Language as an indicator of subjective reality
Hypothesis:
  You can tell what's important about reality as we perceive it from the language we use to describe it.  In general, the simpler the grammatical rule overall (even if there are exceptions in the form of irregulars), the more important it must be to convey that component of reality efficiently.



Features of reality easily conveyed by language:
Quantity.  Add an "s" to the end of a word.  Possibly the simplest and most universally-applied rule in the English language.  (It's a bit more varied in German, however.)

Quality.  Superlatives rank the world more easily with a couple suffices than you can slip bronze, silver, or gold medals around the necks of most adjectives.

Time.  Conjugation clearly differentiates between past, present, and future, and even a few variations on these.  We aren't more specific than that, however, so there is no indication whether a sentence refers to something that occurred this morning or if it predates the cooling of the Earth's crust.  What does seem to be important is whether an action is concluded, in process, or will happen some time from now.  Why this matters is the degree of preparedness required on the part of the listener.  In the former-most case, it's just too late.  There's nothing that can be done to change the past.  On the other hand, an action in progress means action must be taken swiftly.  This is as opposed to the future tense in which action may be taken with more forethought.

Who?  Parts of speech are divided into first person singular, generic second person (could be singular or plural; this is ambiguous in English), third person singular, and third person plural.  (Note: Spanish includes a distinction between singular and plural second person in the formal conjugation.)

Gender.  Many languages apply this quality universally.  In some there isn't even a neutral form.  It's rare that the ambiguous "it" is used where people are concerned, even where the gender is unknown (e.g., it is considered rude by some to refer to an unborn baby as "it").  In modern times, plural second person (i.e., "they") is invoked in English where the gender of a singular individual is unknown (e.g., "They might be a man or possibly a woman").


Part II: More
This section originally contained additional examples addressing the hypothesis stated above.  However, this section was lost at some point.  I was posting the contents of this page on separate occasions as I found the time to finish each part.  I rarely lose text due to frequent backups and multiple parallel copies on separate media.  Unfortunately, I never tracked down any drafts of Part II.  I will have to reconstruct this from scratch as I no longer remember any of the examples I outlined in it.

Part III: What's not addressed by the syntax
Conversely, some things are unexpectedly (to me) not addressed by the syntax:

Age. The closest we get to referencing this is with formal vs. informal speech, but these can be invoked even in cases in which age is not relevant.  In general, age acquires respect, but that isn't all that's involved.

Familial relationships. We have individual terms and conventions for establishing connections by blood (e.g., "mother," "brother," "daughter") or marriage (i.e., add "in-law" to end of the term for the equivalent blood relationship), but these aren't embedded in the syntax, just in the vocabulary, although one could make the case that first-person plural and second- and third-person states at the very least create an us vs. them (or "you people") condition akin (no pun intended) to family groupings.

Location. Unlike personage, there are no parts of speech to indicate where things occurred, even to the extent of "near" vs. "far" or "here" vs. "there."  By contrast, "who" and "when" are immediately conveyed by the conjugation.  The question of "what" (if applicable) involves specific naming of the direct object, although if there is a distinct reflexive tense in a given language (e.g., as is the case in Spanish), that can be enough to establish who is on the receiving end of the verb.  "How" requires the inclusion of an adverb and, as with the question of "what," requires that specificity to be established from hundreds (or thousands) of choices within the lexicon.  But "where" is not implicit in the language nor does there see to be much place for it.  For example, "The lion killed the tiger" tells us that this already happened, the tiger is dead, the lion is the responsible party (assuming a civil suit).  Adverbs could be included to improve the clarity of the action if necessary (It doesn't cry out for it in this case), but we have no indication that this was a mishap at the zoo rather than a Sigfried and Roy show.





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