Date: Mon, 7 Nov 1994 17:43:54 CST From: salikoko mufwene Subject: Re: Algonquian et. al. In Message Mon, 7 Nov 1994 12:56:14 -0800, Dan Alford writes: > I have no idea what Dr. Mufwene's native language is, >but the lack of such interpretation in his mind is *possibly* >because that language had male/female distinctions built in -- >and I'm not sure how that correlates with the interpretations by >those without such distinctions. I grew up speaking two Bantu languages: Kiyansi and (Kikongo-)Kituba and claim to have them both as my native languages. According to the canonical Bantu model, Kiyansi should have a noun class system in which the Human/-Human distinction is quite central. However, I discovered about five years ago that the verb's first syllable in Yansi varies according to tense and mood but not according to person and number. At least in my dialect, there is no evidence of subject-verb agreement. (I have discovered a number of other diverging features from the Bantu canon that should be disturbing for Bantu geneticists!) However, the pronominal system distinguishes between humans and nonhumans. Kituba, a Bantu-based creole, follows more or less the same system. I suppose I was shocked mostly by the correlation of gender with genetalia. Dan's analysis was made more interesting by a question I received from my 6-year old daughter a couple of days before (more or less as follows): "Daddy, how do you tell a baby girl from a baby boy?" I am sure several of you parents and/or adults have received such questions. I was reminded of Hilary Putnam's distinction between, on the one hand, the essential features of gold or an elm, and on the other, the stereotypes by which the average speaker operates. On the other hand, there might be more interindividual variation in the conceptualization of meaning than I have made allowance for in my assumption that communal linguistic systems are not monolithic. Sali. Salikoko S. Mufwene University of Chicago Dept. of Linguistics 1010 East 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637 s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] 312-702-8531; fax: 312-702-9861