The gender system in Laceyiami nouns and pronouns is strictly linked to its honorific speech (darīmmayva, literally "society language"). In fact, the gender system itself is closer to a system of honorifics rather than to a noun class one, due to the lack of morphological marking: the gender of a noun is only marked through third person pronouns referring to it, and it is based on natural gender logic.
Note that the concept of gender in the Laceyiami language does not correlate much with the biological concept of gender - gender as a grammatical category is called dairetȳva, while gender as for 'male, female, transgender, agender, ...' is ṭāṭyama. The natural gender of Laceyiami nouns is almost completely based on the structure of traditional Chlegdarim (matriarchal) society and strongly influenced by their worldview - that of the Yūnialtia, their religion.
The four genders in nouns Edit
Laceyiam divides nouns in four possible gender categories, defined with these names:
- Higher animate or caṃlileviyā — rarely also female animate (hulyṃlileviyā);
- Lower animate or chūlileviyā;
- Plant animate or jnęlileviyā;
- Inanimate or kālilnė.
Higher animate Edit
The higher animate gender includes, first of all, all nouns referring to female humans (except for a few culturally-influenced ones), thus the alternative but now archaic name hulyṃlileviyā or "female animate". It also includes all animals, all concepts related in some way to the Yūnialtia, as well as concepts related to arts and sciences. Things inherently feminine (like hulunāmie or tėtiąkta, two synonyms for "pregnancy") are higher animate too.
Abstract feelings are either higher or lower, without many hints as far as word roots are concerned. Anyway, abstract feelings derived with the -ma or -ya suffixes (which appears as -ya, -ia, or simply -a but with umlaut of a preceding vowel) are for the most part higher animate, as are also nouns in -ltia (which often corresponds to English -ism or -logy); those with -amie/-āmie or -ta are usually lower animate. Inherited intensive nouns formed with ablaut (most notably kaira "love" and kayla "purity") are also higher animate.
There are also some higher animate nouns whose inclusion in this gender is somewhat arbitrary and odd, most notably nanūh "salt", but also others like latirė "wave" (and derivatives like teyūlatirė "solar ray"), mayla "water", gindāmi "book", þātia "star", leliėmita "family" and its archaic synonym døjńa, also dūṃda "fog" (though often plant animate for some speakers, especially in Western and Northwestern Laltīmāhia), lunai "tea"; or lelīm "swamp". The word hėnna "language" is higher animate, but its hyperonym mayva, referring to more broadly any system of communication, is lower animate.
The third person pronouns for the higher animate gender are tami (singular, also used as a generic one regardless of gender) and lahen (plural).
Plant animate Edit
Plant animate nouns are probably the easiest category to define. As their name obviously suggests, all plants and plant-related things are of this gender; note that plants and fruits used as food are however treated as inanimate when the “food” meaning is intended.
Somewhat more oddly, all colours are plant animate and even more surprisingly all human and animal body parts, with only four exceptions (all higher animate: maissbetta "brain", maula "breast", and the two synonyms keńja and läka for "heart" — additionally, yāṇḍama "vagina" and juitan "vulva" can be both higher and plant animate). Moreover, not only are body parts treated as plants - many of those terms either have a basic meaning that applies both to animals (including humans) and plants (like ṇīṭa, "skin" and "bark", meanings that can however be specified through hyponimic compounds) or are animal parts which are described through compounds made from root words referring to plants, like the most common term for "ear", tėnemīta, which is a compound of tėn "to hear" and emīta "leaf", thus literally "hearing leaf".
The plant animate third person pronouns are pāt (singular) and padi (plural).
Lower animate Edit
The lower animate gender is an extremely vast category with few clear boundaries. Obviously, as the last remaining animate concepts, human males and male-related words are here, clearly still reflecting the gender roles - females vs. males as “thinking class” (nayuivė) vs. “working class” (pūnuivė) - that dominated Chlegdarim society until the 50s of the Fourth Era (about 80 years ago).
We’ve also already seen that many abstract feelings have lower animate gender; in fact, about 70% of abstract concepts are lower animate. Other lower animate meaning categories are activities (thus basically all nouns derived with the “activity” derivational suffix -ram), time-related words, most locations (the main exceptions are maita "river" (higher animate), as well as most habitat nouns, that take plant animate gender when referring to ecosystems instead of the places themselves), illnesses and qualities. Many things that can be perceived as “moving” or “moved” are lower animate too, like tadhmė "active fire", kūrapa "dangerous fire" (but naldīr "fire (as element)" is inanimate), daśa "rain" or muyla "thunder, lightning". The word marta "city" and other similar places are also in this category, and as a result of this most toponyms, including all cities and country names, are lower animate - the exception being names of bodies of water, wetlands, forests, planets, and Laltīmāhia itself, all higher animate.
This gender has its oddities too - “arbitrary” lower animate nouns include daira "word" and most derivatives (like dairalīne ‘vocabulary’), daṃdin "gong", ādama "abode" (literary), pāṇi "side" or pańynia "scandal".
The lower animate third person pronouns are nän (singular) and yelah (plural).
Finally, defining the inanimate gender is mostly straightforward too, as - obviously - all remaining nouns are included. Due to cultural perceptions, inherent “negativity” can cause a noun to be treated as inanimate regardless of its “natural” classification. This is most notable with øṃdøntairṇė "heresy" and all related nouns, like øṃdøntairasthām ‘heretic’. The third person singular inanimate pronoun is dāt, the plural one is śen.
Words with variable gender Edit
Some words can have more than one gender; while in many cases it’s a sociolectal or regional variation, with different people giving different levels of importance to the same phenomenon or thing, in some cases the word itself takes different genders depending on the meaning.
Probably the easiest word in which this can be noted is kita, which translates two English meanings: "house" and "home". The meaning "house" - thus representing the concept of a building used as or suitable for dwelling - takes inanimate gender, while the meaning "home" - the concept of a place with a particular significance to a person or a group of people - takes higher animate gender.
This concept isn’t much different from the lower/plant animate distinction mentioned above depending on a place being identified as a place one can be in or as a particular ecosystem; other nouns with similar distinctions are:
- avyābhima "party, celebration", usually lower animate but always higher animate for celebrations of religious (yūnialtei) nature;
- caṃkaitmādama "university" - inanimate as a building (or collection of buildings), higher animate as institution;
- ėjilden "spire" - always inanimate except for spires that are parts of a nälikhiąa, a Yūnialtei temple;
- gālla - when inanimate it means "funnel", when plant animate means "estuary" (mostly in Classical Laceyiam - standard Laceyiam nowadays uses gāllememai (literally "funnel-delta") for "estuary");
- hīmba - "colour" when lower animate, "harmony" or "melody" when higher;
- jāgam - usually "jug" and only inanimate; it is however a slang and vulgar word for "tit(s)", meaning that gives it the higher animate gender of its “proper” counterpart maula;
- kaindalbė "body painting", usually lower animate but higher animate when done for a religious celebration;
- lā "passage, pass, border crossing", inanimate if man-made, otherwise plant animate;
In addition to this, most unisex person nouns are lower animate when referring to a male, higher animate otherwise, the main exceptions are nouns inherently higher animate (e.g. høgyṃhjøðam ‘Inquisitor’) or øṃdøntairasthām, ‘heretic’, inherently inanimate.
There’s also a small class of nouns that can be of any gender, and take the one of their genitive argument - that’s the case of nouns referring to positions like bhakṣa ‘centre’, jlėmita ‘right [part]’, or deila ‘piece, part’. For example lelīmi bhakṣa ‘centre of the swamp’ is higher animate, while þalȳvi bhakṣa ‘centre of the table’ is inanimate, due to the genders of arguments lelīm and þalȳ.
Word derivation through bound morphemes gives genders related to the new meanings; dvandva, tatpuruṣa and karmadhāraya compounds usually keep their head’s gender, while bahuvrīhi ones have to be learnt as if they were different roots.
Gender as honorific Edit
Apart from distinguishing different arguments with different pronouns, the Laceyiam gender system works as a honorific one. Laceyiam, in fact, lacks specific courtesy pronouns; instead, the higher animate second-person pronouns are used as courtesy forms.
This means that for females there is no courtesy form at all - the same pronouns teham (singular) and yuvah (plural) are always used. At the other end of the spectrum, males are referred to with the rougher-perceived pronouns esāt (singular) and nagy (plural). Traditionally, these were always used for most males, with only artists and scientists deserving to be called with the more refined higher animate ones; nowadays females can still address unknown males as esāt or nagy, but the more formal a context gets, the less this is accepted. Still, using the lower animate pronouns to address an unknown female is really bad manners, and some dioceses in Laltīmāhia have laws punishing this behaviour — but note this is obviously never true if the addressed person is a heretic or has been excommunicated: as Laltīmāhia is a theocratic country without religious freedom, these people lose all of their basic rights and addressing them as teham or yuvah would be considered offensive by third parties; they should be addressed with the lower animate pronouns, but are more commonly called using insulting nicknames.
For people with a non-binary gender identity, the most common practice is to use the higher animate pronouns, though it’s possible that people with masculine appearance prefer to be addressed with the lower animate ones. Since non-binary gender identity began to be legally recognized as a third gender (in 4E 59, 74 years ago, parallel to the laws granting men the same rights women had) the practice of using lower animate pronouns for people assigned male at birth rapidly fell out of use - previously non-binary AMAB people (sometimes generalized to the hulyńeirā category) were possibly the most discriminated ones, due to the strict gender roles (the nayuivė—pūnuivė roles mentioned previously) that dominated Chlegdarim society. On the contrary, non-binary AFAB kept the same rights as all other women and led completely normal lives (there had been, up to 4E 59, eight confirmed non-binary AFAB Great Inquisitors and sixteen Baptists - only mentioning the two highest roles of Chlegdarim society and Yūnialtei religion).
Unlike languages with complex honorific systems, Laceyiam only has few words which with “mandatory” more honorific counterparts (e.g. "father" - common lower animate klut is always substituted by higher animate tamayaru when talking about fathers of second persons - more rarely of third parties). Most words can take higher animate gender if they have a genitive second-person higher animate argument - most commonly done with words about meals - for all other words the general rule is to use the indeclinable attributive yāmei.
Honorific speech Edit
The most common vocative honorific is lāma, which roughly translated "Sir" or "Madam". lāma is added as a separate word after surnames. For example, a woman named Līṭhaljāyimunūt Kāliaduita Martayinām (in Laceyiami name order: matronymic - surname - given name) will be called Kāliaduita lāma. In rural areas, anyway, it's still somewhat common to use lāma together with the matronymic instead of the surname and, after lāma, the given name, so that that same woman will be called Līṭhaljāyimunūt lāma Martayinām.
When calling many people from a list, the form usually used is matronymic + lāma + surname + given name, for example Līṭhaljāyimunūt lāma Kāliaduita Martayinām; this form is also the one used when writing addresses on mail.
Using lāma alone, anyway, isn't always considered good manners. Except for lists of people, the lāma only form is used when referring to people you do not know (both as vocative and as third person) and with people you know very well but you do not use familiar forms with (otherwise lāma wouldn't be used). Note that Chlegdarim society gives much importance to honorifics and the concept of friendship for Chlegdarims is somewhat stricter than it is throughout the English-speaking world, so only close family members and close friends will be referred to without using lāma - in total, usually between ten or fifteen people; this excludes anyway all children younger than 10 years, with whom honorifics are not used - but children start using honorifics when speaking to adults around 5 years of age, when they leave First School and enter Basic School.
A common way to be kinder to other people and put them into a higher rank is to use the indeclinable attributive yāmei together with lāma - this is in fact the most common form of address. For example, the woman named before will be called yāmei Kāliaduita lāma. The yāmei ... lāma form is always good manners, but it is mandatory in three contexts:
- used by men towards women of their own generation or older (except family members and close friends);
- used by students towards teacher and professors, usually starting from Class 5 or 6 (children aged 10-11) if professors are laypeople; before, lāma alone is used;
- used towards Inquisitors and monks (but they can also be called by yāmei + title + lāma).
Lower-ranked people may be called with nynäð instead of lāma. Once extremely common, in the last fifty years the use of this form has been in steady decline, with lāma becoming used in its place. Anyway, it's still used in particular circumstances:
- by an Inquisitor on judge duty towards people that are being heard or judged;
- by teachers and professors towards their students, usually starting from Class 5 or 6 (children aged 10-11); before, they are usually called with the normal pronouns teham/yuvah for girls and esāt/nagy for boys, without honorifics;
- by superiors in workplaces towards common employees or workers - note that, however, the enterprise usually decides whether they should use nynäð or lāma;
- by ranked militars towards common soldiers, but also by those with rank of general (vaiṣāya) or colonel (luniāð) towards śimvāt;
- by women towards men of their own generation or younger (except family members and close friends) - nynäð is still the most used form in this context, but lāma is becoming increasingly more common.
Special cases Edit
There are some "informal" honorifics that are sometimes used instead of lāma:
- tiṃlā, used by men towards unmarried women they're somewhat familiar with.
- deiya, used by people who work in one's own home but are not part of the family - if it's a man, then this honorific may be even used with forms of esāt instead of teham.
- ūlati, used between people who don't know each other very well but are still part of the same group and are of the same gender (usually between men, rarely between women).
There are also many titles that are usually used instead of the surname, or even - in an even more formal way - together with the surname, in the structure yāmei + (surname + ga) + title + lāma. These titles are:
- høgyṃhjøðam "Inquisitor", ńältadvīni "female monk", ńältadvørmur "male monk" — but yāmei + surname + lāma is sometimes accepted too;
- paiṃhøgyṃhjøðam "High Inquisitor (member of the Inquisitorial Conclave, the closest equivalent of a Parliament in Laltīmāhia";
- havtnameilyjė "Inquisitor Prefect (head of a havtnamila, a Ministry of the Inquisition)";
- āvāṣmiṭa (a particular Yūnialtei religious master);
- garṣṭūlęm "universitary professor" or "leader of an enterprise";
- vaiṣāya "general (highest-ranked person in a jāmilśeið "legion")";
- luniāð "colonel (second-highest military rank)";
- vyvėlikam "captain (third-highest military rank)";
- śimvāt "sergeant (fourth-highest military rank, the lowest except for common soldiers)";
- ilūttu "parish priest/mayor (head of any kind of municipality in Laltīmāhia)";
- høląi "bishop (head of a diocese, the first-level administrative division in Laltīmāhia, roughly equivalent to U.S. States)";
- leisa "president (any kind of)".