4

One of the quirks of English is that it does not have gendered nouns.

Are there other languages in the Indo-European family that have also lost this feature?

  • Persian/Farsi – brass tacks Oct 13 '17 at 13:46
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_gender#By_language Finally, some languages, such as English and Afrikaans, have nearly completely lost grammatical gender (retaining only some traces, such as the English pronouns he, she and it), and Bengali, Persian, Armenian, Assamese, Ossetic, Odia, Khowar, and Kalasha have lost it entirely. – Adam Bittlingmayer Oct 13 '17 at 14:34
  • Mainstream dialects of Swedish and Danish, while not having lost genders entirely, have lost the masculine/feminine distinction, and only retained that between neuter and a "common" gender, unlike Romance language that have lost neuter instead. However, this is not true of Norwegian or Icelandic, and not true of all Swedish and Danish lects, either, as those languages pretty much form a continuum (except Icelandic). – LjL Oct 13 '17 at 14:57
  • @A.M.Bittlingmayer Thanks, I did a cursory read on the subject and missed that reference completely. That certainly qualifies for an answer. – ChrisGuest Oct 13 '17 at 22:16
  • (The quirk is in the languages that have lost neuter gender.) – amI Oct 13 '17 at 22:17
5

Quoting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_gender#Indo-European:

Finally, some languages, such as English and Afrikaans, have nearly completely lost grammatical gender (retaining only some traces, such as the English pronouns he, she and it), and Bengali, Persian, Armenian, Assamese, Ossetic, Odia, Khowar, and Kalasha have lost it entirely.

That corresponds to my understanding. It is a spectrum. English does have some traces of gender, many of the most closely related Germanic languages and dialects have collapsed gender (common and neuter). But Persian, Ossetic and Armenian really have no grammatical gender even in pronouns.

On the other hand, there is not always a clear line between gender and noun classes or even declension patterns. If modern linguistics were a legacy of Bantu prescriptivists not European ones, we would be calling the same thing something else.

Then the question becomes if one of those obscure IE languages without grammatical gender has developed other flavours of noun classes.

| improve this answer | |
4

A lot of this depends on how you define gender. English does have “gendered nouns” in the sense that the use of the pronouns “he, she, it” depends on the “gender” of its antecedent. Thus, “boy” is a masculine noun in the sense that it requires the (historically) masculine pronoun “he”. The difference between modern English and the gender system in most Indo-European languages (including Old English) is that English has replaced “conventional” gender by “natural” gender, reinterpreting all inanimate nouns as neuter.

This is different from the situation in Persian etc., where the personal pronouns are invariable for gender.

| improve this answer | |
  • …are you implying that Spanish, German etc. are all "archaic" IE languages? – melissa_boiko Oct 15 '17 at 16:22
  • @leoboiko. No. I am merely saying that they have preserved the archaic usage. – fdb Oct 15 '17 at 16:24
  • ...but I have changed it to avoid ambiguity. – fdb Oct 15 '17 at 16:26

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.