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47 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 ...
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44 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 ...
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33 votes

Is there a language without gender in third person pronouns?

The World Atlas of Language Structures has a feature about gender distinctions in personal pronouns. According to it, there are at least 254 languages without gender distinctions and even 2 with ...
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31 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]
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28 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 ...
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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 ...
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27 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) ...
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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 (...
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24 votes

Is there a language without gender in third person pronouns?

There are many such languages. Examples include Turkic languages (as kiyoshigaang's answer mentions), Uralic languages (such as Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian), spoken Mandarin and Cantonese, and ...
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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 "...
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17 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 ...
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17 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!...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 "...
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11 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. ...
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11 votes
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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 ...
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  • 6,279
10 votes

Why in most (all?) languages don't adjectives have gender independently of the nouns they modify?

The Beti-Fang subgroup of languages of Cameroon (and I suspect other related Bantu languages) have this property. Example languages are Ewondo, Fang, Ntumu, Bulu. Like most Bantu languages, there is a ...
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10 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 ...
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  • 16.5k
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 ...
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8 votes

Is there a language in which feminine is the unmarked gender?

Yes, there are such languages. Here's an excerpt from the annotation to Heidi Newell's „A Consideration Of Feminine Default Gender“ (2005): Languages with gender assignment must also deal with ...
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  • 8,501
8 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 ...
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7 votes

Is there a language without gender in third person pronouns?

Turkish doesn't have gender in third person pronouns. For example, if one says "Onu, okulda gördüm.", it can interpreted either "I saw her at school" or " I saw him at school".
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7 votes

Is there a language without gender in third person pronouns?

In the Finnish language we do not have separate words for him/her but instead use the word "hän" to refer to a person of either gender. For finns learning English it can be a challenge to understand ...
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  • 71
7 votes

Is there a language without gender in third person pronouns?

Georgian lacks gender specific third person pronouns: ის (is) covers "he", "she", "it"; and also "this". იგი (igi) covers "he" and "she". Mongolian is another language that doesn't specify gender in ...
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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 ...
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7 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 ...
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  • 16.5k
7 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 ...
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