Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at
Thu Feb 4 12:21:29 UTC 1999

Sho Sakuma <sean at> wrote:

>    Had there been any possible process of grammaticalization
>that has dichtomizeted  the noun of the languages, belonging to
>the branch of IE, into a label of gender as masculine or feminine?
>...or adding neuter in a case. I just wondering what was the notion
>to give the noun a subdivision with gender.

Originally, PIE distinguished between animate and inanimate
(neuter) gender.  The split of the animate gender into masculine
and feminine is a later development, which e.g. Hittite did not
participate in.

>    I have once presented same question in other list last year from a
>very curious. One of those who gave me the reply with taking a example
>from Japanese and reminded me a awkward point of the language. That we
>count apples with the suffix --ko-, rabbits with --wa-, books with
>--satu-, and Kentucky Fried Chicken with --piece-- is certainly seemed
>to me strange feature of Japanese.

This use of different classifiers with different nouns is indeed
similar to the concept of "gender" (animate/inanimate,
masculine/feminine) or "noun classes" (Bantu being the best known
example).  I don't think there's a meaningful answer as to why
languages do this.  Some do, some don't.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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