4.1174 Sanscript and Gender (1/38)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 26 Mar 91 00:10:51 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1174. Tuesday, 26 Mar 1991.
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 91 14:55:56 EST
Subject: Priority of 'gender'
Peter Scharf's point, transmitted by Maria Green, about the priority of
Sanskrit gender classifications over those of the Greeks is I think well
taken. Even though I have seen several different dates ascribed to the
Sanskrit writer Panini, the detailed classifications he apparently uses
do seem to indicate an established tradition that would antedate
Protagoras to whom Aristotle attributes the first use of 'male' 'female'
and 'things' as classifications of words. Scharf is therefore right to
chide me for saying that the Greeks were 'responsible' for the origin of
the classification of gender.
I think I am right, however, in noting that the Sanskrit priority had no
effect whatsoever on the European usage of the grammatical
classifications 'masculine', 'feminine' and 'neuter'. The European
grammatical tradition does begin as I noted with Protagoras and
Aristotle, passses through to the Roman grammarians, and in these works
establishes the tradition that has been in use from the Middle Ages
until today. It is my understanding, and I would be interested in
knowing if it is not correct, that Sanskrit writings did not play a role
in the study of language until some time in the 18th century. According
to O. H. Pedersen's The Discovery of Language. Linguistic Science in
the 19th Century, F.von Schlegel published a book in 1808 that initiated
the concept of comparative grammar, followd by Franz Bopp's work on
Gary Stonum's question concerned the origin of 'gender' as a
classification. It is not a universal means of classification.
Speculation about the origins of 'sex' as a classification can be found
in E. Cassirer's The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 1; this also
receives attention from Karl Brugmann in a number of places, including I
think his Grundriss der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen
Sprachen, and an essay "Das grammatische Geschlect in den
indogermanischen Sprachen", in Zeitschrift fur Allgemeine
The seduction of e-mail is to toss out a response without thinking as
carefully as one would under other circumstances-- but not as ephemeral.
My thanks to Scharf & Green for their correction. Dirk Held, Classics,