Re: Joining FoRK?

Jeff Bone (
Wed, 04 Aug 1999 13:02:56 -0500

> As a student of linguistics, I have to agree.

Okay, okay. I may have been too general, there... I'll certainly defer
to your expertise, as I only had a single semester course in
linquistics. But, I'm sure you'll agree that noun gender doesn't
particularly add much if any semantic value ("expressivity?") to a
language. The trend does certainly seem to have been towards
simplification along grammar lines wherever possible without losing
significant semantic value. (Right?)

On the other hand, the trend seems to have been towards specialization
and disambiguation with the creation of new (or refinement of old)
words, and this is largely context-driven: think of all the Eskimo
words for snow, for example. In the case of person-identifiers
(pronouns and whatnot) the trend has demonstrably been towards
increasing specialization: consider that the Old English word "gurle"
(girl) originally referred to a young person of either gender; this was
sufficiently ambiguous that boy came into more common use (etymology,
anyone?) and girl began to refer only to young females.

While we're on the topic of linguistics, "ain't" and "y'all" have always
seemed to me to be particularly efficient and useful linguistic
innovations rather than degenerative hickisms. "Ain't" is more
linguistically efficient than the contraction "isn't" with its horrific
consonant combination, and y'all is both more efficient (easier to say,
less syllables) than "you all" and less ambiguous than the
confusingly-multipurpose singular / plural "you."