Talk:Grammatical gender

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We must keep the same style in all the article please!! Some stuff:

Write the words in other languages in italics. Give the English translation in quotes. If gender is necessary, put it in brackets next to the word. Abbreviate.

Eg. (Spanish) perro (m.) "dog"

Use wikitables.

Use bold letters to highlight suffixes

Eg. (French) Une femme blonde "A blonde woman"

Finally, don't saturate the article with redundant examples: If there's already a good example in one language for a certain section, please don't add another for the sake of putting something in your language. Don't repeat examples. Don't waste space. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Fauban (talkcontribs) 16:03, 5 July 2012 (UTC)

Thanks--Fauban 15:08, 5 July 2012 (UTC)

What functional use is grammatical gender?[edit]

Could someone knowledgeable please add a section discussing what functional use grammatical gender has in a language? I'm not at all knowledgeable about it and came here looking for answers. I am a native English speaker who studied German for many years and though I learned gender for German I never really had any understanding of how it added value to the language.

Vttale (talk) 23:13, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

It doesnt. Its like the e in blue.--Metallurgist (talk) 20:29, 30 June 2011 (UTC)
With respect, the "e" in blue changes the sound of the "u" from short to long, roughly "blugh" to "bloo". Grammatical gender helps (but is not the only way) to indicate which noun a particular adjective or pronoun refers to. Consider: "the ship hit the bridge head on; whilst she sank it was merely bent". Clearly this is of less importance in Modern English which relies on word order, but is of great significance in languages such as Latin where word order is more fluid. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 06:52, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

English has four genders![edit]

Unless I was taught wrong in high school (which, being tought by a professor of the language, I doubt) English does not have three genders. It has 4:

1. Masculine, for words that assign the masculine sex of PEOPLE-- "boy," "man," "actor," etc. are masculine. The appropriate pronouns for this gender are "he," "him," and "his."
2. Feminine, for words that assign the feminine sex of PEOPLE-- "girl," "woman," "actress," etc. are feminine. The appropriate pronouns for this gender are "she," "her," and "hers."
3. Common, for words that are assigned to PEOPLE from which gender cannot be determined through context. "student," "teacher," etc. The appropriate pronouns for this gender are "he," "him," and "his" -- the exact same as the masculine gender.
4. Neuter, for words describing inanimate and non-personified objects like "rock," "shoe," "dog," "cat," etc. (Exceptions occur when personifying an object such as a ship, or one's pet.) The appropriate pronouns for this gender are "it," "it," and "its."

This is why it is incorrect grammar to say "Each student must turn in his or her own work." In this sentence, "student" has common gender. The possessive pronouns used in the predicate, "his" and "her," have masculine and feminine gender, respectively. Ergo, this sentence has no gender agreement. The correct way to say this sentence is "Each student must turn in his own work." In this case, "his" is the common gendered possessive pronoun. Similarly, it is also incorrect to say "Each student must turn in their own work." because there is number disagreement between the subject and pronoun.

Another example:

The BOY ate HIS supper quietly.
The GIRL ate HER supper quietly.
The CHILD ate HIS supper quietly. --NOT: The CHILD ate HIS or HER supper quietly. If we know from context the gender of said "child" then the masculine OR feminine possesive pronoun can be substituted-- but not both!
The cat ate ITS supper quietly. (talk) 07:26, 1 June 2009 (UTC)

Well, your "professor" is flat-out wrong (or extremely old-fashioned). As the Wikipedia article goes to great pains to explain, English has no genders at all. Your prescriptive grammar used to be common in formal English, much less so in the vernacular. Something like it is necessary in any language where masculine/feminine agreement is mandatory. Your notion of four genders is no more than a teaching trick to emphasize a point (a good teacher of any subject has a bunch of those). English looks back at the sex of the person to distinguish between he and she; what careful speakers of English actually do if they do not know the sex, or do not wish to specify it, has changed.
Your example The child ate his supper quietly is especially inept -- in British English they say The child ate its supper quietly (this seems to be the official style on The phrase his or her has become so common in English in the last half century that you must use it to avoid confusion. Many young people will hear The child ate his supper quietly and think you know the sex of the child is male; there are two ways to avoid this: his or her supper (formal or informal) or their supper (informal or slang).
More generally, a great deal of ink is wasted by editorialists trying to impose prescriptive grammatical rules on the English language. Many of these rules were invented 2 or 3 centuries ago in an effort to increase the prestige of the English language by adopting rules from classical Greek and Latin. They did not describe usage at the time, but were a conscious effort to change usage. -- Solo Owl (talk) 17:51, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
Why is not then 'child' a masculine noun? What is the definition of "masculine gender" in English? What are grounds for the common gender from language itself? dnik 12:49, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
No, it is NOT incorrect grammar to say, "each student must turn in his or her own work." English has no gender system outside of the pronouns, and if you want to be technical about it, every noun was made neuter by the Gender Shift. As a result of a collapsed gender system, no pronominal usage is more right than others, they just reflect different ways of characterizing each noun. For example, "his or her," for indeterminate gender shows a desire to use personal (not it) pronouns, but maintaining natural law of gender. "His" or "her" for indeterminate is a personal, but not necessarily natural default. All of these are perfectly grammatical. I think you've had a little too much prescription in your English education. Grammar is a fluid thing, and that fluidity is what makes it powerful. Choice of grammar is the soul of linguistic expression. LokiClock (talk) 15:43, 25 November 2009 (UTC)
Dear sirs, this 4-gender idea is really quite an interesting theory. There are a few limitations to working on WP which I do not think any of you realize. WP is not for original contributions. Thus you cannot present or argue this theory if it is your theory. If it is not your theory you must identify whose it is and where you found it. You may then make no original modifications to it. As to whether it is accurate, well, linguistics is seldom an exact science. Most of it is interpretive. It makes no sense at all to argue for a "correct" interpretation and less sense to do it here. How high is the sky? This is strictly an interpretive concept. If we are going to present any interpretations then they cannot be original and you must identify whose they are. In general this article has the tag at the top because all it does is present interpretaions without identification. If you really want to help, find the sources of these ideas, let us know. Thanks for your attention.Dave (talk) 18:42, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
Humphreys, Gordon MA : Teach Yourself English Grammar: EUP, London 1956. "Some nouns may refer to either male or female: parent, neighbour, child. These are said to be Common Gender" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:59, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

Treating Croatian, Serbian, Czech, Slovak etc.[edit]

These languages have the same gender system, masc/fem/neut + animacy splitting masculine. I propose treating them in the same way. Any objections? Should we have a separate list, or a separate entry in "more than three genders"? All such languages have the same system (at least: Slovene, Slovak, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Czech).

Anyone aware about other languages? Bulgarian? Ukrainian? From the description in Wikipedia it has a similar system as well (see Ukrainian grammar).

I would appreciate opinions from the experts before I do a major change in the article. dnik 09:47, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Russian has the same distinction (the accusative identical to the genitive in masc. singular and plural), it seems to run throughout the Slavic languages (I stand to be corrected, of course, I'm only really familiar with Russian!). I believe, purely from casual observation when I'm in Kyiv and/or Odessa (I prefer the second "s", sorry all you Ukrainians!) that Ukrainian, and probably Belarussian (no data at all!), has it, too, and I think it also applies to Polish. My real question is: Is animacy really a part of gender, despite it applying, in the above languages, only to masculine nouns?

Another question to speakers of Slavic languages other than Russian - do they also have the charming (but rather crazy!) system of using

Nominative after "1" Genitive singular after "2" to "4" and Genitive plural after "5" to "20" (etc.) ?? Maelli (talk) 08:20, 8 April 2013 (UTC)

It's only crazy if you don't know the history. Originally in common Slavic, the numbers 1 to 4 were adjectives and 5 to 10 were feminine nouns. To combine 5 with a noun, you would therefore need a genitive just like in English "a pair of apples". With the numbers 1 to 4 you would use the same case for both the noun and the numeral. But Slavic also had a dual number, so for 1 you would use singular, for 2 dual, and for 3 and 4 plural. The dual nominative ended in -a, just like the genitive singular, so that's why it now seems like you use the genitive singular. And it's not used only for 2 like it originally was. CodeCat (talk) 01:34, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

Male and female speech[edit]

I am no linguist, but from what I understand of everything coming before it, the Male and female speech section is totally out of place in this article, which is about a grammatical property of words, not the intersection of (human) gender and language. Unless noun class plays a special role in sex-specific languages (in which case this should be mentioned here), perhaps these points should be moved to Gender rôle in language. Lusanaherandraton (talk) 03:49, 5 November 2009 (UTC)


What about the "uter" used e.g. in swedish? Not a single word either in the article nor in the discussion. (Well at least up to now :-)) --Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:37, 9 November 2009 (UTC)

It's mentioned under the name "common gender". FilipeS (talk) 15:42, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

Objects and abstractions[edit]

This section is entirely devoted to the idea of lexical arbitration. The very next section contradicts this, the entire point being that it is only one possible explanation of gender assignment. I suggest that the section be rewritten, and the examples integrated with the lexical gender assignment section. EDIT: To make it clear, here, the complaint is that the point of view is not neutral. LokiClock (talk) 15:57, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

I'm afraid it's not clear at all what is your complaint. FilipeS (talk) 15:43, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

There is nothing inherent about the moon or a potato which makes them objectively "male" or "female".[edit]

Well, here I'd like to offer an argument. Yes, in Romance languages "sun" is masculine and "moon" is feminine, while in Germanic languages it is the other way around. Well, in Norse mythology (and in the pre-Christian religions of other Germanic tribes) the Moon was a male god, while the sun was a goddess. In Roman Mythology, the sun god is male and the moon god is female. Whether the language was influenced by the mythology or the other way around is disputable, though... Wilsonsamm (talk) 23:04, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

If you're looking for a water-tight logic to the assignment of gender, you will be disappointed. Sure, there are some examples that are intuitive but plenty others that are not. There is also some consistency to some concepts -- for example in Italian, where things you can go into (such as a house) are (or tend to be ?) feminine; or in German, where diminutives are neuter. But overall, no. (talk) 06:28, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Asian Languages[edit]

This article makes no mention of east Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc). I think we should have some information about them - at least add them to the classification list. Considering we even have a fairly-detailed section on (globally) insignificant languages such as Australian Aboriginal varieties, I think we should have something on these major languages too. (talk) 07:06, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Then do something like.... making a contribution to the article?:)1812ahill (talk) 02:02, 12 May 2012 (UTC)
Japanese and Korean are generally described as having no gender. Thus they don't appear on that list, but do appear at Noun class#Languages without noun classes or grammatical genders. Although each language has several semantic noun classes, since these are not obligatorily marked in morpho-syntax (no declination, no agreement), they are not really genders as linguists think of them. I think the case is similar for Chinese, but that's beyond my area of study. Cnilep (talk) 08:35, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

"Southern Dutch"[edit]

Prior to 12 September 2010, this article read:

The masculine and the feminine have merged into a common gender in standard Dutch, but a distinction is still made by many when using pronouns, and in some dialects: see gender in Dutch grammar.

On that date User:Morgengave added, "and in spoken South-Dutch". In her/his edit summary, Morgengave argues, "Tussentaal is not considered a dialect."

On 21 September I changed the relevant passage to:

...but a distinction is still made by many when using pronouns, and in some spoken varieties. See Gender in Dutch grammar.

A few hours later, Morgengave changed "some spoken varieties" to "Southern-Dutch varieties". I admit I don't know any specifics here (I don't even know whether South-Dutch or Southern-Dutch are specifically described as varieties), so I am not the best judge. However, if (as the older version suggests) there are a few varieties that maintain this distinction, its probably unnecessary to name them or describe them, or is it? Cnilep (talk) 08:10, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Cnilep - if we can be clearer by replacing one word ("some") by another ("Southern-Dutch"), let's be clearer. The distinction between masculine and feminine gender is one of the defining characteristics of all varieties of the South-Dutch spoken language (Belgium and parts in the South of the Netherlands; more than 1/4 of all Dutch speakers). Definite and indefinite articles, adjectives, demonstratives, possessives, etc. are all aligned to masculine or feminine gender (and even the neuter gender is in fact a bit more visible) - unlike in Northern Dutch. "Some variants" underestimate the number of users that still make this distinction, and seem to imply that these varieties are spread geographically. Morgengave (talk) 08:17, 25 September 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for replying, Morgengave. This is interesting, and I hope you will continue to work on it. The problem as I see it is that the current description on this page is not clear; at least, it's not clear to me. Is it the case that there are two genders in nearly all varieties spoken in Belgium and the south of the Netherlands, but not in the north of the Netherlands? If so, that it interesting and should be mentioned (with reliable sources cited). What is the situation outside of Europe, say in Suriname or the Antilles, by the way?
Am I correct in assuming that by "South Dutch" or "Southern-Dutch" you mean some set of varieties in Belgium and the southern Netherlands defined by their geographic location? Is this different from "Flemish" (either in the sense of Vlaams or Belgisch-Nederlands)? If so, that should be explained, again with reliable sources.
Finally, the page Dutch grammar currently says, "In certain Belgian Dutch dialectal forms of standard Dutch however, the distinction between masculine and feminine noun genders survives with the use of pronouns" (no source given). This is, I take it, separate from the broader preservation of gender in the varieties you are talking about, right? This seems like a long and complicated story, and I am not convinced that changing the word "some" to the word "Southern" on this page makes it at all clearer. On the other hand, I'm not sure that a parenthesis on this page is the best place to illuminate it, either. Thank you again for your patience and your willingness to explain the situation. Cnilep (talk) 09:54, 27 September 2010 (UTC)
Hello Cnilep. (1) Yes, that's correct. North-Dutch has two genders: the common one (masc-fem) and neuter. South-Dutch has three: masc, fem and neuter (like German). North-Dutch has been used to set the standard for written Dutch. Therefore, in formal written Dutch, only two genders are used - this is also the case in Belgium. In spoken South-Dutch the three genders are normally used, this is done in formal speech as well (doctors, lawyers, during job interviews, etc.) to great dismay of some intellectuals who would like to align the spoken language to North-Dutch (see e.g.,: Geert van Istendael). In informal writing, the three genders are also frequently used (internet, text messages, etc.) and in recent years, the three genders are also increasingly applied to dialogues in literary works. Suriname and the Antilles were colonies of the Netherlands, and their language as a consequence originates from North-Dutch and thus only has these two genders. To digress a bit: Afrikaans evolved from North-Dutch and has lost even the separation between the common and neuter genders. (2) Yes, this is different from "Flemish". First of all, the term Flemish in linguistics is normally reserved for the Dutch dialects of the old county of Flanders (West-, East-, Zeeuws- and French Flanders). The other two Belgian Dutch regiolects are Brabantian and Limburgian. Secondly, Flemish, Brabantian and Limburgian are regiolects that cross the Belgo-Dutch border. Thirdly, Belgisch-Nederlands is a term used for the standard Dutch used in formal writing in Belgium. This official variant only uses two genders. However, it does incorporate several thousands of (South-)Dutch words that are typically only used in Belgium. Because all these reasons, the preference is given to the term "Zuid-Nederlands" (South-Dutch). (3) Yes, it's separate from these variants. The use of pronouns basically means that refer to a word by using its gender. Eg: "Ik ben een activiteit aan het organiseren, ik hoop dat iedereen ze leuk vindt." - translated as: "I am organizing an activity; I hope that everyone will like her." ("Activiteit" is a feminine word in Dutch) In North-Dutch, the dinstinction between masculine and feminine words is no longer visible in the articles, and adjectives etc. are no longer aligned with the masc or fem gender. Therefore, most speakers consider all common words to be masculine and will always refer to pronouns as "he". So they would consider "activiteit" to be masculine. But even in standard Dutch the word should be considered feminine when referring to it (so it's a "she"). In reality, people will have to consult a dictionary - or just have a lot of experience in writing (journalists, etc.) or can speak German (Deutsch and Dutch evolved from the same proto-language, so genders are in many if not most cases identical.) So to make a long story short: ""in standard Dutch, the distinction between masculine and feminine survives when referring to pronouns; and in spoken South-Dutch the articles, adjectives etc. are still aligned with these genders."" This one short sentence can sum the difference nicely up. Morgengave (talk) 20:42, 27 September 2010 (UTC)
You're confusing me! You said: '"Activiteit" is a feminine word in Dutch'? Are you talking about Dutch gender forms in the archaic sense of e.g. Den man(M) or Der vrouw(F) (so 'der activiteit') or did you mean to say 'South-Dutch' rather than 'Dutch', cos I thought the article had established the fusion of M/F genders in standard Dutch. Also, I thought German Der was masculine, so how would knowledge of German help one determine the 'gender' of words in 'South Dutch'? Apologies if I've completely misunderstood.1812ahill (talk) 02:57, 12 May 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that might do nicely, though I still have two caveats. First, if this conservative gender system exists primarily in South Dutch and not elsewhere, that is a proper statement. But if there are conservative 3-gender systems in other dialects or varieties, a vaguer description on this page with a link to a fuller description elsewhere might be better. Second, though not strictly material to this discussion, I would love to see a South Dutch page elsewhere on Wikipedia. This should happen on the English wiki and the Dutch wiki as well; nl:Zuid-Nederlands is a DAB linking to both nl:Nederlands and nl:Belgisch-Nederlands under the heading "Taalkundig". Cnilep (talk) 22:53, 27 September 2010 (UTC)
Hello again, Cnilep. (1) As far as I know, the only other variants are the ones in the East of the Netherlands. Linguistically, these varieties however belong to Low German and not to Dutch. I am not an expert in the gender-systems in the dialects in the Netherlands - but I have always read that it was only retained in South-Dutch (and in Low German and of course German). Perhaps we can consult/involve some other people. There's no rush; the one sentence on this page is also not very important. (2) There's a page on the Dutch Wikipedia that partially covers this topic: nl: Tussentaal. I don't know whether you can read the Dutch, or whether the available translation tools give a good result. So I will quickly summarize it: in Dutch-speaking Belgium dialects have been on the wane, as has happened in the Netherlands. In Belgium however, they are gradually being replaced by one common regiolect (de "Tussentaal"), which is too close to standard Dutch to be considered a dialect, but has retained some enduring characteristics (like the three gender structure, the additional second persons "gij" and "gijle", the enclitic verb form when aking questions nl: enclise, the dimunitives on -ke, etc.) that clearly separate it from standard Dutch. Morgengave (talk) 19:02, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

Iranian Aryan languages[edit]

Can somebody tell me if there are gender in Iranian languages? I think only "kurdish" got gender, the other Iranian languages are neutral??? --Alsace38 (talk) 19:20, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

Kurdish has male and female gender, so have Zazaki and Pashto. Persian does not have gender and does not even distinguish between "she" and "he" (both are u, but "it" is ân). Neither Gilaki and Mazanderani have gender, nor Ossete. Of Balochi, I don't know. Of the historical stages, both Old Persian and Avesta are three-gender languages. Sasanian Middle Persian already lacks gender. Sogdian seems to lack it too (plz wait till tomorrow). Curryfranke (talk) 19:14, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

Origin of Indo-European gender system?[edit]

I think there is a good need of providing the origin of the PIE gender system. Maybe there is a need of a linguist like Cyril Babaev here. Komitsuki (talk) 09:06, 16 March 2011 (UTC)

Indo-European nominal classification: From abstract to feminine (Silvia Luraghi - Università di Pavia). Well, I found this piece of information. Komitsuki (talk) 17:29, 3 November 2012 (UTC)

general comment[edit]

This is a depressingly confused article.Pamour (talk) 15:51, 31 May 2011 (UTC)

"Four-gender" in Slavic languages?[edit]

  Note. In Slavic languages marked with an asterisk (*), traditionally only masculine, feminine and
  neuter genders are recognized, with animacy as a separate category for the masculine; the actual
  situation is similar to Czech and other Slavic languages, so they may be analyzed as four-gender
  languages as well.

Animation influents not only masculine gender (i.e. accusative forming for masculine nouns and ajectives referring to them), but also appointing pronouns selection: Russian: что for unanimated and кто for animated. ru:User:Ignatus ( (talk) 12:19, 29 June 2011 (UTC))

Why is it even called gender?[edit]

Why did the linguists (I assume) decide to call these categories of nouns masculine and feminine? Why not class 1 and class 2, or this and that, or good and bad? Wouldn't consideration of this question be a good addition? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:23, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

The genders are called masculine and feminine because the terms originated in Latin and Greek (Greek ἀρσενικόν, θηλυκόν arsenikón, thēlykón),[1] where nouns referring to male persons were in the masculine gender and nouns referring to female persons were in the feminine. The converse wasn't true: masculine gender doesn't refer only to male things or feminine gender only to female things, but still comparing noun gender to natural sex made the best sense.
About the word "gender", it originally just meant "kind", since it came from gener-, the stem of Latin genus. So if we understand it etymologically, it means the same thing as "noun class", and has nothing to do with sex. — Eru·tuon 00:28, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

See the article gender. FilipeS (talk) 16:18, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Gender Agreement / Irregular Inflection[edit]

I'm barely an intermediate student of Spanish, but I'm fairly sure that "agua" takes the masculine determiner "el" in the singular, but the feminine determiner "las" in the plural. As such, "los aguas frescas" would actually be incorrect; it would be "el agua fresca"/"las aguas frecas." Any comments from native speakers before I change this? Zuky79 (talk) 08:04, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

I'm no Spanish speaker, but Googling (esp. on Google Books) would seem to support your belief. In any case this sentence in the article needs clarifying - at the moment it's hard to know what it's trying to say.--Kotniski (talk) 09:04, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
In Spanish, feminine words in the singular that begin with a stressed a-, like agua, take the articles el or un instead of the usual la or una (though there are a few that don't), and only if the article directly precedes the stressed a-. So, to give another example, it's un hacha afilada but una afilada hacha. So this is not unlike English "an".--JorisvS (talk) 10:48, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
And yes, in the plural they are like any other feminine word. --JorisvS (talk) 10:52, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

Going off on rabbit tangent?[edit]

The passage "Animals are generally referred to as it unless the gender is known. Some animals such as cattle and chickens have different words for male and female animals (bull and cow, rooster and hen, for example) and he and she are therefore used correspondingly. The gender of other animals such as rabbits, insects, etc. is not usually obvious and so these animals are usually referred to as it except in some veterinarian or literary contexts. Alternatively, the use of "it" referring to an animal may imply the speaker lacks or disdains emotional connection with the animal. Thus, even though physical gender is undetermined, Rabbits for Dummies advises "You can win your bunny over to the point where he's incredibly comfortable with you." seems to include a random passage from "Rabbits for dummies". — Preceding unsigned comment added by LokeÞórr (talkcontribs) 00:44, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

"Weather" verbs in Spanish (and other Romance languages?)[edit]

"In a pro-drop language, the dummy pronoun can be dropped." In Spanish there is no 'dummy' (or 'expletive') pronoun. "Él hace frío," "él llueve," "él es importante estudiar" are all incorrect. "Weather" expressions and raising verbs CANNOT have a subject. Where English must take it/wether, Spanish must take 0 as a subject. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:12, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

The French countries' genders map.[edit]

The map (File:French country name genders.svg) is inaccurate, since it portrays the UK as being feminine, when in fact it sould be masculine. 'Le Royaume uni' (the United Kingdom) is masculine, so surely the UK should be green? I think the image might be using 'la Grande Bretagne' (feminine, meaning 'Great Britain'), which is often used (as in English) to mean the UK, but since the country's real name *is* the United Kingdom, shouldn't this map use 'le Royaume uni' as a guide for gender? Any ideas? --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 20:42, 4 July 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps l'Angleterre is often used pars pro toto in French, as in German? --Florian Blaschke (talk) 19:51, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
It is, yes, but that doesn't make it accurate. I certainly don't think Wikipedia's map should be referring to the whole of the UK as England. I would offer to change it here and now, but don't know how. Thanks for replying, by the way :) --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 20:09, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

Translation of 'Mädchen'[edit]

I notice you have changed the translation of the German Mädchen from girl to maiden. Is this correct? To an English speaker maiden conveys an idea of sexual inexperience akin to virginity whilst girl is a young female. Consider Malcolm the Maiden, a king of Scotland or the use of maiden to describe a bell which requires no tuning. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 15:33, 5 July 2012 (UTC)

Corbett, Greville G. (1991)[edit]

As I noted when I reverted the citation of Corbett, it is listed in the Bibliography and there is no apparent need to cite in full again. I see you have reapplied the edit, and not wishing to initiate an edit war invite you to explain your thinking here. Regards, Martin of Sheffield (talk) 15:33, 5 July 2012 (UTC)

Main image is wrong[edit]

Noun gender distr in various langs.gif

The main image has at least three mistakes in it. "Speed" is feminine in Italian, Spanish, French, or German; Chair in German is masculine (der Stuhl); and horse is neuter (das Pferd). I'm not quite sure how there are at least three mistakes in an image with only eight words on it... — Sam (talk) 04:31, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Dear Sam, I'm the person who created this image, and I had no intention of putting specific examples in every language. As you may know, it's very difficult to find a noun that has the same gender in several languages. Words like speed, or chair were put only as examples of abstractions and objects. If you think the image is so blatantly wrong, I invite you to create another one. Regards.--Fauban 14:25, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
So I think it would be better if those words were simply removed. They don't add anything, and as noted, are likely to mislead. Victor Yus (talk) 14:29, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
As Victor says, the words should just be removed then, if they're wrong. Nearly half the words you put there are in the wrong place for at least one of the language groups you're showing. It's also simply confusing to have examples of certain things, like male/female gender, but show a completely empty category for "neuter." This suggests that neuter is somehow different and has no words in it.
If you're set on the image concept, but can't find words that work in all languages, why not just change the words when the language families change? That way you can show that, e.g. "horse" in neuter in German and move it to the left to show that it's masculine in Italian.
In any case, the current version simply has too many errors to be helpful. — Sam (talk) 21:29, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I'd further suggest that the image should be in the lead since it is extremely difficult to comprehend anything by it. A simple introduction to the concept of grammatical gender would be nice, but that is a scary thing that makes me hesitate to link to this page. Sminthopsis84 (talk) 17:40, 8 July 2015 (UTC)
And no, trees are not generally masculine in Latin, even when they end in -us; Pinus, Quercus, Crataegus, Schinus, Aesculus, Prunus are all feminine. Sminthopsis84 (talk) 13:37, 21 July 2015 (UTC)

Common gender[edit]

Common gender redirects to this article, but there is nothing in the article about it. Is it just not worth mentioning or have editors just not thought of considering it? It is curious that it is called "gender" even though biologically speaking common-neuter languages don't really have genders at all. Rather, the distinction is one of the presence as opposed to the absence of gender, and yet it's not an animate-inanimate distinction either. CodeCat (talk) 00:09, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

We could redirect that to Gender in Danish and Swedish perhaps. Carewolf (talk) 08:52, 8 September 2015 (UTC)
But then what about the other languages with common gender? CodeCat (talk) 12:44, 8 September 2015 (UTC)
Which ones are those? I thought it was concept specific to Danish and Swedish, and only marginally use about Dutch. Carewolf (talk) 09:32, 9 September 2015 (UTC)
(Standard) Dutch has actually rather fully merged the masculine and the feminine, with the only real trace being the existence 'zij' (she), which is normally only used to refer to people, and sometimes also for female animals and ships and boats, like in English, but this is nothing consistent. Anything without a natural gender is normally referred to using 'hij' (he), and even cows are commonly referred to with it. Dictionaries normally do indicate masculine vs. feminine, but nowadays normally using m and f(m), to indicate that usage is as I've described. Any use of 'zij' with nouns that have no natural gender is learned. --JorisvS (talk) 10:15, 9 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Write a section on common gender. Grammatical gender does not need to have anything to do with biological sex or social gender categories.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 12:54, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

Common-neuter is related to animate-inanimate[edit]

In Proto-Indo-European, the feminine and masculine were originally formed from an animate gender (which resembled the new masculine). The old inanimate gender became the neuter. So in IE languages that merge masculine and feminine again, the situation is just restored to the original PIE configuration. CodeCat (talk) 16:59, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

That would be worth saying, I think. I just don't think common-neuter can be considered a form of animate-inanimate, because in those languages many inanimate nouns are common, and nouns denoting animals may well (I think?) be neuter. Victor Yus (talk) 17:08, 29 April 2013 (UTC)
And yet, the Swedish/Danish neuter is a direct descendant of the PIE inanimate, so what other conclusion could you draw except that they are really the same thing? Of course, the two genders don't have such strong animate/inanimate connotations, but I'm not sure if it was that much stronger in PIE either. After all, PIE had pairs of animate and inanimate nouns for many worldly concepts like fire and water, so it's likely that the animacy was already a dying connotation by the time the feminine was formed. It is particularly striking that the feminine typically denoted abstract concepts (which you'd expect to be inanimate) and that there are strong ties between the feminine and old neuter (inanimate) collective nouns. So as far as late PIE goes, it's safe to say that the animate-inanimate distinction was no more semantically motivated than masculine-feminine is in French or common-neuter in Swedish. CodeCat (talk) 17:17, 29 April 2013 (UTC)

Nouns with more than one gender[edit]

A common misconception is that Italian nouns must be either masculine or feminine, particularly as expressed under the heading 'Nouns with more than one gender'. Late-Latin/Proto-Romance suppression of final consonants (apocope) in inflexions, and the concomitant vowel shift of penultimate ‘u’ to final ‘o’, eroded distinctions between many masculine (and some feminine) and neuter nouns in the nominative and accusative singular. Likewise, ever-increasing use of prepositional constructions and a change from fluid word order (albeit with a leaning towards Subject + Object + Verb) to a generally fixed, affirmative style (of Subject + Verb + Object) compressed the Latin case system into just one variety based on the erstwhile accusative of the 1st and 2nd declensions, for singular nouns, and the nominative for plurals. Thus was born a uniform method for declining plural forms of masculine and feminine nouns alike.

In the process, almost all neuter nouns were subsumed by the masculine gender upon the emergence of Proto-Italian. But, a considerable number did not, even though the new singular form was largely identical to the new masculine. In consequence, it has hitherto been taught (and rarely questioned beyond academia) that modern Italian, unlike its parent, remains bereft of a grammatically neuter gender. In fact, while there is debate concerning detail, most prominent linguists do recognise the survival of a distinct and significant number of high-frequency nouns considered neuter. Some Italian grammarians erroneously define this noun group as ‘il genere mobile’ (variable gender) but it is also often termed, more properly, the ‘il genere neutro occulto’ (occult neuter). This seems appropriate, given that texts for scholastic use, with few exceptions, unfailingly identify members of the neuter group as irregular nouns, with little or no further explanation. Acceptance of this simplistic ‘explaining-away’ is surprising - considering the paradox whereby a good number of apparently masculine singular nouns have grammatically feminine plural forms, yet mostly with what seems to be singular inflexion. A further, characteristic, found throughout much of the group, consists of regularly formed masculine plural cognates possessing some nuance vis à vis their neuter counterparts. The dualism arises from apparent sublimation of singular, neuter nouns into the masculine and the emergence of concomitant, plural inflexions - the older neuter and the newer masculine. It is possible that, at an early stage, the cognates were interchangeable in meaning but that, in most situations, each type of inflexion came to be reserved for a specific sense.

Among the neo-Latin languages, Romanian, Istrian and Venetian developed along similar lines to (Tuscan) Italian during the passage from late Latin to Proto-Romance (i.e. with plural formation marked by final vowel inflexions). In contrast, French, Provençal, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and numerous others also use noun inflexions derived from the Latin 1st/2nd declension nominative form for the singular but eventually settled on the accusative as the standard plural marker, so giving rise to the characteristic ‘s’ (cf. regatas Sp., Port., vs. regate It., ‘regattas’). Several are still spoken in Italy, for example: Franco-Provençal (Romand a.k.a. Arpitan, Gagasse or Valdostan); Romansh; Friulian: Lombard (which, exotically, inflects final vowels or adds 's', alike).

Spanish primers and dictionaries do claim a neuter gender, identifiable by the 'neuter' indefinite article lo as in the phrase A lo lejos, 'In the distance'. And, as noted by contributors above, the main article omits to point out that feminine nouns where tonic stress falls on the first phoneme require the article el and not la , as in el agua ('the water').

Returning to Italy, while the majority of nouns with a final 'o' in the singular are likely to be masculine a great many are not. Even excluding those in -ista (the true genere mobile, which also includes -e and -o/a terminations governed by sexual gender) there are several derived from Greek, including proper nouns and common nouns based on proper nouns, such as sosia (double, stand-in). The table below lists a fair number of examples of neuter nouns with masculine cognates of differing or nuanced meaning, in order to demonstrate how pervasive the occult neuter is. A perusal of the sources cited below will reveal that there are several more, together with others which have no masculine cognate and numerous examples derived by analogy, often from a true or false singular in the original Latin.

Singular (m. & n. with an example of an analogous f.) Plural/s Meaning (i) Cognate plural Meaning (ii)
il braccio - arm le braccia arms i bracci non-anatomical arms (chair, chandelier)
il budello - gut le budella guts, intestines i budelli tubes
il cervello - brain le cervella brains as offal i cervelli brains figuratively
il ciglio - eyelash (and il sopraciglio -eyebrow) le ciglia (le sopraciglia) eyelashes (eyebrows) i cigli margins, border, edge
il corno - horn le corna animal horns i corni other senses of horn pl. (music, geography)
il cuoio - hide, leather le cuoia human scalps i cuoi worked, animal skins, leather
il dito - finger or toe le dita fingers or toes i diti specific fingers considered separately: i diti mignoli - little fingers
il filo - thread, wire le fila threads (woven together) i fili wires, wiring
il fondamento - foundation le fondamenta foundations (of a building, etc.) i fondamenti fundamentals, basics
la frutta - fruit (class. L. frutcus m., late L. fructam m.acc.§) le frutta/le frutte‡/le fructe‡ edible fruits i frutti product(s), produce (inc. fruit, generally)
il fuso - spindle le fusa/le fuse‡ spindles, purring (cat) i fusi brazed/welded joints
il gesto - gesture le gesta noble acts i gesti gestures/gesticulations
il ginocchio - knee le ginocchia‡/le ginocchie knees i ginocchi oars
il gregge - flock le gregge‡/le greggi flocks of sheep, crowds of people i greggi‡¶ flocks m. cognate, same sense
il grido - cry, shout le grida cries of anguish i gridi baying, anger
l’interiore - inside le interiora the viscera gli interiori insides, interior (interno/i is more usual for rooms/buildings)
il labbro - lip le labbra lips (labia) i labbri raised lip (of a wound, jug)
il lenzuolo - sheet le lenzuola pairs of (bed) sheets i lenzuoli bed linen generally
il membro - member, limb le membra limbs i membri members (of a group)
il muro - wall le mura city walls i muri any other external walls
l’orecchio - ear le orecchie/le orecchia‡ ears gli orecchi ears when used in idioms - see † below
l’osso - bone le ossa human bones gli ossi animal bones
il paio - pair, backformed from pl. (and il pari - equal, L. parem) le paia (L. paria) pairs (gloves, shoes) i pari equals, peers
il riso - rice, laughter (when used with a qualifying adj.) le risa laughter (collectively) i risi grains of rice
lo strido - shriek le strida grizzling, nagging gli stridi‡ chirping, birdsong
l'uovo - egg le uova eggs gli ovi (regional) eggs m. cognate, same sense

‡ rare in modern Italian

§ attributed to the neuter gender in late Latin by analogy with the declension in 'm'. The cognate is regularly derived from L. fructus

¶ this should not be confused with il greggio (crude oil) i greggi (crude oil deposits)

† idioms based on orecchi (pl.). All are grammatically masculine

Turarsi gli orecchi : to cover one’s ears so as not to listen

Essere tutt'orecchi : to be all ears

Anche i muri hanno orecchi : even walls have ears (even though this alludes to human ears)

Avere gli orecchi foderati di prosciutto : to refuse to listen

Stordire gli orecchi : to deafen with excessive noise, especially loud music


Serianni, L., 1989, Grammatica Italiana, Torino, UTET
Accademia della Crusca, 2014, Florence "I plurali doppi"
Rohlfs, G., 1969 (Italian 1st edition, revised) Einaudi, Turin, Grammatica Storica della Lingua Italiana e dei suoi Dialetti (three volumes)
Zingarelli, N., (2013 edition) Zanichelli, Bologna, Vocabolario della Lingua Italiana
Ragazzini, G., (2013 edition) Zanichelli, Bologna, Dizionario Italiano-inglese
Morwood, J., 1999, Latin Grammar, Oxford University Press
Wikipedia (Italian) 2014, "Plurali irregolari"
Wikipedia (English) 2014, "Classification of Romance languages" Brian Benedetti (talk) 06:05, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Gender vs. noun class[edit]

We also have noun class, yet this article mixes a lot of things in that are not properly "gender" and really belong in the other article. This should be fixes. I don't have the time to properly sort this out myself, so maybe there are other people who can take a crack at it? --JorisvS (talk) 08:32, 24 February 2014 (UTC)


The section on Interlingua states that Interlingua has no grammatical gender, but then goes on to describe a system of grammatical gender. Could someone please clarify this? Gordon P. Hemsley 16:27, 15 November 2014 (UTC)

That's not grammatical gender proper. It only describes ways in which it allows the communication of the sex of a referent. --JorisvS (talk) 16:47, 15 November 2014 (UTC)

gender assignment[edit]

in one of the many books i read about languages i remember reading that gender assignment was based on the ending of a word. as most words lost their original endings through the centuries, the obvious reason for their gender became invisible. remnants of this assignment-system still exist, e. g. in french or german there are word endings that define their gender, e. g. words ending with "-age" are always masculine, words ending with "-chen" are always neuter, etc. there are quite a few more. is this only a theory or is there more to it? Sundar1 (talk) 12:26, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

German gender system with some animals[edit]

In German, some common animals are subject to a regular gender system:

das Schwein (the pig) (neuter) der Eber (the boar) (masculine) die Sau (the sow) (feminine) das Ferkel (the piglet) (neuter)

Compare with:

das Rind (the cattle) (neuter) der Stier (the bull) (masculine) die Kuh (the cow) (feminine) das Kalb (the calf) (neuter)

das Schaf (the sheep) (neuter) der Bock (the ram) (masculine) die Aue (the sheep) (feminine) das Lamm (the lamb) (neuter)

das Pferd (the horse) (neuter) der Hengst (the stallion) (masculine) die Stute (the mare) (feminine) das Fohlen (the foal) (neuter)

There may be more examples. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:01, 3 August 2015 (UTC)


It's written:

Finally, in the case of a nationality, in Greek there are five forms: male and female for people (and sometimes for other living beings), and masculine, feminine, and neuter for nouns. For example English = Άγγλος, Αγγλίδα, αγγλικός, αγγλική, αγγλικό

However, I, with my own extremely limited Greek, see that the last three words are just forms of the adjective in three genders, therefore — just a single adjective.

Am I missing something? This is exactly the same as in almost all Slavic languages, nothing special. dnik 20:57, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

The latter three are the normal grammatical genders of the adjective. Maybe this is phrased this way because "Greek friend" is "Έλληνας φίλος / Ελληνίδα φίλη", not *"ελληνικός φίλος / ελληνική φίλη", etc.? --JorisvS (talk) 22:07, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

Flyer22's revert from 17 September 2015[edit]

See: [2].
What should be discussed and why? My edit was sourced (WP:Verifiability) and had a neutral point of view (WP:NPOV).
There simple are different views whether or not pluralia tantum always have a gender. In Latin for example they do have a gender, as Latin adjectives and pronouns have different inflections in the plural. But in German all adjectives and the definite article have the same form in plural: der alte Mann - die alten Männer, die alte Frau - die alten Frauen, das alte Haus - die alten Häuser. So some people say that e.g. "die Ferien (pl. only)" has no gender, while other say it has a gender which can't be determined.
Maybe as an addition, but without sources:

  • There might also be some people who state that die Ferien is feminine, mixing up die (sg.) and die (pl.), or some who say that it is feminine as it derives from the feminine Latin word feria. But: The plural doesn't say anything about gender, and words derived from Latin can change their gender.
  • In older German there was zween - zwo - zwey/zwei (now usually just zwei without difference of gender) = two. So in older German it could be that some pluralia tantum have a gender. But: It's just "could", and regarding contemporary German this is irrelevant.

-eXplodit (talk) 11:24, 17 September 2015 (UTC)

EXplodit (talk · contribs), I reverted you because of your "like sex alias biological gender" addition. As you know, I also reverted you at the Sex article; I commented, "Not needed. And stating or implying that gender is biological is a subject of debate, as noted at Gender and Sex and gender distinction." That's the same reason that I reverted you here at the Grammatical gender article. I'm not focused on the other edits you made; if no one objects to those, you can feel free to restore all of that. You already made this edit, after all. But as for WP:NPOV, being neutral on Wikipedia does not mean what being neutral means in common discourse; see its WP:Due weight section, for example. Flyer22 (talk) 11:36, 17 September 2015 (UTC)
Well, in sex a reference to grammatical gender is not needed. But in grammatical gender a reference to sex alias (or less encyclopedic "A.K.A.") biological gender is needed. So "not needed" does not fit here.
There was no statment or implication that gender is biological. A statement like "gender is biological" would even be incorrect or at least misleading, as grammatical genders or genders for short are not always based on biological genders or sexes. However, the statement was that sex -- which is different from grammatical gender -- is also known as biological gender. (So there is a parallelism in the terminology.) This is correct and was sourced, and I can't see any violation of "Due weight". sex might be the more common term and biological gender might be less common, so that it could be phrased like "sex or less commonly biological gender". But first, it's just "might" and I have no sources to support this, and second, then it should be stated more clearly that "grammatical gender" is often, and also more commonly, known as just "gender" -- which is a reason why "sex" is preferred over the longer term "biological gender".
-eXplodit (talk) 12:28, 17 September 2015 (UTC)
The obvious solution is to drop the misleading and unnecessary claim "sex alias biological gender". Dropping that would also nicely avoid the stilted, non-native-sounding use of "alias". -sche (talk) 16:43, 17 September 2015 (UTC)
  • At least in case of proper names "alias" is native and not stilted (well, maybe elevated or dated, as "A.K.A."/"AKA"/"aka" might be more common nowaydays, but that should rather be unencyclopedic). But well, one can change it into just "or" or into "also known as".
  • It's no claim, it's a fact that "sex" is also known as "biological gender" (a source was given), and I can't see anything misleading or any POV here. (It's also no POV to state that "parapsychology is a pseudoscience", even though the more neutral variant would be "parapsychology is considered to be a pseudoscience by some [+ references]".)
  • To mention synonyms might be unnecessary for some people, but it isn't. Here the synonym leads to a parallelism in the terminology, and in general the mentioning of synonyms is helpful to find articles and to understand articles or literature (e.g. some authors might just use "grammatical gender" and "biological gender" without mentiong the synonym "sex").
    Of course, to mention uncommon synonyms might violate that weight thing and is less helpful, but one could note that a term is uncommon and one could put such terms in a reference note (like some translations are put into reference notes too). However, in this case the synonym is not uncommon.
-eXplodit (talk) 19:07, 18 September 2015 (UTC)

Noun genders in Italian[edit]

I found out from a book called Barron's Italian grammar that Italian has neuter nouns. They have the ordinary masculine singular ending (-o) as singular and the feminine singular ending (-a) as plural. The definite/indefinite article for a neuter singular noun is probably the most common masculine singular form (il/un) and probably the most common feminine plural form (le/une) for a neuter plural noun. (e.g., il ditto/ le ditta "the finger" "the fingers") Cbsteffen (talk) 02:40, 18 September 2015 (UTC)

Il dito – le dita. Why should this be considered a "neuter" instead of a change of gender from the singular to the plural? Agreement rather suggests a change of gender: Il mio dito – Le mie dita. --JorisvS (talk) 08:39, 18 September 2015 (UTC)
Isn't "why" the wrong question, and shouldn't the correct question be "do some people consider such words to be neuters"?
Regarding "why": One reason could be that it's easier and shorter and maybe less confusing to say "dito is neuter" than to say "dito is masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural". -eXplodit (talk) 19:07, 18 September 2015 (UTC)
Why is exactly the right question: Unfounded opinions are irrelevant. It is certainly not less confusing and 'shorter' is no good reason. "Dito is masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural" is actually more informative, because without any additional it gives information on the article and accompanying adjectives, something "dito is neuter" does not do. --JorisvS (talk) 20:11, 18 September 2015 (UTC)

"manliness" example[edit]

Quote: "many nouns may belong to a gender category that contrasts with their meaning (e.g. the word "manliness" could be of feminine gender)"
How does the feminine gender contrast with the meaning, and why is this an "appropriate" example?
1. manliness is an abstract thing.

  • One could argue that abstractness and intellectual things should be feminine, like it's "mother tongue".
  • manliness as an abstract thing has no sex, so one could say that the "correct" gender would be neuter or inanimate. In the same way, one could also say that "womanliness" (when it's feminine) contrast with the meaning.

So if "manliness" should stay, than at least a source should be added and the wording should be changed into something like "according to someone the gender of manliness contrasts with its meaning".
2. Better examples are terms refering to concrete things, like

  • words which are either masculine or feminine but refer to all animals of a kind or humans regardless of gender (as lion, goose, human, person = "der Löwe", "die Gans", "der Mensch", "die Person")
  • words which are neuter but refers to a concrete person with male or female gender (as child = "das Kind")
  • words with male or female gender refering to a genderless or even inanimate thing (as street = "die Straße")

In the 'logical' way words such as "lion", "human", "child" should have three genders like "the male child" (*der Kind), "the female child" (*die Kind), "the child of unknown or intersex gender" (*das Kind), and words such as "street" should be inanimate or neuter (*das Straße). -eXplodit (talk) 19:07, 18 September 2015 (UTC)