gender voice variants

Michael Everson everson at
Thu Dec 20 21:12:52 CET 2012

On 20 Dec 2012, at 18:03, John Cowan <cowan at> wrote:

> Michael Everson scripsit:
>> For the purposes of this discussion, in order to avoid terminological
>> confusion, could we please agree that words have gender, and human
>> beings have sex?
> Alas, that train left the station back in the 1970s.  Human beings have sex, a biological property; they also have a cultural, non-biological property called gender.  This conflicts with the established use in linguistics, but so be it.  (There are two books named simply _Gender_, with different authors, on these two subject matters.)

That's all very nice, John, but for THIS discussion I'd like us not to use only the word "gender" because it makes it hard to see what poeple are saying. 

> Grammatical gender is only relevant insofar as it reflects the gender of speakers or listeners.  In Lojban, nouns are divided into seventeen genders for purposes of pronoun agreement, but there is no connection with human gender at all.

Yes, that's fine. It's like Swahili. 

> What matters is how the (personal) gender of listeners and speakers affects what is said.  

That would be the sex of listeners and speakers, for the purposes of this discussion. 

> It has already been shown that it does affect it in all languages, though the degree varies.  I believe it's therefore appropriate to encode it within, rather than just alongside, the language variety system.

Why, exactly?


would seem to work equally well. Or… why wouldn't it?

> So, there are two issues:
> 1) Are we to encode these sociolects, or whatever you want to call them, using our language tagging scheme?

Or is this something more appropriate for another markup-level tag?

> 2) If so, what are we to encode?
> I propose that we have four tags spkrmale, spkrfeml, targmale, targfeml.

What about children?

Michael Everson *

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