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50 votes

Is there a technical name for when languages use masculine pronouns to refer to both men and women?

This strategy to deal with person groups of mixed gender or with single persons of unknown or undetermined gender is named generic masculine. It is quite frequent among languages with grammatical ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
46 votes
Accepted

How did the generic masculine emerge?

In many Indo-European languages, like Latin, the masculine is less "marked" than the feminine, meaning that it's the more basic or fundamental form: the one you use by default unless there's ...
Draconis's user avatar
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45 votes

Since when did Indo-European languages start associating noun genders with male/female sexes?

Short answer: the association between the grammatical genders and sociological genders happened very early in Indo-European, but it was an association rather than an equivalence and had many ...
Draconis's user avatar
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32 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

In Thai, 1st person singular pronouns differ by gender: Masc.: ผม [pʰǒm] Fem.: ดิฉัน [dìʔt͡ɕʰán]
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
29 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

Coming at this from a different direction, Japanese personal pronouns (*) are an open class, with many variations in meaning and connotation. So while there's no official "first-person masculine ...
Draconis's user avatar
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28 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

Proto-Afro-Asiatic likely marked gender on second-person pronouns, and many of its descendants do the same. For example, second-person singular masculine is אַתָּה (ʔattāh) in Hebrew, أَنْتَ‎ (ʔanta) ...
Draconis's user avatar
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28 votes

Why do some Indo-European languages have genders and some don't?

The origin of grammatical gender is not necessarily well understood, but presumably it originated like any other inflectional feature and then became associated with gender when it was noticed that ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
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25 votes
Accepted

In romance languages, are there examples of male names that derive from female names?

The first thing I thought of was names derived in antiquity from the names of ancient Greek goddesses. For example, the French male name Hercule is ultimately from the name of the Greek goddess Hera (...
brass tacks's user avatar
22 votes

Since when did Indo-European languages start associating noun genders with male/female sexes?

The association was certainly firmly in place already during the time that ancient Greek and Latin grammarians were writing about grammatical gender, so the fact that genus can be translated as "...
brass tacks's user avatar
21 votes
Accepted

How stable are grammatical genders?

There is no simple answer. In languages with gender - less than half* - the gender of specific words often varies not just by time but by dialect. Likewise it varies across languages in a language ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
21 votes
Accepted

Why do we use the names we do for grammatical genders?

The names currently used for French are inherited from Latin, which had three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. (Some ancient grammarians added "common" and "epicene" to ...
Draconis's user avatar
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21 votes

How do native speakers control gender distinction?

Do native speakers naturally "feel" the need to articulate feminine instead of masculine? Your assumption regarding how speech works is not quite right regardless of whether a language is ...
Lambie's user avatar
  • 727
18 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

In Spanish that happends for plural: nosotros (1st person plural masculine) nosotras (1st person plural femenine) In Japanese there are several forms for the first form depending on gender or even age!...
Daniel's user avatar
  • 181
14 votes

Since when did Indo-European languages start associating noun genders with male/female sexes?

Some time after the middle of the 4th millenium BC. As discussed in this article by Luraghi, IE did not develop sex-based gender distinctions until the Anatolian branch split off, which is typically ...
user6726's user avatar
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12 votes

Who was the first to call noun classes "genders"?

It depends on whether you mean strictly English (since gender is an English word) or do you include the historical antecedents in other languages. The origin of the concept and term is Aristotle in ...
user6726's user avatar
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12 votes

In romance languages, are there examples of male names that derive from female names?

In Italian there are a number of historically female names which are occasionally used as male names, e.g. Celeste, Amabile, Fiore, Diamante In many Romance languages the female name Maria (or some ...
iacobo's user avatar
  • 3,112
12 votes

Is there a technical name for when languages use masculine pronouns to refer to both men and women?

The masculine gender/noun class in many languages will be the unmarked option, with other genders/classes being marked. It is often (though not always) possible to use a less marked gender/class. ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
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11 votes
Accepted

Why has the neuter gender disappeared from almost all the modern Romance languages?

I've read that even in Latin, we see some variability in the declension of words as neuter or masculine. Sometimes the use of the masculine where neuter would be expected is attributed to "...
brass tacks's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

Are there languages that inflect adverbs for gender

Although adverb agreement in gender/noun class is far from ubiquitous, there seem to be (apparent) examples of this kind of agreement in a fair number of languages. I am most familiar with examples of ...
brass tacks's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

Why there is a neuter gender in some Indo-European languages, and others apparently dropped it?

The three genders are found in all the oldest Indo-European languages we know (Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Gothic, Old Irish, Old Church Slavonic, Old Norse) with the exception of Hittite. Hittite had two ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
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10 votes
Accepted

What is the function of a gender distinction in nouns?

Assigning nouns to a certain noun class, with other words taking various forms by agreeing with that noun class (e.g. adjectives, determiners, or verbs marking the noun's gender) allows you to spread ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,196
9 votes

Languages with masculine nouns for various female entities, or feminine nouns for male entities

In German, diminutives are almost always neuter, even when they refer to humans, like Mädchen "girl". In Ancient Greek, similarly, παιδίον "child". German also has some non-diminutive neuter words for ...
Draconis's user avatar
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9 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

In Polish, pronouns are used much less than in English, since their role is largely subsumed by the verbs inflecting for person, and in 1st and 2nd person, past tense has different inflection ...
mathrick's user avatar
  • 191
9 votes

If the definiteness of a noun is dependent on the article that introduces it, can the gender of that noun also depend on that article?

First, English has no gender in articles, it cannot be compared. German has gendered articles, but gender in German is considered an intrinsic property of the noun, and the noun governs the gender of ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

Does plural count as a grammatical gender?

To some extent, this is just a question of terminology. In some languages, it is conventional to speak of "genders"; in others, "noun classes"; in some languages, the plural is considered to be one of ...
brass tacks's user avatar
8 votes

Why do we use the names we do for grammatical genders?

Imagine if every French speaker suddenly agreed that nouns were one of 'animate' and 'inanimate', or 'chocolate' and 'strawberry', or 'A' and 'B' instead of 'masculine' and 'feminine'. The language ...
brass tacks's user avatar
8 votes

How do native speakers control gender distinction?

As a German native speaker, I find the gendering of nouns something that happens absolutely automatic and with no thought whatsoever, like most other aspects of talking in a natural, un-forced manner. ...
AnoE's user avatar
  • 197
7 votes

Why do languages have gendered nouns?

Properties of individual languages don't necessarily solve problems. Spanish children learn gender of nouns because it would be wrong to say "el aguo", and they learn what their parents say, who in ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83k
7 votes

Why are definite articles generally used for learning gendered languages?

It's all simple: you cannot put an indefinite article before every noun, but definite articles have no limitations, every noun can have a definite article. The point is, in most European languages ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar

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