Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Language notes, etc.

Padre Roger loaned me a Miskito language Bible, and I have discovered that the Miskito has interesting built-in ways of doing gender inclusive language. Like English, nouns and adjectives do not, as a rule, carry gender. Unlike English or Spanish, the third person does not have gender. "Witin" means he or she, and "witin nani" is they. Furthermore, the words "brother" and "sister" function a little differently. The word "lakra" is for siblings who share your gender, and "muhni" is for those of the other gender. Because I'm a woman with two brothers, I have two "lakra," (or "laikra," because they're mine), and no "muihni." If I were a boy, I would have two "muhni" and no "lakra." Because the Miskito Bible uses "muhni" to mean "brothers" or "brothers and sisters," it's normative to the person of reference. For a woman, "If you are giving your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has some grievance against you," it would actually read "your sister."

It gets really complicated when you have a word for the son of your sister, provided you're a man. I had to draw a diagram to figure out how all the relationships worked.

1 comment:

  1. Well, that's really a cool aspect of the language! My personal theory about language is that it reflects and also governs aspects of how we think. So it looks like Bilwi has a focus on the individual--you think of people in terms of how they relate to you. That could affect your view of fairness, laws, society, all sorts of things!