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    Quote Originally Posted by ForzaFiori View Post
    Should we call Europeans white or Caucasian? Neither really works, since Caucasian is specific to the Caucasus, and there are whites outside of Europe and non-whites in Europe. Or can I say that i'm European American?
    Call them 'European'? No need to complicate matters

    I'm personally quite partial to the fact that 'Aryan' originally meant from a certain part of Persia, and is related to the modern name of 'Iran'. A far cry from the 'blond-haired, blue-eyed, Northern European' image that comes to mind for many people.

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    my bad, I meant to say "European-Americans", AKA "white" people in America. Who are all colors from off white to olive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Which isn't to say we don't have our own casses of PC silliness. What I see a lot is the use of "students and studenttes", which lots of older University employes seem to regard as neccessary to point out that they are not exluding the female students.
    That sounds almost as silly as people inventing words like "herstory" because they consider "history" to be a portmanteau of "his" and "story" and thus sexist, despite the etymology of "history" being nothing of the kind...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maralais View Post
    Although the major alphabet change increased the amount of literate people hugely[and I do mean literally(pun intended)], but it also restricted access to past literary works.
    Well, the script change happened more or less simultaneously with the establishment of public education, right? Literacy couldn't have jumped so spectacularly if it weren't so low to begin with. This combination made the whole business a very special case. Introducing a new script to a largely illiterate population meant that the transition was quite smooth, since most people didn't have to unlearn anything. That's what usually causes a huge mess.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maralais View Post
    This, combined with the HUGE refinement of Turkish vocabulary(e.g., some of the "linguists" who were prominent during the reforms even refused to use the particle "ve", which is a direct equivalent of and, because it was of Arabic origin.), makes Divan poetry, first novels of the 18th century, and many other works under the Turkish-Islamic period(except Aşık Poetry, which is given the name folk literature, while Divan poetry is seen as pointless and elitist) unintelligible to us.
    I'm generally against forced changes in vocabulary. Language is what people speak, and linguists have plenty of work to do in analyzing and categorizing a language and its elements - changing it isn't part of the job.

    However, once a change is done, it's done. I know there was a purge in Turkish (though I thought it targeted Persian words more than Arabic ones). But now that it happened, undoing it would be just as unnatural, and probably do more harm than good even if it were possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maralais View Post
    I wish there was a way to keep both. Retaining the connection with Divan poetry and embracing it as a part of our culture, while renovating the script to increase literacy and ease education.

    So now we're facing a dilemma in a "What if?" situation: Would keeping the language as it was help us have a better connection with our past culture? Or would it cause a problem with literacy, causing educational problems?
    When it comes to understanding older forms of your language in order to stay in contact with your cultural continuity (if I got your point), I honestly think this should be reserved for those who WANT to pursue it. Force-feed it to ALL kids in school, and you add unnecessary layers of complexity, wreaking havoc in the process.

    Well, that may not be a general truth - it obviously depends on the language in question. My rule of thumb is this: if it's unintelligible to begin with, maybe it should be taught only to those who are interested. The rest can make do with the translations, and there's nothing wrong with that. Obviously they'll miss things, but think how much more they'd miss by struggling in vain with a text they can't understand at all.

    We have similar problems over here (just a little bit to your left ) with ancient Greek. Should we teach it in schools? Make it compulsory? Beginning at which age? Aiming for what level of mastery? I think it should be strictly optional, but most would strangle me for saying that. Except the schoolkids. The schoolkids would hug me...

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    That sounds almost as silly as people inventing words like "herstory" because they consider "history" to be a portmanteau of "his" and "story" and thus sexist, despite the etymology of "history" being nothing of the kind...
    Not that I'm in the habit of defending PC silliness, but I'm pretty sure that "herstory" is meant to be a pun, and etymology has nothing to do with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    That sounds almost as silly as people inventing words like "herstory" because they consider "history" to be a portmanteau of "his" and "story" and thus sexist, despite the etymology of "history" being nothing of the kind...
    I didn't know that one...
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    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    I didn't know that one...
    I wish I still didn't...
    people are stooopid...
    Apologies for quoting myself, but I'm assuming you skipped the previous monstrous post, with the relevant bit at the end:
    "herstory" is meant to be a pun, and etymology has nothing to do with it
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    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    That sounds almost as silly as people inventing words like "herstory" because they consider "history" to be a portmanteau of "his" and "story" and thus sexist, despite the etymology of "history" being nothing of the kind...
    Female supremacy chauvinism is an entirely different story...

    In German, in the addition to Mann, which is man and refers to an adult male, we also have the completely identically sounding man, which is used in generalizations like "You should never ..." or "Somebody would have to...".
    There are some occasions where it has been replaced by frau (woman), but I think every time it was used in the last 20 years was a tongue in cheek joke.

    But since we are at the issue of language, I object to the term "feminism" on that ground. There are words like emancipation, equality, and equal rights that clearly say that it's about everyone being equal and nobody having a claim to being special.
    When you call it feminism, it's just about women. Which seems unfair to so many other groups who are and have been socially disadvantaged to white upper class males.
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-08-30 at 04:42 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeadlessMermaid View Post
    Apologies for quoting myself, but I'm assuming you skipped the previous monstrous post, with the relevant bit at the end:
    I did indeed skipped it..no idea why.. trouble is, as much as this can be a pun..there are too many instances of people getting their knickers in a twist over this kind of things, for me to change my mind..
    people are stoopid.

    things like his/her becoming hir.. I'm sure these things pose a genuine identity issue to some individuals who have it..less easy in the gender determination department.. but it still makes me go and
    ..especially when this becomes yet another quest for politically correctness.
    incidentally, what IS the PC way to identify a black man or woman in Europe? African-american just doesn't do it, because there's nothing american about them in most cases..and African could be seen as denigratory...because so many people do use it in such a fashion...
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    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    That sounds almost as silly as people inventing words like "herstory" because they consider "history" to be a portmanteau of "his" and "story" and thus sexist, despite the etymology of "history" being nothing of the kind...
    Not quite that silly. German is a gendered language. Every noun has is either male, female or neuter. Nouns for groups of people, however, usually have a male and a female version. English has that in a few cases (which alll seem to come from French, I think). Look at sorcerer/sorceress, host/hostess and so on. They all work like that in German. So instead of just "students" you get "Studenten und Studentinnen" (male and female students).
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    Though I think at least for most under-30s, the perception is:

    Male Students: Studenten.
    Female Students: Studentinnen.
    Non-specified Students: Studenten.

    While the singular Student is gramatically masculine (like foot, tree, summer, moon, shoe; it's complitely random), plurals don't seem to have a gramatical gender.
    Or rather, when you compare it to the singular, all plurals use the same forms as the feminine singular.

    The shoes of the man = Die Schuhe des Mannes.
    The shoes of the woman = Die Schuhe der Frau.
    The shoed of the children = Die Schuhe der Kinder.
    The shoes of the men = Die Schuhe der Männer.

    Fascinating, I never noticed that before. The next time anyone starts a debate that using the plural of the masculine form as the neutral plural is sexist, I have to mention that all plurals are sexist agains men.
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    About languages and simplification (extra letters, and all).

    We have a number of ancient Norse words that we still use that seem to be spelled weird.

    For example:

    Hjul - Wheel
    Ljus - Candle or Light

    These are now simply pronounced "Jul" (Yul, for you English-speakers out there) and "Jus" (Yus).

    In this case they really were pronounced as spelled from the beginning, with a distinct "H" or "L" sound at the beginning, but somewhere around the turn of the last millennium that changed.

    Regarding the extra letters in Armour etc... Like most Swedes I was taught British grammar and pronunciation in school, and then watched and listened to almost 100% American English on the TV / Radio. So I tend to go both ways, which makes spellchecker programs nutty...

    (It is even more common in my parent's generation, which still uses "Lorry" and "Petrol Station" for example when they speak English).
    Last edited by Avilan the Grey; 2012-08-30 at 06:22 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    incidentally, what IS the PC way to identify a black man or woman in Europe?
    Identify a black person as black, without any other concerns? "Black". There. Problem solved.

    Without specifying further, it's impossible to use any other term. African is out of the question. Not because it's derogatory - it isn't at all (context could make it so, but context could make anything derogatory). However, quite a lot of black people in Europe, especially in the UK and France, trace their origin in the Caribbean long before tracing it back to Africa. And if you think about it, we ALL trace our origin back to Africa in the end.
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    There was a time when "Negro" was the right word to use, and Martin Luther King actually used it in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, yet I suspect most black people would find it quite offensive to be referred to as a negro these days. Who knows? In another 20-30 years "black" might be seen the same way and there'll be another word to use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    incidentally, what IS the PC way to identify a black man or woman in Europe? African-american just doesn't do it, because there's nothing american about them in most cases..and African could be seen as denigratory...because so many people do use it in such a fashion...
    It's not complicated. A black guy from London is English, or British. A black woman from Nice is French. A black guy from Madrid is Spanish. A black woman from Lagos is Nigerian. And so on.

    Three of the above are European, and one is African. Calling the Nigerian 'African' is a statement of fact, but calling the Londoner 'African' would be insulting, as it implies that his skin colour makes him less British, even if he had lived there his whole life, known nothing else, and had monolingual fluency in Scouser.

    The term 'black' won't cause offence, no more than 'white' would, as long as a) it's relevant, not gratuitous, and b) it's not used in an insulting manner.

    'African-American' will just get you laughed at, however. There are a few amusing stories floating around of Americans in the UK who saw 'African-American' as a general-use polite euphemism for 'black', despite the clue being in the name, and who were completely confused upon meeting black people and being corrected, "Mate, I'm not African-American, I'm British!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Goosefeather View Post
    It's not complicated. A black guy from London is English, or British. A black woman from Nice is French. A black guy from Madrid is Spanish. A black woman from Lagos is Nigerian. And so on.

    Three of the above are European, and one is African however it also has to do with where they were born. A Nigerian man moving to Sweden are as often referred to as Nigerian (even by himself). not Swedish.A person born in Sweden by Nigerian parents, or moving here when he or she was very young? Swedish. Calling the Nigerian 'African' is a statement of fact, but calling the Londoner 'African' would be insulting, as it implies that his skin colour makes him less British, even if he had lived there his whole life, known nothing else, and had monolingual fluency in Scouser.
    This, definitely. It also works the other way around; you don't call someone "Caucasian", he or she is Swedish. Or Polish, Czech or Greek.
    Last edited by Avilan the Grey; 2012-08-30 at 07:38 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goosefeather View Post
    It's not complicated. A black guy from London is English, or British. A black woman from Nice is French. A black guy from Madrid is Spanish. A black woman from Lagos is Nigerian. And so on.
    I understand why you wrote that (and why you immediately got applause), and I'm sure I'm in agreement with your reasons.

    But stating a person's nationality when someone asks for a word for "black person" is irrelevant. You might as well state profession: a black guy who performs surgeries is a surgeon, a black guy who sells groceries is a grocer. Well, obviously.

    The implied guideline, even if you didn't mean it that way, is "don't use a word for color at all if you can help it". Which isn't the case. You explained it yourself two sentences later, I'd just like to make it clear.

    If the context isn't fishy, there's absolutely nothing wrong with using the word "black". The word is fine. Context is, of course, another matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Avilan the Grey View Post
    This, definitely. It also works the other way around; you don't call someone "Caucasian", he or she is Swedish. Or Polish, Czech or Greek.
    I disagree. You call someone "Caucasian" if it's relevant to the conversation. You call him Czech if that's relevant. You call him both if required. Or none. As above, I'm simply pointing out the importance of context. :)
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeadlessMermaid View Post
    I disagree. You call someone "Caucasian" if it's relevant to the conversation. You call him Czech if that's relevant. You call him both if required. Or none. As above, I'm simply pointing out the importance of context. :)
    I don't think so; in most countries the word doesn't even exist, anyway.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goosefeather View Post
    It's not complicated. A black guy from London is English, or British. A black woman from Nice is French. A black guy from Madrid is Spanish. A black woman from Lagos is Nigerian. And so on.
    not really what I had in mind.
    there was a sketch of.. can't remember who really... a british comedian anyway..
    this pc- related question was asked in a sarky way..
    but the situation was more detailed.. say.. there's 1 black individual in a room full of people.. he gave you or told you something.. and you are explaining who did it to a third party.. do you say "the black guy over there" or do you look for anything else that singles him out over the skin colour (say, an orange jumper).. just to be PC?

    I'm afraid I'm not explaining it very well..
    Last edited by dehro; 2012-08-30 at 10:10 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avilan the Grey View Post
    I don't think so; in most countries the word doesn't even exist, anyway.
    Yeah, OK, Caucasian is American English for white (I'm simplifying, but not much), so for our purposes, the word "white" will do the trick, yes?

    1) John Mayall was one of the first white musicians who embraced the blues, sparking a renewed interest and several reissues of older blues recordings.
    (what is more relevant? that he's white)

    2) John Mayall is an English musician who led the British Blues movement, participating in several influential English groups of the 60's and 70's.
    (what is more relevant? that he's English)

    I'm sure you'll say that's not what you meant. Well, my point exactly. Context context context. It's not a crime to use a word for color or "race", the usage makes all the difference.
    Last edited by HeadlessMermaid; 2012-08-30 at 09:58 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dehro View Post
    ..especially when this becomes yet another quest for politically correctness.
    incidentally, what IS the PC way to identify a black man or woman in Europe? African-american just doesn't do it, because there's nothing american about them in most cases..and African could be seen as denigratory...because so many people do use it in such a fashion...
    "Afro-Caribbean" is common in the UK, particularly on census forms and the like. Until relatively recently the vast majority of the black population in the UK was Caribbean in origin, although the balance has apparently shifted in the last ten-fifteen years or so. As mentioned above, though, "black" isn't generally quite such a charged term here and is commonly used, and if there's a need to distinguish (for diversity quotas and the like) then "Black British" and "White British" also see official use.

    Some people do still define themselves as, say, Jamaican, though, even though they are to all intents and purposes British. I think that's really just a way of ascribing to themselves a "regional" identity, in the same way that other friends of mine call themselves French or Mexican or Scottish despite being English - and identifying themselves as such when abroad.

    A more difficult question, I think, is what to call people who are, as it were, half-black, half-white (when it's necessary to do so).
    Last edited by Aedilred; 2012-08-30 at 10:28 AM.
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    In Germany we just call them blacks. When appearing in news that might have a racist background, the nationality is given, or the original nationality of the family before it emigrated. It simply would say "A group of teenagers shouted racist insults again two Nigerians". This implies clearly enough that they were black and not whites with Nigerian passports.
    In official census data, ethnicity is never included. For historic reasons.

    Usually, we go with nationality for everyone. The common enthnic minorities are simply called Turks, Poles, Lebaneses, Vietnamese, Morrokkans, Chinese, and so on.
    Which might be for historic reasons. Germany never really stopped being a tribal confederation at heart. Being German is a political thing, culturally it matters a lot more if you are a Frankonian, Bavarian, Saxon, Frisian, or Westphalian. So it kind of makes sense to refer to foreigners and imigrants by the location they are from, since that's how we've always defined ourselves.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeadlessMermaid View Post
    Yeah, OK, Caucasian is American English for white (I'm simplifying, but not much), so for our purposes, the word "white" will do the trick, yes?

    1) John Mayall was one of the first white musicians who embraced the blues, sparking a renewed interest and several reissues of older blues recordings.
    (what is more relevant? that he's white)
    In this context yes, it (white) works.

    Edit: As Yora points out, at least in Sweden we also tend to separate by nationality, so "black" is not a thing simply because we separate Nigerians from South Africans from Ethiopians.
    Last edited by Avilan the Grey; 2012-08-30 at 11:52 AM.
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    I'm American and I don't think I've ever used the term "African-American" to describe a black person. Black might be a no-no word in twenty-odd years, but for the moment I think it's the generic term to describe some of African/Caribbean descent. "African-American" sounds like it's trying too hard to be PC, and I my soul cringes whenever I hear people use it to describe black people outside the U.S.

    Tangent:
    A part of me is always surprised that grammatical gender hasn't gone the way of the buffalo. I suppose the unique flavor it imparts to things is interesting (I think someone in this thread mentioned Spanish bridges being strong and sturdy, German bridges being graceful and beautiful?). But as someone who studied Spanish, memorizing the gender of each noun is such a godawful slog—especially when it doesn't follow the normal rules. One of my favorite quotes sums it up nicely:

    "I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing and making an occasional fool of itself. Why refer to Lady Crack Pipe or Good Sir Dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?"

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  24. - Top - End - #384
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    I think it also matters what aspect of a person you are referring to.

    You could easily say "black people face discrimination in the US". Because it is completele irrelevant what ethnic group, what social background, or what nationality the person has. The thing that triggers discrimination is the dark skin color. This is something that affects all people with that skin color equally, so it is appropriate to refer to them by that trait.
    However, it would be wrong to say that "Africans face discrimination in the US". White South Africans are not affected by this type of discrimination and most black people in America are american nationals, not citizens of an African country.
    It would equally be misleading to say "African-Americans face discrimination". Yes they do, but so do all black people even if they are not Americans.

    In Germany we still call them Indians, but that might have something to do that we have different words for native americans and the people of India, which are Indianer and Inder respectively. No chance for a mix-up, both are clearly defined and completely seperate groups.

    However, for some reason the German word for Gypsies seems to be not acceptable. Though I think it can be said that the term Zigeuner is completely tied to an image of nomads with horse carts. Which these peoples no longer are since a long time. Maybe it was an attempt to get rid of the Stereotype by getting rid of the term.
    Not that it really helped, since every time someone asks "To what people does this term refer to?", the answer is just "That's the new word for Zigeuner".



    English manged to get rid of gramatical gender. And I really want to know how they did it! In German, gender has almost zero value of information. If you have complex sentence in which the subject and the object are of different gender, there is a small help when it comes to determining to which one something in another part of the sentence refers to.
    But German does alrady have case-sensitive articles that exist to give 100% accurate information on this. It only helps when you have an extremely convoluted sentence and object and subject have different gender. Which really doesn't justify the massive amount of time it takes to learn all the articles three times and to learn the gender of every single noun.

    That's why I love Japanese. It's incredibly optimized in that aspect. Though then they decided to make a huge deal of which words and phrases are appropriate for the speakers social status.
    But the grammar is simple!
    Last edited by Yora; 2012-08-30 at 03:23 PM.
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  25. - Top - End - #385
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    Quote Originally Posted by historiasdeosos View Post
    A part of me is always surprised that grammatical gender hasn't gone the way of the buffalo. I suppose the unique flavor it imparts to things is interesting (I think someone in this thread mentioned Spanish bridges being strong and sturdy, German bridges being graceful and beautiful?). But as someone who studied Spanish, memorizing the gender of each noun is such a godawful slog—especially when it doesn't follow the normal rules.
    I'm very fond of grammatical gender (it adds variety, variety is cool), but I understand your dismay.

    Question!

    What fascinates me is when languages without grammatical gender treat specific nouns as female. (I'm thinking English here, I don't know other examples.) The first time I stumbled upon this phenomenon was when I read Stephen King's "Christine". Where all the engineers, professional or amateurs, referred to the cars (or the engines) as a "she". And when they were trying to fix them, and it was hard and frustrating, they swore at them using words normally reserved for bad women. I'm sure it's not as common in use as Stephen King made it look, but I was very impressed.

    Why does that happen? Is it a relic of the past, when grammatical gender did actually exist? Is is an afterthought, added for emphasis, poetic license, whatever? How does it work?

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  26. - Top - End - #386
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    I'm not sure how accurate this is, but I've understood that to have its origins with the mentioned ships. Sailors had a tendency to anthropomorphize their vessels (see: figureheads), having a natural attachment to and reliance on the only thing keeping them from watery doom, and some people transferred this habit to other vehicles. (Personally, I don't recall hearing it used to refer to cars, but that could just be a regional thing.)
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  27. - Top - End - #387
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    Yeah, for some reason there are a few random things that are often referred to as female.

    - Ships, e.g. The Titanic sank on her maiden voyage.
    - Countries, e.g. Russia had defended herself against invasion time and time again. If I had to personify countries, some of them would certainly be male (Prussia evokes a portly military gentleman with a gigantic moustache, little round glasses and little round genitals). But even so, it would feel completely wrong to say "Prussia's involvement turned the tide of the war, his armies marching south and seizing Poland."
    - Vehicles in general? e.g. "Ain't she a beaut?" Unless you're my sister, who tried to name my car "Patrick Swayze". And come to think of it, it would feel weird calling my car a bastage or icehole, but I've certainly called her a bizznitch on many occasions.

    I don't think it's a remnant of the Old English gender system, because (if I recall correctly) boat/ship in Old English was masculine or neuter. If I had to guess, I'd say it's just a weird hey-people-like-to-personify-important-things sort of thing.

    ETA: Wiki says … "The pronoun "she" is sometimes used to refer to things which can contain people, such as countries, ships, or vehicles, or when referring to certain other machines. This, however, is considered an optional figure of speech. This usage is furthermore in decline and advised against by most journalistic style guides."
    Last edited by Inglenook; 2012-08-30 at 05:27 PM.

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  28. - Top - End - #388
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    Yeah, the Old English scip was neuter.

    English manged to get rid of gramatical gender. And I really want to know how they did it! In German, gender has almost zero value of information. If you have complex sentence in which the subject and the object are of different gender, there is a small help when it comes to determining to which one something in another part of the sentence refers to.
    Well, by the time the French came over, gender (along with the case system in general) was beginning to collapse.

    I'll give you the major tables. I could link them, but that seems inefficient. Also, I'll provide the German tables for comparison, since while I'm sure you're familiar, not everyone here will be.

    Spoiler
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    Definite Article:


    Now, you can see above that the definite article shows some signs of collapse - gender is barely a thing in the dative case, two genders have folded the instrumental case entirely into the dative, and there are signs of the nominative and accusative blurring as well. This sort of pattern follows well in the strong nouns.

    Strong nouns*:
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    {table=head] Case | Masc. | Neut. | Fem.
    Nom | - | - | -u/-
    Acc | - | - | -e
    Gen | -es | -es | -e
    Dat | -e | -e | -e
    Nom/Acc pl | -as | -u/- | -a
    Gen pl | -a | -a | -a
    Dat. pl | -um | -um | -um [/table]

    *not accounting for the smaller noun classes such as athematic and u-stem nouns, this was by far the more common noun declension paradigm in the language.


    Dative plurals are all the same, feminine plurals are all the same as the masculine and neuter genitive plural. Masculine and Neuter have completely collapsed in the singular, with feminine endings almost collapsed across the board in all cases with only dative plural (being indistinct of gender) and nominative singular (being distinct of gender only on short-stem nouns) being the only holdouts.

    The weak nouns are where the collapse of the case system is at its most dire, however.

    Weak nouns:
    Spoiler
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    {table=head] case | masc | neut | fem
    Nom | -a | -e | -e
    Acc | -an | -e | -an
    Gen | -an | -an | -an
    Dat | -an | -an | -an
    Nom/Acc pl | -an | -an | -an
    Gen pl | -ena | -ena | -ena
    Dat pl | -um | -um | -um
    [/table]
    Barely any differentiation here.



    Modern German:

    Spoiler
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    Definite Articles:

    Spoiler
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    {table=head] case | masc | neut | fem | plural
    Nom | der | das | die | die
    Acc | den | das | die | die
    Gen | des | des | der | der
    Dat | dem | dem |der | den [/table]


    What's interesting here is that this table parallels so close to Old English, despite a full millenium between Old English and modern German. However, let us compare to Old High German for a moment - we will do this where possible, because it will show us something interesting - that German is indeed showing a slow collapse of the case and gender system.

    Old High German definite articles:
    Spoiler
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    {table=head] case | masc | neut | fem
    Nom | der | daz | diu
    Acc | den | daz | dea/dia
    Gen | des | des | dera
    Dat | demu/demo | demu/demo | deru/dero
    Inst | - | diu | -
    Nom/Acc pl | de/dea/dia/die | diu | deo/dio
    Gen pl | dero | dero | dero
    Dat pl | dem/den | dem/den | dem/den
    Inst pl | - | - | - [/table]


    I can't exactly figure out how to put german nouns into a single table, so this will have to do - a table of Class I, II, and V - because I accounts for all feminine nouns, II for all neuter and a large number of masculine, and V for all plurals. Then I can follow with a table of class III and IV nouns.
    Modern German nouns.
    Spoiler
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    {table=head] case | masculine | neuter | feminine | plural
    Nom | - | - | - | -
    Acc | - | - | - | -
    Gen | -(e)s | -(e)s | - | -
    Dat | -(e) | -(e) | - | -(n) [/table]

    {table=head] case | III | IV
    Nom | - | -
    Acc | -(e)n | -(e)n
    Gen | -(e)n | - (e)ns
    Dat | -(e)n | -(e)n [/table]

    You can see that the declensions have very much begun to collapse. Gender in German, as Yora said, has almost no information to it. The good news is that you've nearly gotten rid of it, if I understood my guidebooks right and put these tables together correctly. In the nouns themselves, masculine and neuter are basically identical in form (with Class III and IV being outliers), feminine nouns are effectively not a thing, and plurals are all collapsed to one set rather than different plurals for each gender.

    Weak nouns in modern German don't even warrant a table - they all take -n or -en except in the nominative and they're (almost?) all masculine. Where Old English saw a collapsing system there, German has collapsed it almost into nothing. And where Old English had a strong system of nominative declension with various paradigms and some, but not near-total collapse among the strong nouns, German has nearly collapsed gender (and much in the way of case) and is very close to the position of becoming a genderless language. Your demonstrative pronouns sure aren't helping any matters, though. English collapsed them all to
    'the', while German's system is still nearly as robust as Old English and even Old High German (fortunately, less robust than OHG).

    The last thing I'll share is a link to the Old High German declension page on Wikipedia, where you can see the complete insanity of how many declensions there were at that stage in the development of German. Take note of the weak declension, to see what German had at a comparable point to the Anglo-Saxon weak declension.



    So, take heart, Yora. You guys are slowly shedding gender and case. The reason, I suspect, that English shed it all so quickly is due to the peculiar history of England. Old English was shedding endings very quickly in the 11th century even before the Norman French came a-knocking. There were a number of Viking invasions, Danish kings ruled the country at various times before the invasion, and there was much commerce and settlement from the Danes.

    The Danes, speaking Old Norse, were very very close in terms of language. A great many of the bases to Old English and Old Norse nouns were the same or very similar, with only the declensions being very different. Basic word order favored SVO at this point already, and as endings were shed in an attempt to keep everyone on the same page of understanding, SVO began to become default so that everybody could keep things straight once they lopped off endings in an effort to be understood.

    The Old English spoken by the time William the Conqueror paid his visit to the island was very much something of a newly formed creole, having just established itself from the original pidginization of Old English and Old Norse. After William, what was left of the system quickly died. The sheer difference between Norman French at the time and Anglo-Saxon threw English back into the mixer until around the 13th century when Old English was no longer intelligible to English-speakers due to heavy borrowing from French and Latin.

    Continental German probably has not shed its endings so quickly due to the fact that the conquerors of the German people during the last thousand years have by and large been, well, German. Endings do get shed as various groups from similar-but-different linguistic backgrounds come to power and subjugate each other, but the underlying language does not experience the sudden and fundamental shock that would occur were a language from a different branch of the Indo-European family to have come to power. The situation of Germany is such that language is maintained and simplification is protracted rather than hurried.

    That's my guess, anyway. I suppose the takeaway here is that if you want to lose gender and case distinctions, get invaded by people speaking a Romance language. And do it before you develop a print culture where reading is seen as something for all people to be able to do.
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  29. - Top - End - #389
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    Wanna know what's really weird? In German the word is Das Schiff, hence neuter in gender, but we still call ships sie, her.

    Had a bit of fun with translations today. Switzerland has several different languages. So on the trains, signs are in German, Italian, French and English.

    One phrase was "Please validate your ticket before boarding". The German translation for validate was entwerten"(devalue). The French was composter and the Italian (which I thought was funny) obliterare.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Which isn't to say we don't have our own casses of PC silliness. What I see a lot is the use of "students and studenttes", which lots of older University employes seem to regard as neccessary to point out that they are not exluding the female students. But when I checked back in the class, almost all the female students said that they don't consider "student" to be male-specific but just the name for an occupation regardless of the persons it applies to. Similar to how it is used in English.
    You can't compare that to English. At least where I live, no one would ever say "Student" for a specific female student. It is always "Studentin", while in English, it is "student" for the specific person, female or male.

    Therefore, it is not at all comparable to saying "studentette" or "studentress" or whatever in English. Its rather as if in English, the word "Huntress" was the standard expression for female hunters, and someone would say "Hunters and huntresses" to show that they don't exclude women.

    Sadly, it is a fact that the male word form makes people think of male people, even if they know, in theory, that some of those people are female. (This is, of course, only a tendency that can be found with scientific tests, not an absolute thing that applies always and to everyone. Still - words have power, one should not forget that)

    The generational thing probably has to do with the fact that young women tend to see their equal rights as normal, not as something they had to fight for, and don't see why they should continue a battle their mothers have already almost won...while the older women don't see why they should stop before they got equality in language, too.


    Language may seem random, but it is not. It reflects the way people think, or have thought.

    In Germany, they simply made a mistake when women started to get into the professions formerly reserved for men. They should have just said "Die Student" for female students and "Der Student" for male students, which would have made "Studenten" completely gender-neutral. And so on, with all the jobs, etc.

    We can't change that now, people would complain that it sounds weird...but probably they would have back then, too...for some reason, Germans even feel the necessity to say "Teenagerin" for a female teenager. The male teenager, on the other hand, is just a teenager. Male is the standard, female the exception. I don't know a single English word which is male-ized in German, so it can't be just the fact that "-er" sounds male to German ears.

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