1

Do english-speaking people feel grammatical gender of words like "California" or "America" being feminine and "New York" being masculine?

Many of geographical names are obviously came from languages where grammatical genders easily recognized not only by those languages but also by some from related families.

  • 1
    This may be more appropriate on English Language & Usage – jk - Reinstate Monica Sep 5 '17 at 8:53
  • 1
    It's not always that obvious. For example, "Canada" ends in "a", but it is a masculine word in French and Italian, and "Kanada" is a neuter word in German. New York's name comes from English, so I don't see how it could be thought of as having an obvious gender (Wiktionary tells me that Old Norse "Jórvík" is feminine). – ewawe Sep 5 '17 at 15:00
  • @sumelic And Latin Eburacum (the etymological precedent of York in England) was neuter. – jk - Reinstate Monica Sep 5 '17 at 15:42
6

No. English speakers refer to all countries as "it", not "he" or "she", except occasionally in a poetic or rhetorical context.

| improve this answer | |
2

How people "feel" (regardless of their first language) can be quite subjective, and in a linguistic context even the word "feel" can have multiple interpretations. As such, a single English-speaker, picked at random, may associate with any of these geographical names a particular gender based on analogy with similar/familiar terms. For example, names of female individuals often (of course, not always) end in /ə/ (orthographically ⟨a⟩), e.g., Andrea, Antonia, Erica etc., and this may cause some individuals to build a feminine association with names like California or America. [In North Carolina, where I live, I have often heard of people refer to the state as a 'she' or 'her'.] But this should not be taken to imply that such words have a particular gender, since English definitely lacks grammatical gender, except in pronouns, which the answer by @fdb addresses.

Now, I don't identify as a native English-speaker, but I do speak English like a native, and more importantly, my first language is genderless (more so than English; we even lack gendered pronouns), and I can vouch for the fact that while I may sometimes refer to a geographical/political location as masculine or feminine, I certainly do not associate with these any notion of actually possessing any biologically female or male attributes, the way I would for human beings or even some animals – at least, not in the way a Russian- or German-speaker would.

| improve this answer | |
  • Is your native language Sami? – OmarL Sep 5 '17 at 14:36
  • 1
    @Wilson I wish! That would have been cool. My native language is Bengali. I am learning (North) Sami though. The user name is a contraction of my actual name. – sami.spricht.sprache Sep 5 '17 at 16:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.