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Genderless languages

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AML
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 Message 1 of 18
20 June 2013 at 3:50pm | IP Logged 
Are there any perfectly gender-less languages? I'm not aware of any. Perhaps Chinese?

Assuming there aren't, are there any languages that don't have words for...
-brother/sister
-mother/father
-he/she (I know Persian and Hungarian, for example, have a gender-neutral 3rd person
singular pronoun)
-aunt/uncle
-niece/nephew
...and instead use single words to describe their relationship to you?

For example, in English, we have:
-'cousin' (no words to differentiate male/female cousins)
-'sibling' (but also brother/sister)
-'parent' (but also mother/father)
-'grandparent' (but also grandmother/grandfather'), etc.

This topic is interesting to me, and I appreciate any feedback.
Thanks

EDIT:
Here
is a link to a Wikipedia article describing gender neutrality in languages, but I
couldn't find my answer there.

Edited by AML on 20 June 2013 at 3:55pm

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Serpent
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 Message 2 of 18
20 June 2013 at 4:22pm | IP Logged 
Here some people claim that in the politically correct West it's not allowed to say mother and father anymore but only parent 1 and parent 2. Ugh.

Also, Finnish has no separate pronouns for he/she nor separate words for male/female cousins. But also no singular for parents, grandparents or siblings - all of these exist but only as plurals.
In Russian there are no general words for siblings or grandparents at all.

Edited by Serpent on 20 June 2013 at 4:24pm

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Volte
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 Message 3 of 18
20 June 2013 at 4:36pm | IP Logged 
Pirahã apparently only has one word for parent, and no gendered equivalents. One source says other relationships are gendered, though apparently kinship terms aren't frequently used. Another, perhaps more reliable, says they don't have gendered kinship terms.

Serpent: I spend a fair amount of time with very politically correct people in the West, from both Europe and North America. Several use gender-neutral pronouns. Nonetheless, I've never heard the 'parent 1/parent 2' terminology, and my knee-jerk reaction is that that would be analysed as sexist... it's certainly not widespread. It sounds more like anti-Western propaganda than a description of common use, even among quite PC folk.

Edit: added a link to Everett's speech.

Edited by Volte on 20 June 2013 at 4:43pm

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vermillon
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 Message 4 of 18
20 June 2013 at 4:39pm | IP Logged 
I think this qualifies: Pirahã

At least their kinship terms are totally genderless.

edit: argh, too late. :(

Edited by vermillon on 20 June 2013 at 4:39pm

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Arekkusu
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 Message 5 of 18
20 June 2013 at 4:46pm | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:
Nonetheless, I've never heard the 'parent 1/parent 2' terminology

Somehow, being called "parent 1" sounds a bit better than "parent 2".
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AML
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 Message 6 of 18
20 June 2013 at 5:30pm | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:
Pirahã
apparently only has one word for parent, and no gendered equivalents. One source says
other relationships are
gendered
, though apparently kinship terms aren't frequently used. Another, perhaps
more reliable, says people-who-define-happiness-without-god">they don't have gendered kinship terms.


Interesting. Thanks.
Here it claims they
have separate words for son and daughter. But, yes, in general the kinship terms appear
otherwise genderless.
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Serpent
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 Message 7 of 18
20 June 2013 at 5:45pm | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:
It sounds more like anti-Western propaganda than a description of common use, even among quite PC folk.
Exactly, just couldn't help mentioning this.
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lorinth
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 Message 8 of 18
20 June 2013 at 9:28pm | IP Logged 
Quote:
Are there any perfectly gender-less languages? I'm not aware of any. Perhaps
Chinese?


Perhaps you'd have to distinguish the morphogical and the lexical levels. I'm not a
specialist and I did not make research in that field, but...

- morphologically, I think that there are a lot of genderless languages (e.g. Finnish).

- lexically, there might be none (all languages *can* distinguish genders at the
lexical level).

To take your example, in Chinese, there's no gender at the morphological level. (The
pronouns 他 (he, masculine) and 她 (she, feminine) or 你 (you, masc.) and 妳 (you, fem.)
are "graphical artifacts", in the sense that there's no difference in pronounciation,
agreement, etc.) On the other hand, Chinese does make distinctions at the lexical
level. E.g. there are many many words to distinguish female and male relatives. To take
only two examples, 舅舅 is a *maternal* uncle, while 叔叔 is your *father's* younger
brother.


Edited by lorinth on 20 June 2013 at 9:28pm



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