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The true meaning of gender



Peter Buchholz writes in reference to the planned abolition of gender in
scientific names:
>Gender is probably a bad "label" for 'noun endings in the >nominative-case
declension'.  It probably did start thousands of years >ago as being a "true"
male-female dichotomy of bias (in regular >nouns); but now it is just word
endings of a dead language that people >use only to name things.  In esense,
we are speaking Latin when we >say _Tyrannosaurus rex_ even though some of
the words might >have been borrowed from Greek, it has become a part of
Latin, so we >must say it correctly.
I believe the etymology may be the other way round.  Gender (from the same
Latinate root as genus and genre) was used originally by linguists and
grammarians to refer to grammatical categories for classifying nouns and
pronouns.  It's simply that in most Indo-European languages, the grammatical
categories correspond to sexual categories, and as a result we have come to
equate gender with sex.  In many non-European languages, the grammatical
categories of gender may also involve distinctions of human vs. nonhuman,
animate vs. inanimate, etc.  
Brian Newhouse (who read Steven Pinker's _The Language Instinct_ during a
recent trip to Prague and thought something sounded suspiciously off in
Buchholz's remarks)