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Encyclopedia > Grammatical gender

In linguistics, grammatical gender is a morphological category associated with the expression of gender through inflection or agreement. As an example, consider the English sentences below: Morphology is a subdiscipline of linguistics that studies word structure. ... The word gender describes the state of being male, female, or neither. ... In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification or marking of a word (or more precisely lexeme) to reflect grammatical (that is, relational) information, such as gender, tense, number or person. ... In languages, agreement is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. ...

John said that he paid for his own dinner.
Julia said that she paid for her own dinner.

The gender of the subject is marked on the pronoun — "he", masculine gender (male human) vs. "she" feminine gender (female human) — , and on the possessive adjective "his/her". Note that this information can be considered redundant, since the gender of each subject is already indicated by the personal names "John/Julia". In language, redundancy often takes the form of phrases which repeat a concept with a different word. ... It is nearly universal for a person to have a name; the rare exceptions occur in the cases of mentally disturbed parents, or feral children growing up in isolation. ...


A language has grammatical gender when its nouns are subdivided into classes which correlate with gender, such that:

  1. Every noun belongs to a single gender class. (Gender partitions nouns into disjoint classes.)
  2. Adjectives, and possibly verbs, have different forms for each gender class, and must be inflected to match the gender of the nouns they refer to. (Gender is an agreement category.)

The correlation between grammatical and natural gender need not be perfect, and it often is not. A noun, or noun substantive, is a part of speech which can co-occur with (in)definite articles and attributive adjectives, and function as the head of a noun phrase. ... An adjective is a part of speech which modifies a noun, usually describing it or making its meaning more specific. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification or marking of a word (or more precisely lexeme) to reflect grammatical (that is, relational) information, such as gender, tense, number or person. ... In languages, agreement is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. ...


Gender marking is minimal in English, but quite significant in other languages, including most of the Indo-European family, to which English belongs. Since in such languages each noun, whatever its meaning, must be assigned to a gender class, and typically there are only a small number of such classes, the grammatical gender of a noun often has little or no relation to the natural gender of its referent. For instance, in languages with a two-way classification into "masculine" and "feminine", the gender of words designating inanimate objects, such as "Sun" and "Moon", can be purely a matter of convention. The Indo-European languages comprise a family of several hundred related languages and dialects [1], including most of the major languages of Europe, as well as many spoken in the Indian subcontinent (South Asia), the Iranian plateau (Southwest Asia), and Central Asia. ... A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted rules, norms, standards or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. ...


By extension, the term grammatical gender is also used for the expression of other types of natural, individual characteristics (such as animacy) by inflecting words, although some authors prefer the term "noun classes" when none of the inflections in a language relate to gender. Animacy is a grammatical category, usually of nouns, which influences the form a verb takes when it is associated with that noun. ...


Some authors use the term "noun class" as a synonym or an extension of "grammatical gender", but for others they are separate concepts. In linguistics, the term noun class refers to a system of categorizing nouns. ...

Contents

Grammatical gender in English

Modern English is a borderline case. It is arguable whether it should be described as a language with or without grammatical gender. Most of the gender inflections of Old English have been lost, but some pervasive traces of them remain in use: The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Note: This page contains phonetic information presented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) using Unicode. ...

  • Gender-specific pronouns, such as "he" (generally used for male humans — masculine), "she" (female humans — feminine) and "it" (for objects, abstractions, vegetables, and most animals — neuter gender).
  • Some modifiers which inflect for gender, namely the possessive adjectives "his", "her" and "its".
  • A few nouns that inflect according to gender, such as actor/actress, where the suffix -or denotes the masculine, and the suffix -ress denotes the feminine.

On the other hand, critics could object that:

This was not always the case, however. Curzan illustrates gender agreement in Old English with the following “highly contrived” example: A loanword (or loan word) is a word directly taken into one language from another with little or no translation. ... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies The Germanic languages form one of the branches of the Indo-European (IE) language family, spoken by the Germanic peoples who settled in northern Europe along the borders of the Roman Empire. ... The English personal pronouns are classified as follows: First person refers to the speaker(s). ... In linguistics, a marker is a free or bound morpheme that indicates the grammatical function of the marked word or sentence. ... Note: This page contains phonetic information presented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) using Unicode. ...

Seo brade lind wæs tilu and ic hire lufod lit. "That broad shield was good and I loved her."

Since the noun lind (shield) was grammatically feminine, the adjectives brade (broad) and tilu (good), and the pronouns seo (the, that) and hire (her), which refer to lind, must also appear in their feminine forms. Notice in particular how the personal pronoun hire adopted the gender of its antecedent. In grammar, an antecedent is the noun or noun phrase to which a pronoun refers. ...


For comparison, in modern English the sentence would be:

"That broad shield was good and I loved it."

If one were to replace the phrase "broad shield" with "brave man" or "kind woman", the only change to the rest of the sentence would be in the pronoun at the end, which would become "he" or "she", respectively. Thus, modern English has very little gender marking. This is unusual for an Indo-European language (another example is Afrikaans), but not uncommon in other language families. Sino-Tibetan languages, for instance, usually do not have grammatical gender. Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies The Indo-European languages include some 443 (SIL estimate) languages and dialects spoken by about three billion people, including most of the major language families of Europe and western Asia, which belong to a single superfamily. ... Afrikaans is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia. ... Sino-Tibetan languages form a language family of about 250 languages of East Asia, in number of speakers worldwide second only to Indo-European. ...


Gender marking

In other languages, gender markers are both more frequent, and more productive than in English. In Spanish, for example, the vast majority of masculine nouns and modifiers end with the suffix -o, or with a consonant (zero suffix), and the suffix -a is characteristic of feminine nouns (though there are exceptions). Thus, niño means “boy”, and niña means “girl”. Moreover, this pattern is regularly explored for making new words: from the masculine nouns abogado "lawyer", diputado "member of parliament" and doctor "doctor", it was straightforward to make the feminine equivalents abogada, diputada, and doctora.


Personal names

Main article: Personal name

Personal names are frequently constructed with language-specific affixes that identify the gender of the bearer. Common feminine suffixes used in English names are -a, of Latin or Romance origin (cf. Robert and Roberta) and -e, of French origin (cf. Justin and Justine). It is nearly universal for a person to have a name; the rare exceptions occur in the cases of mentally disturbed parents, or feral children growing up in isolation. ... Look up affix in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Latin was the language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. ... The Romance languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, comprise all languages that descended from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. ...


Personal pronouns

Main article: Gender-specific pronoun

Personal pronouns may have different forms according to the gender of their antecedent. English distinguishes between he (male person), she (female person), and it (object, abstraction, or animal). The gender-specific pronouns of a language distinguish between male and female people (and often of animals as well). ... In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a word that usually takes the place of a noun or noun phrase that was previously mentioned (such as she, it) or that refers to something or someone (I, me, you). Pronouns are often one of the basic parts of speech of the... In grammar, an antecedent is the noun or noun phrase to which a pronoun refers. ...


Languages that never had grammatical gender, such as Finnish and Hungarian, have just one word for "he" and "she", hän in Finnish and ő in Hungarian, even though formal Finnish differentiates between humans and inanimate objects.


Gender agreement

When changes in the gender of a noun induce obligatory morphological changes in adjectives, determiners and other parts of speech (such as verbs) that refer to that noun, we say that a language has gender agreement. For instance, in Polish the word ręcznik ‘towel’ is masculine, encyklopedia ‘encyclopaedia’ is feminine, and krzesło ‘chair’ is neuter. In the phrases duży ręcznik ‘big towel’, duża encyklopedia ‘big encyclopaedia’, duże krzesło ‘big chair’, the adjective for ‘big, large’ has a different form for each gender (in the nominative singular). A noun, or noun substantive, is a part of speech which can co-occur with (in)definite articles and attributive adjectives, and function as the head of a noun phrase. ... Morphology is a subdiscipline of linguistics that studies word structure. ... An adjective is a part of speech which modifies a noun, usually describing it or making its meaning more specific. ... Determiners are words which quantify or identify nouns. ... In grammar, a part of speech or word class is defined as the role that a word (or sometimes a phrase) plays in a sentence. ... A verb is a part of speech that usually denotes action (bring, read), occurrence (to decompose (itself), to glitter), or a state of being (exist, live, soak, stand). Depending on the language, a verb may vary in form according to many factors, possibly including its tense, aspect, mood and voice. ... The nominative case is a grammatical case for a noun. ... In linguistics, the term grammatical number refers to ways of expressing quantity by inflecting words. ...


Or consider the French sentences Il est un grand acteur and Elle est une grande actrice, meaning "He is a great actor" and "She is a great actress", respectively. Not only do the nouns (acteur, actrice) and the pronouns (il, elle) denote the gender of their referent, but so do the articles (un, une) and the adjectives (grand, grande). Every word changes to match the gender of the subject, except the verb est "is". In general, a reference is something that refers or points to something else, or acts as a connection or a link between two things. ...


Extensive gender-marking (with masculine and/or feminine categories) is common in the following language groups:

It is mostly absent in the following language groups: The Afro-Asiatic languages constitute a language family with about 375 languages (SIL estimate) and more than 300 million speakers spread throughout North Africa, East Africa, the Sahel, and Southwest Asia (including some 200 million speakers of Arabic). ... The Australian Aboriginal languages comprise several language families and isolates native to Australia and a few nearby islands, but by convention excluding Tasmania. ... The Northeast Caucasian languages, also called East Caucasian, Caspian, Nakh-Dagestanian, or Dagestanian, are a family of languages spoken mostly in the Dagestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia regions of Russia, in Northern Azerbaijan, and in Georgia. ... The Dravidian family of languages includes approximately 73[1] languages that are mainly spoken in southern India and Sri Lanka, as well as certain areas in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and eastern and central India, as well as in parts of Afghanistan and Iran, and by overseas Dravidians in other countries... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies Indo-European is originally a linguistic term, referring to the Indo-European language family. ...

The Niger-Congo languages typically have an extensive system of noun classes, which some authors regard as a type of grammatical gender, but others describe as something completely different. Altaic is a proposed language family which includes 66 languages [1] spoken by about 348 million people, mostly in and around Central Asia and northeast Asia. ... The Austronesian languages are a language family widely dispersed throughout the islands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific ( with a few members spoken on continental Asia). ... Geographical distribution of Samoyedic, Finnic, Ugric and Yukaghir languages  Yukaghir  Samoyedic  Ugric  Finnic The Uralic languages form a language family of about 30 languages spoken by approximately 20 million people. ... Sino-Tibetan languages in red. ... Map showing the distribution of Niger-Congo languages The Niger-Congo languages constitute one of the worlds major language families, and Africas largest in terms of geographical area, number of speakers, and number of distinct languages. ... In linguistics, the term noun class refers to a system of categorizing nouns. ...


Grammatical gender vs. natural gender

Natural gender refers to natural characteristics of a being, object, or concept, as opposed to the grammatical classification of the noun which designates it. For example, in languages where nouns are classified as either "masculine", "feminine" or "neuter", natural gender is the state of being either "male person", "female person", or "neither". In languages where nouns are classified as "animate" or "inanimate", the natural genders are the categories "human or animal" and "other". The word "natural" should be understood in a broad sense, here. Natural gender can be the biological sex of a living being, or the social or personal gender identity of a person, or some other natural characteristic not related to sexuality. Look up Sex in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The word gender describes the state of being male, female, or neither. ...


It is convenient to distinguish grammatical gender from natural gender, since the two do not always coincide. An often cited example of this is the German word Mädchen, which means "girl", but is treated grammatically as neuter. This is because it was constructed as the diminutive of Magd (archaic nowadays), and diminutive suffixes such as -chen conventionally place nouns in the "neuter" noun class. A few more examples: This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...

Irish cailín "girl" is masculine, while stail "stallion" is feminine.
German die Frau (feminine) and das Weib (neuter) both mean "the woman".

Normally, such exceptions are a small minority in a language with gender.


Variation in gender is more common when there is no immediate way to classify a noun according to the criterion which defines the genders. Not only can two nouns denoting the same concept differ in gender in closely related languages, but also within one language. Thus, in Russian the word луна ‘Moon’ is feminine, but its Polish counterpart, księżyc, is masculine. And, in Russian, "картофель" "potato" is masculine, while "картошка" "spud" is feminine[1]. There is nothing objective about the concepts of 'Moon' or 'potato' which makes them masculine or feminine. It is merely a convention. Grammatical gender is thus a property of the nouns themselves, not of their referents. A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted rules, norms, standards or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. ... A noun, or noun substantive, is a part of speech which can co-occur with (in)definite articles and attributive adjectives, and function as the head of a noun phrase. ... In general, a reference is something that refers or points to something else, or acts as a connection or a link between two things. ...


Indeterminate gender

In languages with a masculine and feminine gender (and possibly a neuter as well), the masculine is usually employed by default to refer to persons of unknown gender. This is still done sometimes in English, although an alternative is to use the singular "they". Another alternative is to use two nouns, as in the phrase "ladies and gentlemen". Singular they, sometimes called epicene they, is the usage in the English language of the gender-neutral third-person plural pronoun they and its inflected forms — they, them, their, theirs, themselves (or themself) — to refer to a single person, often of indeterminate sex, as for example in: Have you ever...


In the plural, the masculine is also employed by default to refer to a mixed group of people. Thus, in French the feminine pronoun elles always designates an all-female group of people, but the masculine pronoun ils may refer to a group of males, to a mixed group, or to a group of people of unknown genders. In English, this issue does not arise with pronouns, since there is only one plural third person pronoun, "they". However, a group of actors and actresses would still be described as a group of "actors".


The dummy pronoun of two-gender languages with masculine and feminine is usually the default masculine third person singular, as well. For example, the French sentence for "It is raining" is Il pleut, whose literal meaning is "He rains". There are some exceptions: the corresponding sentence in Welsh is Mae hi'n bwrw glaw, literally "She is raining". A dummy pronoun (or more formally expletive pronoun or pleonastic pronoun) is a type of pronoun used in non-pro-drop languages, such as English, when a particular argument of a verb (or preposition) is nonexistent, unknown, irrelevant, already understood, or otherwise not to be spoken of directly, but a...


Gender of non-humans

The masculine/feminine classification is often only followed carefully for human beings. The relation between natural and grammatical gender for animals tends to be more arbitrary. In Spanish, for instance, a cheetah is always un guepardo (masculine) and a zebra is always una cebra (feminine), regardless of their biological sex. If it becomes necessary to specify the sex of the animal, an adjective is added, as in un guepardo hembra (a female cheetah). Different names for the male and the female of a species are more frequent for common pets or farm animals. Eg. English horse and mare, Spanish vaca "cow" and toro "bull". Vegetables are typically grouped with inanimate objects.


Gender assignment

There are three main ways by which natural languages categorize nouns into genders: according to logical or symbolic similarities in their meaning (semantic criterium), by grouping them with other nouns that have similar form (morphology), or through an arbitrary convention (possibly rooted in the language's history). Usually, a combination of the three types of criteria is used, though one is more prevalent.


Semantics

Modern English is perhaps the most straightforward example of a language where grammatical gender is assigned to nouns largely according to their meaning. Choosing between he, she and it invariably comes down to asserting whether their referent is a male human, a female human, or something else. (Animals can go either way, being referred to according to their sex, or as it.) Although she may be used to refer to countries, ships or machines, this is considered an optional figure of speech. In modern English, the personal pronouns essentially denote natural gender. In general, a reference is something that refers or points to something else, or acts as a connection or a link between two things. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Stylistic device. ...


Morphology

In Spanish, grammatical gender is overwhelmingly determined by noun morphology. Since nouns that refer to male persons usually end in -o or a consonant and nouns that refer to female persons usually end in -a, most other nouns that end in -o or a consonant are also treated as masculine, and most nouns that end in -a are treated as feminine, regardless of their meaning. (Nouns that end in some other vowel are assigned a gender either according to etymology, by analogy, or by convention.) Morphology may in fact override meaning, in some cases. The noun miembro "member" is always masculine, even when it refers to a woman, but persona "person" is always feminine, even when it refers to a man. Morphology is a subdiscipline of linguistics that studies word structure. ... Etymology is the study of the origins of words. ...


In German, also, diminutives with the endings -chen and -lein (cognates of English -kin and -ling meaning little, young) are always neuter, so that Mädchen (girl) and Fräulein (young woman) are neuter. However, the suffix -ling can be used in other ways, such as to make countable nouns from uncountable ones, like Teig "dough"→ Teigling "piece of dough", and to form personal nouns from abstract nouns, or from adjectives, like Lehre "teaching" → Lehrling "apprentice", Strafe "punishment" → Sträfling "convict" and feige "cowardly" → Feigling "coward". In this case, the resulting nouns are masculine. This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... A count noun is a noun which is itself counted, or the units which are used to count it. ... It has been suggested that Count noun be merged into this article or section. ...


In some local dialects of German, all nouns for female persons have shifted to the neuter gender (presumably further influenced by the standard word Weib "woman" also being neuter), but the feminine gender remains for some words denoting objects.


In such cases, terms like "masculine", "feminine" and "neuter" should be understood as little more than convenient labels for three large groups of nouns. They are suggestive because most nouns that refer to males are in the "masculine" class, most nouns that refer to females are in the "feminine" class, and most "neuter" nouns refer neither to males nor to females, but there are exceptions, and many nouns in each class — in fact, the majority of them — have no logical connection with natural gender.


On the other hand, the correlation between grammatical gender and morphology is usually not perfect: problema (problem) is masculine in Spanish (though this is for etymological reasons), and radio (radio station) is feminine (because it's a shortening of estación de radio, a phrase whose head is the feminine noun estación). A similar situation is found in Polish, where masculine nouns often have no ending in the nominative singular, feminine nouns normally have the ending -a, and neuter nouns have one of the endings -o, -e, or , yet mężczyzna ‘man’ is masculine (not feminine), książę ‘prince’ is masculine (not neuter), and kość ‘bone’ is feminine (not masculine, cf. similar gość ‘guest’ which is masculine). Look up phrase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The nominative case is a grammatical case for a noun. ... The word singular may refer to one of several concepts. ...


Convention

In some languages, gender markings have been so eroded by time that they are no longer recognizable, even to native speakers. Most German nouns give no morphological or semantic clue as to their gender. It must simply be memorized. The conventional aspect of grammatical gender is also clear when one considers that nothing intrinsic about a table makes it masculine, as in German Tisch, or neuter, as in Norwegian bord. The learner of such languages should regard gender as an integral part of each noun. A frequent recommendation is to memorize a modifier along with the noun as a unit, usually a definite article (i.e. memorizing German der Tisch - with der being the definite article for masculine singular nominative - and Norwegian bordet - with the suffix -et being the denoter of definite neuter singular, though an article det is used, too, when an adjective is linked to the noun, producing "the good table": det gode bordet). A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted rules, norms, standards or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. ...


Whether a distant ancestor of Norwegian, German, Spanish and English had a semantic value for genders is of course a different matter. Some authors have speculated that archaic Proto-Indo-European had two genders with a semantic value, animate and inanimate. Proto-Indo-European (PIE) may refer to: Proto-Indo-European language the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages Proto-Indo-Europeans, the hypothetical speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language Proto-Indo-European roots, A list of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European roots Categories: | ...


Other types of gender classification

Some languages have gender-like noun classifications unrelated to gender identity. Particularly common are languages with "animate" and "inanimate" genders. The term "grammatical genders" is also used in this case, by extension, although many authors prefer the term "noun classes" when none of the inflections in a language relate to sexuality. Note however that the word "gender" derives from Latin genus, which is also the root of genre, and originally meant "kind", so it does not necessarily have a sexual meaning. For some examples, see Animacy, and the examples below. The word gender describes the state of being male, female, or neither. ... In biology, a genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic grouping. ... Animacy is a grammatical category, usually of nouns, which influences the form a verb takes when it is associated with that noun. ...


A diachronical case study: Indo-European

Many linguists think the earliest stages of Proto-Indo-European had two genders, animate and inanimate, as did Hittite, but the inanimate gender later split into neuter and feminine, originating the classical three-way classification into masculine, feminine, and neuter which most of its descendants inherited. Many Indo-European languages kept these three genders. Such is the case of most Slavic languages, classical Latin, Sanskrit, and Greek, for instance. Other Indo-European languages reduced the number of genders to two, either by losing the neuter (like the Celtic languages and most Romance languages), or by having the feminine and the masculine merge with one another into a common gender (as has happened, or is in the process of happening, to several Germanic languages). Some, like English and Afrikaans, have all but lost grammatical gender. The Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) is the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages. ... The Hittite language is the dead language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who once created an empire centered on ancient Hattusa (modern Boğazköy) in north-central Anatolia (modern Turkey). ... The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages) comprise the languages of the Slavic peoples. ... Latin was the language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. ... The Sanskrit language ( , ) is a classical language of India, a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and one of the 22 official languages of India. ... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies Celtic languages are a branch of the Indo-European languages. ... The Romance languages, also called Romanic languages, are a subfamily of the Italic languages, specifically the descendants of the Vulgar Latin dialects spoken by the common people evolving in different areas after the break-up of the Roman Empire. ... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies The Germanic languages form one of the branches of the Indo-European (IE) language family, spoken by the Germanic peoples who settled in northern Europe along the borders of the Roman Empire. ... Look up Wiktionary:Swadesh lists for Afrikaans and Dutch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Even in those where the original three genders have been mostly lost or reduced, however, there may still be a trace of gender in some parts of speech. Thus, Modern English has kept the three-way division of personal pronouns into he (masculine), she (feminine) and it (neuter). Spanish distinguishes between the definite articles el (masculine), la (feminine) and lo (neuter), where the latter designates abstractions (e.g. lo único "the only thing"; lo mismo "the same thing"). It also has a third-person neuter singular pronoun, ello, aside from él "he" and ella "she", as well as a neuter demonstrative, esto, apart from the masculine demonstrative éste and the feminine ésta. Portuguese has a semantically neuter indefinite pronoun, tudo ("everything," used without a definite referent); compare with todo, masculine (e.g. todo livro "every book"), and toda, feminine (e.g. toda salada "every salad"). In terms of agreement, however, these "neuter" words count as masculine: both Spanish lo bueno and Portuguese tudo take masculine adjectives.


Exceptionally for a Romance language, Romanian has preserved the three genders of Latin, although the neuter has been reduced to a combination of the other two, in the sense that neuter nouns have masculine endings in the singular, but feminine endings in the plural. As a consequence, adjectives, pronouns, and pronominal adjectives only have two forms, both in the singular and in the plural. The same happens in Italian, to a lesser extent. Moreover the Italian third-person singular pronouns have a "neuter" form to refer to inanimate subjects (egli/ella vs. esso/essa, gli/le vs. ci).


On the whole, gender marking has been lost in Welsh, both on the noun, and, often, on the adjective. However, it has one unusual feature, that of initial mutation, where the first consonant of a word changes into another in certain syntactical conditions. Gender is one of the factors that can cause mutation, especially the so-called soft mutation. For instance, the word merch means girl or daughter, but 'the girl' is y ferch. This only occurs with feminine nouns; for example, the masculine noun mab 'son' remains unchanged after the definite article, y mab 'the son'. Adjectives are affected by gender in a similar way: 'the big son' is y mab mawr, but 'the big girl' is y ferch fawr. Welsh redirects here, and this article describes the Welsh language. ... Consonant mutation is the phenomenon in which a consonant in a word is changed according to its morphological and/or syntactic environment. ...


Some Slavic languages, including Russian and Czech, make grammatical distinctions between animate and inanimate nouns (in Czech only in the masculine gender; in Russian only in masculine singular, but in the plural in all genders). Another example is Polish, which distinguishes five genders:

  1. masculine nouns for male humans (with a special nominative plural that is different from all other classes, and with acc. pl. = gen. pl.)
  2. animate masculine nouns (with acc. sg. = gen. sg.)
  3. inanimate masculine nouns (with acc. sg. = nom. sg.)
  4. feminine nouns
  5. neuter nouns

There are also approaches that distinguish only three genders. See Polish for more details.


See also Loss of the neuter gender in Romance languages, and Gender in Dutch grammar. Vulgar Latin, as in this political engraving at Pompeii, was the language of the ordinary people of the Roman Empire, distinct from the Classical Latin of literature. ... In Dutch, nouns come in three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. ...


Australian Aboriginal languages

The Dyirbal language is well known for its system of four noun classes, which tend to be divided along the following semantic lines: Dyirbal (also Djirubal) is an ergative Australian Aboriginal language spoken in northeast Queensland by about 5 speakers. ...

  • I — animate objects, men
  • II — women, water, fire, violence
  • III — edible fruit and vegetables
  • IV — miscellaneous (includes things not classifiable in the first three)

The class usually labeled "feminine", for instance, includes the word for fire and nouns relating to fire, as well as all dangerous creatures and phenomena. This inspired the title of the George Lakoff book Women, Fire and Dangerous Things (ISBN 0-226-46804-6). Water is a tasteless, odourless substance that is essential to all known forms of life and is known as the universal solvent. ... A burning match Fire is a self-sustaining oxidation process accompanied by heat and light in the form of a glow or flames. ... Violence is any act of aggression and abuse which causes or intends to cause injury, in some cases criminal, or harm to persons, and (to a lesser extent) animals or property. ... Fruit stall in Barcelona, Spain. ... Vegetables in a Market Venn diagram representing the relationship between (botanical) fruits and vegetables. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...


The Ngangikurrunggurr language has noun classes reserved for canines, and hunting weapons, and the Anindilyakwa language has a noun class for things that reflect light. The Diyari language distinguishes only between female and other objects. Perhaps the most noun classes in any Australian language are found in Yanyuwa, which has 16 noun classes. The Ngangikurrunggurr is a tribe of people famous for their weaving who live in a small community called Peppimenarti, Northern Territory, Australia. ... Enindhilyagwa (several other names; see below) is an Australian language isolate spoken by the Warnindhilyagwa people on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia. ... Diyari or Dieri is an extinct Australian Aboriginal language of South Australia. ... The Yanyuwa language is spoken by the people of the same name around the settlement of Borroloola (Yanyuwa burrulula) in the Northern Territory, Australia. ...


Caucasian languages

Of the Caucasian languages, some members of the Northwest Caucasian family, and almost all of the Northeast Caucasian languages, manifest noun class. In the Northeast Caucasian family, only Lezgi, Udi, and Aghul do not have noun classes. Some languages have only two classes, while the Bats language has eight. The most widespread system, however, has four classes, for male (masculine), female (feminine), animate beings and certain objects (animate), and finally a class for the remaining nouns (inanimate). The Andi language has a noun class reserved for insects. The term Caucasian languages is loosely used to refer to a large and extremely varied array of languages spoken by more than 7 million people in the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. ... The Northwest Caucasian languages, also called Pontic or Abkhaz-Adyg/Circassian, are a group of languages spoken in Caucasian Russia, Turkey, Jordan, Kabardino-Balkaria (an autonomous republic in Russia) and Abkhazia ( de facto independent formally an autonomous republic in Georgia). ... The Northeast Caucasian languages, also called East Caucasian, Caspian, Nakh-Dagestanian, or Dagestanian, are a family of languages spoken mostly in the Dagestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia regions of Russia, in Northern Azerbaijan, and in Georgia. ... Lezgi, also called Lezgian, is a language spoken by the Lezgi who live in southern Dagestan (a republic of Russia) and northern Azerbaijan. ... The Udi language is a member of the Northeast Caucasian language family. ... **Used Lezgi language page as a template, working on replacing information** Aghul, also called Agul, is a language spoken by the Aguls who live in southern Dagestan (a republic of Russia) and Azerbaijan. ... Bats (also Batsi, Batsbi, Batsb or Batsaw) is the language of the Bats people, a Caucasian minority group, and is part of the Nakh family of Caucasian languages. ...


Among Northwest Caucasian languages, Abkhaz shows a masculine-feminine-neuter distinction. Ubykh shows some inflections along the same lines, but only in some instances, and in some of these instances inflection for noun class is not even obligatory. Abkhaz is a Northwest Caucasian language spoken in Georgia and Turkey. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ...


In all Caucasian languages that manifest class, it is not marked on the noun itself but on the dependent verbs, adjectives, pronouns and prepositions.


An entire website has been devoted to exploring the possibilities of inanimate genders in Caucasian languages.


Indo-Pacific languages

In Alamblak, a Sepik Hill language spoken in Papua New Guinea, the masculine gender includes males and things which are tall or long and slender, or narrow such as fish, crocodile, long snakes, arrows, spears and tall slender trees, and the feminine gender includes females and things which are short, squat or wide, such as turtles, frogs, houses, fighting shields, and trees that are typically more round and squat than others.


Niger-Congo languages

The Zande language distinguishes four noun classes: Zande is an Adamawa-Ubangi language spoken by the Azande, primarily in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and southwestern Sudan, but also in the Central African Republic. ...

Criterion Example Translation
human (male) kumba man
human (female) dia wife
animate nya beast
other bambu house

There are about 80 inanimate nouns which are in the animate class, including nouns denoting heavenly objects (moon, rainbow), metal objects (hammer, ring), edible plants (sweet potato, pea), and non-metallic objects (whistle, ball). Many of the exceptions have a round shape, and some can be explained by the role they play in Zande mythology.


Constructed languages

In natural languages, gender inflections in nouns are normally accompanied by gender agreement in their modifiers. Even in English, where gender marking is scarce, there must be agreement between the possessive adjectives and their antecedents. "*Jane hurt his leg" and "*John broke her arm" are ungrammatical, if "his" and "her" refer to Jane and John, respectively. An antecedent is a preceding phrase or word. ...


Some constructed languages, however, have gender inflection without gender agreement. A notable example is the suffix -ino, in Esperanto, which can be used to change patro, "father" into patrino, "mother." This particular suffix is extremely productive (there is no atomic term for "mother" in Esperanto), but it is debatable whether this should be accepted as an instance of grammatical gender. An artificial or constructed language (known colloquially as a conlang among aficionados), is a language whose phonology, grammar and vocabulary are specifically devised by an individual or small group, rather than having naturally evolved as part of a culture the way natural languages do. ... Look up affix in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Look up Esperanto in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Ido has the masculine infix -ul and the feminine infix -in for animate beings. Both are optional and are used only if it is necessary to avoid the ambiguity. Thus, kato: a cat, katulo: a tom-cat, katino: a she-cat. Besides, there are third person singular and plural pronouns for all three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter, in addition to gender-free pronouns. Wikipedia articles written in this language are located at the Ido Wikipedia Ido is a reformed version of the planned language Esperanto. ...


The Klingon language has three genders: capable of speaking, body part and other. The Klingon language or Klingonese (tlhIngan Hol in Klingon) is the constructed language spoken by Klingons in the fictional Star Trek universe. ...


List of languages by type of grammatical genders

Languages without grammatical gender

See Noun class: languages without noun classes or grammatical genders. In linguistics, the term noun class refers to a system of categorizing nouns. ...

Languages with three grammatical genders

Masculine, feminine, and neuter

Languages with more than three grammatical genders

  • Czech: Masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, and neuter.
  • Dyirbal: Masculine, feminine, vegetal and other. (Some linguists do not regard the noun class system of this language as grammatical gender.)
  • Polish: Personal masculine, animate masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine, and neuter (some approaches only recognize three genders).
  • Zande: Masculine, feminine, animate, and inanimate.

Languages with two grammatical genders

Masculine and feminine

Common and neuter

Animate and inanimate

Look up Wiktionary:Swadesh lists for Afrikaans and Dutch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The Greek language (Greek Ελληνικά, IPA // – Hellenic) is an Indo-European language with a documented history of some 3,000 years. ... In Dutch, nouns come in three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... GujarātÄ« is an Indo-Aryan language, part of the greater Indo-European language family. ... Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in Latium, the region immediately surrounding Rome. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in parts of what is now England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. ... Old Prussian is an extinct Baltic language spoken by the inhabitants of the area that later became East Prussia (now in north-eastern Poland and the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia) prior to German colonization of the area beginning in the 13th century. ... The Sanskrit language (Skt. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... This article or section should be merged with List of Sorbian languages The Sorbian languages are members of the West Slavic branch of languages spoken in eastern Germany. ... Tamil (தமிழ் ) is a classical language and one of the major languages of the Dravidian language family. ... Yiddish (Yid. ... Dyirbal (also Djirubal) is an ergative Australian Aboriginal language spoken in northeast Queensland by about 5 speakers. ... Zande is an Adamawa-Ubangi language spoken by the Azande, primarily in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and southwestern Sudan, but also in the Central African Republic. ... Akkadian (lišānum akkadÄ«tum) was a Semitic language (part of the greater Afro-Asiatic language family) spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. ... Written records of the ancient Egyptian language have been dated from about 3200 BC. Egyptian is part of the Afro-Asiatic group of languages and is related to Berber and Semitic (languages such as Arabic, Amharic, Tigrinya and Hebrew). ... The Arabic language ( ), or simply Arabic ( ), is the largest member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family (classification: South Central Semitic) and is closely related to Hebrew, Amharic and Aramaic. ... Aramaic is a group of Semitic languages with a 3,000-year history. ... Bengali or Bangla (বাংলা, IPA: ) is an Indo-Aryan language of East South Asia, evolved from Prakrit, Pāli and Sanskrit. ... Catalan in Europe Catalan IPA: (català ) is a Romance language, the official language of Andorra and co-official in the Spanish autonomous communities of Balearic Islands, Valencia (under the name Valencian) and Catalonia. ... Coptic is the most recent phase of ancient Egyptian. ... Hebrew redirects here. ... Hindi (हिन्दी) is a language spoken mainly in North and Central India. ... Occitan, known also as Lenga dòc or Langue doc (Occitan: occitan, lenga dòc) is a Romance language spoken in Occitania (i. ... Punjabi (also Panjabi; in GurmukhÄ«, PanjābÄ« in ShāhmukhÄ«) is the language of the Punjabi people and the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan. ... Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) is a member of the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages. ... The Berber languages (or Tamazight) are a group of closely related languages mainly spoken in Morocco and Algeria. ... Telugu (తెలుగు)is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where it is the official language. ... The phrase Zaban-e Urdu-e Mualla written in Urdu Urdu () is an Indo-European language of the Indo-Aryan family that developed under Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Hindi, and Sanskrit influence in South Asia during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire (1200-1800). ... Welsh redirects here, and this article describes the Welsh language. ... Low German (also called Plattdeutsch, Plattdüütsch or Low Saxon, Old Saxon) is a name for the regional language varieties of the Low Germanic languages spoken mainly in northern Germany, and eastern Netherlands. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... // Bergen may refer to: Places There are several places named Bergen: Bergen, Norway, the second largest city in Norway Bergen, Belgium, better known by its French name of Mons Germany Bergen, Hesse Bergen, Lower Saxony, in the district of Celle. ... The Sumerian language of ancient Sumer was spoken in Southern Mesopotamia from at least the 4th millennium BCE. Sumerian was replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language around 1800 BCE, but continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the first century AD... The Hittite language is the dead language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who once created an empire centered on ancient Hattusa (modern BoÄŸazköy) in north-central Anatolia (modern Turkey). ... Indigenous languages of the Americas (or Amerindian Languages) are spoken by indigenous peoples from the southern tip of South America to Alaska and Greenland, encompassing the land masses which constitute the Americas. ... Reading Adahooniigii — The Navajo Language Monthly Navajo or Navaho (native name: Diné bizaad) is an Athabaskan language (of Na-Dené stock) spoken in the southwest United States by the Navajo people (Diné). It is geographically and linguistically one of the Southern Athabaskan languages (the majority of Athabaskan languages are spoken... Mapudungun (mapu means earth and dungun means to speak) (also Mapudungu, Araucano, Araukano, Mapuche, Araucanian) is a language isolate spoken in central Chile and west central Argentina by the Mapuche (mapu is earth and che means people) people. ...

Notes

  1. ^ Grammatical gender in the Russian language

Bibliography

  • Craig, Colette G. (1986). Noun classes and categorization: Proceedings of a symposium on categorization and noun classification, Eugene, Oregon, October 1983. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins.
  • Corbett, Greville G. (1991) Gender, Cambridge University Press —A comprehensive study; looks at 200 languages.
  • Corbett, Geville (1994) "Gender and gender systems". En R. Asher (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Oxford: Pergamon Press, pp. 1347--1353.
  • Greenberg, J. H. (1978) "How does a language acquire gender markers?". En J. H. Greenberg et al. (eds.) Universals of Human Language, Vol. 4, pp. 47--82.
  • Hockett, Charles F. (1958) A Course in Modern Linguistics, Macmillan.
  • Ibrahim, M. (1973) Grammatical gender. Its origin and development. La Haya: Mouton.
  • Iturrioz, J. L. (1986) "Structure, meaning and function: a functional analysis of gender and other classificatory techniques". Función 1. 1-3.
  • Meissner, Antje & Anne Storch (eds.) (2000) Nominal classification in African languages, Institut für Afrikanische Sprachwissenschaften, Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag. ISBN 3-89645-014-X.
  • Pinker, Steven (1994) The Language Instinct, William Morrow and Company.
  • van Berkum, J.J.A. (1996) The psycholinguistics of grammatical gender: Studies in language comprehension and production. Doctoral Dissertation, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Nijmegen, Netherlands: Nijmegen University Press (ISBN 90-373-0321-8).

Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954, in Montreal, Canada) is a prominent American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer known for his spirited and wide-ranging defence of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. ... The Language Instinct is a book by Steven Pinker, published in 1995, in which he argues the case for the belief that humans are born with an innate capacity for language. ...

Other references

2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... July 22 is the 203rd day (204th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 162 days remaining. ... Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg (German Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg ) was founded 1457 in Freiburg by the Habsburgs. ...

See also

In Dutch, nouns come in three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. ... Animacy is a grammatical category, usually of nouns, which influences the form a verb takes when it is associated with that noun. ... In languages, agreement is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. ... In linguistics, the term noun class refers to a system of categorizing nouns. ... A classifier, in linguistics, is a word or morpheme used in some languages in certain contexts to indicate the word class of a noun. ... Gender-neutral language (gender-generic, gender-inclusive, non-sexist, or sex-neutral language) is language that attempts to refer neither to males nor females when discussing an abstract or hypothetical person whose sex cannot otherwise be determined. ... It has been suggested that Androgynous pronoun be merged into this article. ... == WHAT ABOUT THE MATH ONE??? HUH? == // Demonstratives are deictic words (they depend on an external frame of reference) that indicate which entities a speaker refers to, and distinguishes those entities from others. ... A synthetic language, in linguistic typology, is a language with a high morpheme-to-word ratio. ... In language, redundancy often takes the form of phrases which repeat a concept with a different word. ... In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification or marking of a word (or more precisely lexeme) to reflect grammatical (that is, relational) information, such as gender, tense, number or person. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Reference.com/Encyclopedia/Grammatical gender (5058 words)
In linguistics, grammatical genders, sometimes also called noun classes, are classes of nouns reflected in the behavior of associated words; every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be very few which belong to several classes at once.
On the other hand, the correlation between grammatical gender and morphology is usually not perfect: problema "problem" is masculine in Spanish (this is for etymological reasons), and radio "radio station" is feminine (because it is a shortening of estación de radio, a phrase whose head is the feminine noun estación).
It is also noteworthy that, with few exceptions, the gender of an English pronoun coincides with the real gender of its referent, rather than with the grammatical gender of its antecedent, frequently different from the former in languages with true grammatical gender.
What is Grammatical Gender? (415 words)
Grammatical gender is a system in the grammar of some languages in which nouns are classified as belonging to a certain gender - often masculine, feminine, or neuter - and other parts of speech connected to the noun, such as adjectives or articles, must agree.
In such languages, grammatical gender is often more morphological - related to the sound of the word - than semantic - related to its meaning.
Grammatical gender, for the most part, follows enough basic patterns that one can make an educated guess as to the gender of an unknown word, but some degree of memorization is typically necessary.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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