36 votes
Accepted

Are there languages without words for "father" or "mother" but only "parent"?

The only such language I know about is Pirahã, the indigenous language of the isolated Pirahã people of Amazonas, Brazil. It is minimalistic in many ways, having the least number of phonemes (only 11),...
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  • 16.3k
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 ...
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  • 53.2k
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 ...
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  • 16.7k
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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  • 53.2k
6 votes

Do speakers of languages that use gendered nouns automatically use the same gendered pronouns when referring to an animal as Mr. or Mrs.?

No, not anymore so than in English. In German, Herr Pferd and Frau Pferd both work. Pferd is neuter, and I think that is almost the answer right there: so-called grammatical genders are just noun ...
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5 votes

Are there languages without words for "father" or "mother" but only "parent"?

To approach this from a different angle, I am married to a Xhosa woman. There may be no word in her language for 'parent' in the sense of a biological parent. Rather, mothers and fathers are those who ...
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  • 51
5 votes

How and when do French children learn to select between masculine and feminine forms of words when referring to themselves?

Learning the correct gender (and number) for referring to oneself is a very minute and relatively easy part of learning genders or noun classes (and number) generally. As such, it follows the same ...
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5 votes

Is there a name for a word which can take both genders?

As fdb noted in the comments, these are sometimes called "common nouns" (or "common-gender nouns"), and sometimes "epicene nouns". Some languages use both terms; when they do, the two usually have ...
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4 votes
Accepted

Are there any languages with gender neutral pronouns for unknown gender?

Japanese has the property you describe, depending on how you analyze its sort-of pronouns. Also, according to the article kanojo 彼女 (f) was consciously introduced, but not recently. Pronouns are ...
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  • 1,010
4 votes

Why is research on grammatical gender important?

There are a few million answers (32, if I'm not mistaken), here is one. Bantu languages have a complex system of grammatical gender where nouns have some gender, and things that agree with nouns agree ...
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  • 68.8k
4 votes

Do speakers of languages that use gendered nouns automatically use the same gendered pronouns when referring to an animal as Mr. or Mrs.?

In Portuguese there are animals for which there are two different names, one for the male, and one for the female: O touro (bull) - a vaca (cow) O cavalo (horse) - a égua (mare) Other animals are ...
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4 votes

Is there a language with no gender for family relationships?

Depending on how much stock you put in the words and findings of Daniel Everett, the Pirahā language of Brazil is said to have only one word, baíxi (pronounced [màíʔì]) to mean both ‘mother’ and ‘...
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4 votes
Accepted

Is there a name for a word which can take both genders?

In historical linguistics we usually say "communis generis" or "of common gender", abbreviated "c."
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3 votes

Is there a name for a word which can take both genders?

I think "epicene" might be the word you are looking for here (or one possible word). From Random House dictionary's definition of "epicene": Grammar. (of a noun or pronoun) capable of referring to ...
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  • 1,337
3 votes

How to convert masculine Old Norse dwarf names to feminine markers?

You seem to have picked up on the easiest pattern for this: Weak masculine nouns end in -i, weak feminine nouns end in -a. Weak nouns are easier because there's only one main pattern for each gender. ...
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3 votes
Accepted

Are there non-binary or gender-neutral cuneiform determinatives?

If I'm not mistaken, the determiner DIŠ (which is literally just the sign for "one", a single cuneiform wedge) can sometimes be found also with female names. The double determiner DIŠ.MUNUS is also ...
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3 votes

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

Others have already mentioned that German has words with a fixed grammatical gender that can be used for both males and females, such as "Mensch" (m), "Person" (f), "Kind" (n), "Star" (m), "Opfer" (n)...
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  • 190
2 votes

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

In Riffian, feminine nouns are marked with the grammatical morpheme t-radical(-t), for example: ahermuc/boy -> tahermuct/girl. But, some feminine nouns don't follow this construction. For instance: ...
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  • 1,477
2 votes

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

German has some terms like this, but not for kinship terms. Some neutra are: das Kind "the child", das Opfer "the victim", das Weib "the woman", das Mitglied "the member (of an organisation)", das ...
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2 votes

Are there any examples of neopronouns for non-binary or third gender people being fully incorporated into a language's grammar?

The case of hen in Swedish is the closest example I know of. hen does have a generic usage for people of unknown gender---so it does not fit your question exactly---but in most cases without explicit ...
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  • 189
2 votes
Accepted

Correlation between pronunciation of given names and gender

There are two main patterns where sex of the referent correlates with facts of pronunciation: overt grammatical gender marking on nouns, and "incidental" affixation (not reflecting grammatical gender ...
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  • 68.8k
2 votes

Do speakers of languages that use gendered nouns automatically use the same gendered pronouns when referring to an animal as Mr. or Mrs.?

I think the previous answers missed the point by focusing on animals, which have a biological gender (apart from the gender assigned to the noun). As a native speaker of Spanish, if I wanted to ...
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  • 291
2 votes

Are there languages without words for "father" or "mother" but only "parent"?

Another such language, though fictional, is Mando'a. Mando'a is spoken by the Mandalorian faction in Star Wars. As stated by the creator of the language, Karen Traviss, Mando'a is regularly gender-...
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2 votes

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

In the Ukrainian language, there are several words for 'girl', among them two are of the neuter gender: дівча [diwˈtʂa] and дівчисько [diwˈtʂɪsʲkɔ]. Дівча belongs to the so-called 4th noun declension,...
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  • 16.3k
2 votes

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

French has la sentinelle, sentry (typically a male soldier), and le mannequin, model (typically a woman).
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2 votes

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

The defining property of grammatical gender/noun class is agreement. With that in mind, unlike the other answers I would say that instead of looking at nouns to explain their names, we ought to look ...
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  • 4,852
1 vote

Does English have words that are clearly masculine or feminine that do not form pairs or are proper nouns?

There are professions ending in "man", which implies masculinity, and do not have official feminine equivalents, e.g. "fisherman". There is also "butler" (masculine) and &...
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