display men's bodies publically as objects of desire, lust and endless fascination.

Be careful what you call "sexuality."


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#42591 - 09/23/01 07:57 PM Re: Gender and Articles
teresag Offline
journeyman

Registered: 03/12/01
Posts: 60
Loc: Oregon, USA
Now don't all get in a tizzy about me knowing this. Keep in mind that French people tend to have a different view about sexuality in general.

Hmmm....is that a different view about sexuality, or about women? French women don't whistle at a good looking men walking down the street. The French don't frequently display men's bodies publically as objects of desire, lust and endless fascination.

Be careful what you call "sexuality."


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#42592 - 09/24/01 01:13 AM Re: Gender and Articles
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Jazzo, you're getting off comparatively lightly. From David Crystal's The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (page 91):

Distinctions such as masculine/feminine and human/non-human are well known in setting up sub-classes of nouns, because of their widespread use in European languages. But many Indo-Pacific and African languages far exceed these in the number of noun classes they recognize. In Bantu languages, for example, we find such noun classes as human beings, growing things, body parts, liquids, inanimate objects, animals, kinship names, abstract ideas, artefacts, and narrow objects.

However, these labels should be viewed with caution, as they are no more exact symantically than are the gender classes of European languages.


Bingley
_________________________
Bingley

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#42593 - 09/24/01 03:48 AM Re: Gender and Articles
Capital Kiwi Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/13/00
Posts: 3146
Loc: Northamptonshire, England
<green> Now don't all get in a tizzy about me knowing this. Keep in mind that French people tend to have a different view about sexuality in general.</green>

Hmmm....is that a different view about sexuality, or about women? French women don't whistle at a good looking men walking down the street. The French don't fequently display men's bodies publically as objects of desire, lust and endless fascination.

Be careful what you call "sexuality."


Now, while I don't try to set myself up as any kind of expert on the subject of sexuality, I must defend Bel here on a matter of pure logic. She was talking attitudes, you are talking actions. Not the same thing at all! I bet Bel doesn't have to whistle ...


_________________________
The idiot also known as Capfka ...

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#42594 - 09/24/01 09:11 AM Re: Gender and Articles
teresag Offline
journeyman

Registered: 03/12/01
Posts: 60
Loc: Oregon, USA
In Bantu languages, for example, we find such noun
classes as human beings, growing things, body parts, liquids, inanimate objects, animals, kinship names,
abstract ideas, artefacts, and narrow objects. However, these labels should be viewed with caution, as they are no more exact symantically than are the gender classes of European languages.


Fascinating! It brought to mind the distinction in the traditional medicine of many cultures between "hot" and "cold" foods, which has nothing to do with temperature or capsaicin content.


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#42595 - 09/24/01 09:36 AM Re: Gender and Articles in OE
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13800
3 genders (masc., fem. & neuter), 5 cases (nominative, genetive, dative, accusative and instrumental) and 2 numbers, sing. & plural

It's not even *that simple. There was an occasionally used dual number sandwiched in between singular and plural. It even had its own set of pronouns.

As for "natural" gender in English, The simple word for woman, wif, was neuter and the compound word, wifman (later to be worn down to our Modern English woman), following the Germanic rule of compound words taking the gender of the final element, was masculine.


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#42596 - 09/24/01 10:58 AM Re: Gender and Articles (a/an)
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13800
That's why the 'n' is inserted (and creates 'an')

Actually® the n was there first and was lost through elision before words starting with a consonant sound (it's even harder to say "an book" than it is to say "a apple"; witness the fact that "a" is the onliest indefinite article in many dialects). The indefinite article was derived from the word for the number 1.


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#42597 - 09/24/01 01:11 PM Re: Gender and Articles in OE
Keiva Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/04/01
Posts: 2605
There was an occasionally used dual number sandwiched in between singular and plural. It even had its own set of pronouns.

There's also a dual plural in Hebrew, though to the best of of my limited knowledge it has only one common use. My understanding is:

Normal plurals, meaning "two or more" are formed by adding a suffix, the masculine form of which is pronounced -eem (usually transliterated as -im). The obscure suffix meaning "precisely two" is -ayeem, and is used as below.

In English the preposition behind (behind the table} is also used as a noun [get your behind moving). In Hebrew the equivalent preposition, "tachat", is also pressed into service to mean that same noun -- but the nominative form is tachatayeem.



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