Genderless language

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A genderless language is a natural or constructed language that has no distinctions of grammatical gender—that is, no categories requiring morphological agreement between nouns and associated pronouns, adjectives, articles, or verbs.[1]

The notion of "genderless language" must not be confused with that of gender-neutral language. Also, a discourse in a genderless language is not necessarily gender-neutral,[1] although genderless languages exclude many possibilities for reinforcement of gender-related stereotypes, such as using masculine pronouns when referring to persons by their occupations (although some languages that may be identified as genderless, including English, do have distinct male and female pronouns). A lack of gendered pronouns is also distinct from a lack of gender in the grammatical sense.

Genderless languages do have various means to recognize gender, such as gender-specific words (mother, son, etc., and distinct pronouns such as he and she in some cases), as well as gender-specific context, both biological and cultural.[1]

Genderless languages are listed at List of languages by type of grammatical genders. Genderless languages include the Indo-European languages Armenian, Bengali, Persian and Central Kurdish (Sorani Dialect), all the Uralic languages (such as Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian), all the modern Turkic languages (such as Turkish), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and all the Austronesian languages (such as the Polynesian languages),.

Language contact[edit]

Morphological view[edit]

From the morphological point of view, grammatical gender may arise because of language contact. These were called "universal simplifications" in the reduction of sex system.[incomprehensible][2][verification needed] Surveys about gender systems around the world from 256 languages show that 112 (44%) are grammatical gender and 144 languages (56%) are genderless languages.[3] Since these two types of languages in many cases are geographically close to each other, there is a significant chance that one influences the other. For example, the Basque language is considered a genderless language, but it has been influenced by the Spanish feminine-masculine two-gender system. Although it should be noted, there are 6909 recognized languages in the world, thus a sample of 256 languages constitutes roughly 3.7% of all spoken languages. Thus, although this particular survey indicates a high proportion of gender neutrality, it does not take into account the other 96.3% of languages.

Loaned from other languages[edit]

Gender has been associated with words but not with ideas. Scholars are trying to study the development of gender in nouns that have been borrowed from other languages. One example of this innovation is the gender assignment of the genderless English nouns that were borrowed into the Italian spoken by immigrants to America. The phonological form of the loaned word sometimes determines its sex. For example, Italians who immigrated to America do not identify the word freezer, but instead heard "freezə." This sound is similar to schwa /a/, so the word becomes "frisa." Consequently, the new word ends in /a/ which is feminine. The same happens with the words water (la vuora), the sweater (la suera), and the quarter (la quora). This process happens also in American-German and American-French. In English words ending in -ing, it sounds like French -ine and in German -ung which are feminine suffixes. In this case, the genderless nouns do not generate one gender or another. In the American-Italian language, masculine gender is the default gender. This default automatically happens in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Norwegian, and Old English.[4]


While English is virtually gender free grammatically as compared with German or French, it is not a genderless language. The elaborate grammatical gender of Old English has mostly disappeared in Modern English but it still remains in pronouns and possessive adjectives: He, him, his. She, her, hers. There is however no grammatical distinction with verbs, adjectives or nouns. Persian (Farsi), a related language in the Indo-European language family altogether lacks grammatical gender lacking the few vestigial remnants that English has which explains how Persian is a genderless language while English is not.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Yasir Suleiman (ed.) (1999) "Language and Society in the Middle East and North Africa", ISBN 0-7007-1078-7, Chapter 10: "Gender in a genderless language: The case of Turkish", by Friederike Braun
  2. ^ Kuteva, Bernd Heine ; Tania (2006). Language contact and grammatical change (Reprinted. ed.). Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0521608282.
  3. ^ (eds.), Martine Vanhove ... (2012). Morphologies in Contact. Berlin: Akademie Verlag Berlin. p. 97. ISBN 978-3050057019.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Rabeno, Angela; Repetti, Lori (undefined NaN). "Gender Assignment of English Loan Words in American Varieties of Italian". American Speech. 72 (4): 373. doi:10.2307/455494. Check date values in: |date= (help)