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Re: Gender in language (was Re: way-OT: regularity of german v. english [was: <snip>])

Nori Heikkinen wrote:
on Fri, 24 Oct 2003 12:52:10AM +0100, Pigeon insinuated:
Argh, this does my head in too. Especially when you come across
things like all the words for female genitals in lots of languages
having the masculine gender. Work that one out.

yeah, or a fork being feminine, spoon being masculine, and knife being
neuter in german.  lots of weird ones like that.

why do you find it weird? genders are pretty much random, any gender for any word is not more or less weird... (except for when it refers to something that has explicit gender and grammatical gender doesn't agree with real gender, so the example Pigeon gave is somewhat weird, but not much - body parts are treated as things and have random gender)

I mean in slovak the genders are: fork - feminine, spoon - feminine, knife - masculine. is that more weird? less weird?

Also, what do the advocates of "gender-neutral" language do in
German?  And what do they do in French?

what do you mean by advocates of gender-neutral languages?  people who
think that nothing in english should be gendered?

i know in italian, in which a male profesorr is "il professore" and a
female one has traditionally been "la professoressa", there's a
movement to stop appending the "-essa" affix, in an effort to ungender
the language a bit.

however, there's a very important distinction to be made here -- that
of linguistic gender -- which has NOTHING TO DO with human sex (m/f)
-- and human gender, or sex.  there are only two genders in lots of
latinate languages (french, spanish, italian, portuguese, i think
catalan, and likely rumanian -- so, i guess all of them), and they
were at one point termed "masculine" and "feminine" by some asshole
who wished to confuse all future students of language wondering why a
girl is neuter in German.  really, these genders are just categories
that words fit into -- they could just as easily be called the
reverse, or called "red" and "green" or something.

not really because pretty much everything that really is female is referred to using feminine gender and what is male is reffered to using masculine gender. You can find examples where females or males are referred to using neuter gender but I don't think there are examples where oposite gender is used (feminine for males or masculine for females)

but you're right that for things that do not have explicit sex the gender is pretty much random and doesn't _mean_ anything.


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