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In
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

linguistics
, grammatical gender system is a specific form of
noun class In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
system in which the division of noun classes forms an
agreement Agreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-making process * Contract, enforceable in a court of law ** Meeting of ...
system with another aspect of the language, such as adjectives, articles, pronouns, or verbs. In languages with grammatical gender, most or all nouns inherently carry one value of the
grammatical category A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of lang ...
called ''gender''; the values present in a given language (of which there are usually two or three) are called the ''genders'' of that language. Whereas some authors use the term "grammatical gender" as a synonym of "noun class", others use different definitions for each; many authors prefer "noun classes" when none of the inflections in a language relate to sex. Gender systems are used in approximately one quarter of the world's
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
s. According to one definition: "Genders are classes of nouns reflected in the behaviour of associated words."


Overview

Languages with grammatical gender usually have from two to four different genders, but some are attested with up to 20.SIL: Glossary of Linguistic Terms: What is grammatical gender?
/ref> Common gender divisions include masculine and feminine; masculine, feminine, and neuter; or
animate Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most an ...
and inanimate. Depending on the language and the word, this assignment might bear some relationship with the meaning of the noun (e.g. "woman" is usually feminine), or may be arbitrary. In a few languages, the gender assignment of nouns is solely determined by their meaning or attributes, like biological sex, humanness, or animacy. In other languages, the division into genders usually correlates to some degree, at least for a certain set of nouns (such as those denoting humans), with some property or properties of the things that particular nouns denote. Such properties include
animacy Animacy (antonym: inanimacy) is a grammatical In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The ...
or inanimacy, "
human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes ...

human
ness" or non-humanness, and biological
sex Sex is either of two divisions, typically male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot sexual r ...
. However, in most languages, this
semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another o ...
division is only partially valid, and many nouns may belong to a gender category that contrasts with their meaning (e.g. the word for "manliness" could be of feminine gender). In such a case, the gender assignment can also be influenced by the
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as nebulae, galaxies ...
or
phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

phonology
of the noun, or in some cases can be apparently arbitrary. Usually each noun is assigned to one of the genders, and few or no nouns can occur in more than one gender. Gender is considered an inherent quality of nouns, and it affects the forms of other related words, a process called "agreement". Nouns may be considered the "triggers" of the process, whereas other words will be the "target" of these changes. These related words can be, depending on the language:
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
s,
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
s,
numeral A numeral is a figure, symbol, or group of figures or symbols denoting a number. It may refer to: * Numeral system used in mathematics * Numeral (linguistics), a part of speech denoting numbers (e.g. ''one'' and ''first'' in English) * Numerical di ...
s, quantifiers,
possessive A possessive or ktetic form ( abbreviated ; from la, possessivus; grc, κτητικός ''ktētikós'') is a word or grammatical construction used to indicate a relationship of possession in a broad sense. This can include strict ownership, or ...
s,
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s, past and passive
participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through t ...
s,
article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identifiability of the referents of the noun phrases. The category of articles constitutes a part of ...
s,
verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual description of E ...
s,
adverbs An adverb is a word or an expression that modifies a verb A verb () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pr ...
,
complementizer In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
s, and
adposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions), are a class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') or mark various semantic ro ...
s. Gender class may be marked on the noun itself, but will also always be marked on other constituents in a noun phrase or sentence. If the noun is explicitly marked, both trigger and target may feature similar alternations.


Functions of grammatical gender

Three possible functions of grammatical gender include: # In a language with explicit inflections for gender, it is easy to express the natural gender of animate beings. # Grammatical gender "can be a valuable tool of disambiguation", rendering clarity about antecedents. # In literature, gender can be used to "animate and personify inanimate nouns". Among these, role 2 is probably the most important in everyday usage. Languages with gender distinction generally have fewer cases of ambiguity concerning, for example, pronominal reference. In the English phrase "''a flowerbed in the garden which I maintain''" only context tells us whether the relative clause (''which I maintain'') refers to the whole garden or just the flowerbed. In German, gender distinction prevents such ambiguity. The word for "flowerbed" () is neuter, whereas that for "garden" () is masculine. Hence, if a neuter relative pronoun is used, the relative clause refers to "flowerbed", and if a masculine pronoun is used, the relative clause refers to "garden". Because of this, languages with gender distinction can often use pronouns where in English a noun would have to be repeated in order to avoid confusion. It does not, however, help in cases where the words are of the same grammatical gender. Then again, there are often several synonymous nouns of different grammatical gender to pick from to avoid this. Moreover, grammatical gender may serve to distinguish
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct p ...
s. It is a quite common phenomenon in language development for two
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
s to merge, thereby making etymologically distinct words sound alike. In languages with gender distinction, however, these word pairs may still be distinguishable by their gender. For example, French ("pot") and ("skin") are homophones , but disagree in gender: vs. .


Gender contrasts

Common systems of gender contrast include: * masculine-feminine gender contrast * masculine–feminine–neuter gender contrast * animate-inanimate gender contrast * common-neuter gender contrast


Masculine–feminine contrast

Nouns that denote specifically male persons (or animals) are normally of masculine gender; those that denote specifically female persons (or animals) are normally of feminine gender; and nouns that denote something that does not have any sex, or do not specify the sex of their referent, have come to belong to one or other of the genders, in a way that may appear arbitrary. Examples of languages with such a system include most of the modern
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance languages
, the
Baltic languages The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic The Balto-Slavic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It traditionally comprises the Baltic languages, Baltic and Slavic languages. Baltic and Slavic languages sha ...

Baltic languages
, the
Celtic languages The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic The Proto-Celtic language, also called Common Celtic, is the ancestral proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historica ...
, some
Indo-Aryan languages The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages form a major language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages h ...
(e.g.,
Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, North India. Hindi has been described as a Standard la ...

Hindi
), and the
Afroasiatic languages Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed lang ...

Afroasiatic languages
.


Masculine–feminine–neuter contrast

This is similar to systems with a masculine–feminine contrast, except that there is a third available gender, so nouns with sexless or unspecified-sex referents may be either masculine, feminine, or neuter. There are also certain exceptional nouns whose gender does not follow the denoted sex, such as the German ''Mädchen'', meaning "girl", which is neuter. This is because it is actually a diminutive of "Magd" and all diminutive forms with the suffix ''-chen'' are neuter. Examples of languages with such a system include later forms of
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
(see
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
),
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
, some
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...

Germanic languages
, most
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto- ...

Slavic languages
, a few
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance languages
including
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Euro ...
and Asturian,
Marathi Marathi may refer to: *Marathi people, an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group of Maharashtra, India *Marathi language, the Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people *Palaiosouda, also known as Marathi, a small island in Greece See also

...
,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...
, and
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
.


Animate–inanimate contrast

Here nouns that denote
animate Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most an ...
things (humans and animals) generally belong to one gender, and those that denote inanimate things to another (although there may be some deviation from that principle). Examples include earlier forms of Proto-Indo-European and the earliest family known to have split off from it, the extinct
Anatolian languages The Anatolian languages are an extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the endling, last individual of ...
(see
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
). Modern examples include
Algonkian languages The Algonquian languages ( or ; also Algonkian) are a subfamily of American indigenous languages that include most languages in the Algic languages, Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthog ...
such as
Ojibwe The Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, or Saulteaux are an Anishinaabe The Anishinaabe are a group of culturally related Indigenous peoples resident in what are now called Canada and the United States. They include the Odawa, Saulteaux, Ojibwe (inc ...
. * In Northern
Kurdish language The Kurdish languages (, , ) constitute a dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible In linguis ...

Kurdish language
(
Kurmanji Kurmanji ( ku, کورمانجی ,Kurmancî, meaning ''Kurdish''), also termed Northern Kurdish, is the northern dialect of the Kurdish languages, spoken predominantly in southeast Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic ...
), the same word can have two genders according to the context. For example, if the word (meaning wood or tree) is feminine, it means that it is a living tree (e.g. means "apple tree"), but if it is masculine, it means that it is dead, no longer living (e.g. means "apple wood"). So if one wants to refer to a certain table that is made of wood from an apple tree, one cannot use the word with a feminine gender, and if one wants to refer to an apple tree in a garden, one cannot use with a masculine gender.


Common–neuter contrast

Here a masculine–feminine–neuter system previously existed, but the distinction between masculine and feminine genders has been lost in nouns (they have merged into what is called ''common gender''), though not in pronouns that can operate under natural gender. Thus nouns denoting people are usually of common gender, whereas other nouns may be of either gender. Examples include
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
and
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
(see Gender in Danish and Swedish), and to some extent Dutch (see Gender in Dutch grammar). The dialect of the old Norwegian capital
Bergen Bergen (), historically Bjørgvin, is a city and municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Bergen
also uses common gender and neuter exclusively. The common gender in Bergen and in Danish is inflected with the same articles and suffixes as the masculine gender in
Norwegian Bokmål Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
. This makes some obviously feminine noun phrases like "a cute girl", "the well milking cow" or "the pregnant mares" sound strange to most Norwegian ears when spoken by Danes and people from Bergen since they are inflected in a way that sounds like the masculine declensions in South-Eastern Norwegian dialects. The same does not apply to
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
common gender, as the declensions follow a different pattern from both the Norwegian written languages. Norwegian Nynorsk,
Norwegian Bokmål Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
and most spoken dialects retain masculine, feminine and neuter even if their Scandinavian neighbours have lost one of the genders. As shown, the merger of masculine and feminine in these languages and dialects can be considered a reversal of the original split in Proto-Indo-European (see
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
).


Other types of division or subdivision of gender

Some gender contrasts are referred to as ''classes''; for some examples, see
Noun class In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
. In some of the
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto- ...

Slavic languages
, for example, within the masculine and sometimes feminine and neuter genders, there is a further division between animate and inanimate nouns—and in
Polish Polish may refer to: * Anything from or related to Poland Poland ( pl, Polska ), officially the Republic of Poland ( pl, Rzeczpospolita Polska, links=no ), is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Pol ...
, also sometimes between nouns denoting humans and non-humans. (For details, see
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
.) A human–non-human (or "rational–non-rational") distinction is also found in
Dravidian languages Dravidian languages (or sometimes Dravidic languages) are a family of languages spoken by 220 million people, mainly in southern India and north-east Sri Lanka, with pockets elsewhere in South Asia. Since the colonial era, there have been smal ...
. (See
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
.)


How gender contrasts can influence cognition

Grammatical systems such as gender do not constrain thought. However, they do slightly impact the way we think: for instance, it has been consistently shown that gender causes a number of cognitive effects. For example, when native speakers of gendered languages are asked to imagine an inanimate object speaking, whether its voice is male or female tends to correspond to the grammatical gender of the object in their language. This has been observed for speakers of Spanish, French, and German, among others. Caveats of this research include the possibility of subjects' "using grammatical gender as a strategy for performing the task", and the fact that even for inanimate objects the gender of nouns is not always random. For example, in Spanish, female gender is often attributed to objects that are "used by women, natural, round, or light" and male gender to objects "used by men, artificial, angular, or heavy." Apparent failures to reproduce the effect for German speakers has also led to a proposal that the effect is restricted to languages with a two-gender system, possibly because such languages are inclined towards a greater correspondence between grammatical and natural gender. Another kind of test asks people to describe a noun, and attempts to measure whether it takes on gender-specific connotations depending on the speaker's native language. For example, one study found that German speakers describing a bridge (german: Brücke, ) more often used the words 'beautiful', 'elegant', 'pretty', and 'slender', while Spanish speakers, whose word for bridge is masculine (, ), used 'big', 'dangerous', 'strong', and 'sturdy' more often. However, studies of this kind have been criticised on various grounds and yield an unclear pattern of results overall.


Related linguistic concepts


Noun classes

A noun may belong to a given class because of characteristic features of its
referent A referent () is a person or thing to which a name – a linguistics, linguistic Phrase, expression or other symbol – reference, refers. For example, in the sentence ''Mary saw me'', the referent of the word ''Mary'' is the particular person calle ...
, such as sex, animacy, shape, although in some instances a noun can be placed in a particular class based purely on its grammatical behavior. Some authors use the term "grammatical gender" as a synonym of "noun class", but others use different definitions for each. Many authors prefer "noun classes" when none of the inflections in a language relate to sex, such as when an
animate Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most an ...
–inanimate distinction is made. Note, however, that the word "gender" derives from Latin ''
genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circumscribing) and classifying gr ...
'' (also the root of ''genre'') which originally meant "kind", so it does not necessarily have a sexual meaning.


Noun classifiers

A classifier, or
measure word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most language ...
, is a
word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most lang ...

word
or
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon A ...
used in some languages together with a noun, principally to enable numbers and certain other
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
s to be applied to the noun. They are not regularly used in English or other European languages, although they parallel the use of words such as ''piece(s)'' and ''head'' in phrases like "three pieces of paper" or "thirty head of cattle". They are a prominent feature of
East Asian languages The East Asian languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") ...
, where it is common for all nouns to require a classifier when being quantified—for example, the equivalent of "three people" is often "three ''classifier'' people". A more general type of classifier (
classifier handshape In sign languages Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. M ...
s) can be found in
sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulations in combination with non-manual elements. Sign languages are full-fled ...

sign language
s. Classifiers can be considered similar to genders or noun classes, in that a language which uses classifiers normally has a number of different ones, used with different sets of nouns. These sets depend largely on properties of the things that the nouns denote (for example, a particular classifier may be used for long thin objects, another for flat objects, another for people, another for abstracts, etc.), although sometimes a noun is associated with a particular classifier more by convention than for any obvious reason. However it is also possible for a given noun to be usable with any of several classifiers; for example, the
Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration o ...
Chinese classifier The modern Chinese varieties make frequent use of what are called classifiers or measure words. One use of classifiers is when a noun A noun (from Latin ''nōmen'', literally ''name'') is a word that functions as the name of a specific obje ...
() is frequently used as an alternative to various more specific classifiers.


The manifestation of grammatical gender

Grammatical gender can be realized as inflection and can be conditioned by other types of inflection, especially number inflection, where the singular-plural contrast can interact with gender inflection.


Grammatical gender can be realized as inflection

The grammatical gender of a noun manifests itself in two principal ways: in the modifications that the noun itself undergoes, and in modifications of other related words (
agreement Agreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-making process * Contract, enforceable in a court of law ** Meeting of ...
).


Grammatical gender as noun inflection

Grammatical gender manifests itself when words related to a noun like
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
s,
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
s or
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s change their form (''
inflect In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
'') according to the gender of noun they refer to (''agreement''). The
parts of speech In traditional grammar Traditional grammar is a framework for the description of the structure of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sig ...
affected by gender agreement, the circumstances in which it occurs, and the way words are marked for gender vary between languages. Gender inflection may interact with other grammatical categories like
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...
or
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
. In some languages the
declension In linguistics, declension is the changing of the form of a word, generally to express its syntactic function in the sentence, by way of some inflection. The inflectional change of verbs is called Grammatical conjugation, conjugation. Declensions ...
pattern followed by the noun itself will be different for different genders. The gender of a noun may affect the modifications that the noun itself undergoes, particularly the way in which the noun inflects for
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...
and
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
. For example, a language like
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
,
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
or
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
has a number of different declension patterns, and which pattern a particular noun follows may be highly correlated with its gender. For some instances of this, see
Latin declension Latin declension is the set of patterns according to which Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known ...
. A concrete example is provided by the German word , which has two possible genders: when it is masculine (meaning "lake") its
genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
singular form is , but when it is feminine (meaning "sea"), the genitive is , because feminine nouns do not take the genitive ''-s''. Gender is sometimes reflected in other ways. In
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
, gender marking is mostly lost on nouns; however, Welsh has initial mutation, where the first consonant of a word changes into another in certain conditions. Gender is one of the factors that can cause one form of mutation (soft mutation). For instance, the word "girl" changes into ''ferch'' after the
definite article An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a that has a or as its or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common , and the ...
. This only occurs with feminine singular nouns: "son" remains unchanged. Adjectives are affected by gender in a similar way. Additionally, in many languages, gender is often closely correlated with the basic unmodified form (
lemma Lemma may refer to: Language and linguistics * Lemma (morphology), the canonical, dictionary or citation form of a word * Lemma (psycholinguistics), a mental abstraction of a word about to be uttered * Headword, under which a set of related dict ...
) of the noun, and sometimes a noun can be modified to produce (for example) masculine and feminine words of similar meaning. See , below.


Grammatical gender as agreement or concord

Agreement Agreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-making process * Contract, enforceable in a court of law ** Meeting of ...
, or concord, is a grammatical process in which certain words change their form so that values of certain
grammatical categories A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the grammar of a language. Within each category there are two or more possible values (sometimes called grammemes), which are normally mutually exclusive. Frequently encou ...
match those of related words. Gender is one of the categories which frequently require agreement. In this case, nouns may be considered the "triggers" of the process, because they have an inherent gender, whereas related words that change their form to match the gender of the noun can be considered the "target" of these changes. These related words can be, depending on the language:
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
s,
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
s,
numeral A numeral is a figure, symbol, or group of figures or symbols denoting a number. It may refer to: * Numeral system used in mathematics * Numeral (linguistics), a part of speech denoting numbers (e.g. ''one'' and ''first'' in English) * Numerical di ...
s, quantifiers,
possessive A possessive or ktetic form ( abbreviated ; from la, possessivus; grc, κτητικός ''ktētikós'') is a word or grammatical construction used to indicate a relationship of possession in a broad sense. This can include strict ownership, or ...
s,
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s, past and passive
participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through t ...
s,
verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual description of E ...
s,
adverbs An adverb is a word or an expression that modifies a verb A verb () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pr ...
,
complementizer In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
s, and
adposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions), are a class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') or mark various semantic ro ...
s. Gender class may be marked on the noun itself, but can also be marked on other constituents in a noun phrase or sentence. If the noun is explicitly marked, both trigger and target may feature similar alternations. As an example, we consider
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
, a language with two gender categories: "natural" vs "grammatical". "Natural" gender can be masculine or feminine, while "grammatical" gender can be masculine, feminine, or neuter. This third, or "neuter" gender is reserved for abstract concepts derived from adjectives: such as , ("that which is good/bad"). Natural gender refers to the biological sex of most animals and people, while grammatical gender refers to certain phonetic characteristics (the sounds at the end, or beginning) of a noun. Among other lexical items, the
definite article An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a that has a or as its or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common , and the ...
changes its form according to this categorization. In the singular, the article is: (masculine), and (feminine). Thus, in "natural gender", nouns referring to sexed beings who are male beings carry the masculine article, and female beings the feminine article (agreement). In "grammatical" gender, most words that end in , and are marked with "feminine" articles, while all others use the "generic" or "masculine" articles.


Gender inflection and number inflection

In some languages the gender is distinguished only in singular number but not in plural. In terms of linguistic
markedness In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis inclu ...
, these languages neutralize the gender opposition in the plural, itself a marked category. So adjectives and pronouns have three forms in singular (
Bulgarian Bulgarian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Bulgaria * Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group * Bulgarian language, a Slavic language * Bulgarian alphabet * A citizen of Bulgaria, see Demographics of Bulgaria * Bulg ...

Bulgarian
, , or German , , ) but only one in plural (Bulgarian , German ) ll examples mean "red" As a consequence '' pluralia tantum'' nouns (lacking a singular form) cannot be assigned a gender. Example with Bulgarian: (, "pincers"), (, "pants"), (, "spectacles"), (, "gills"). Other languages,
Serbo-Croatian Serbo-Croatian () – also called Serbo-Croat (), Serbo-Croat-Bosnian (SCB), Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), and Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian (BCMS) – is a South Slavic language The South Slavic languages are one of three branche ...
, allow doubly marked forms both for number and gender. In these languages, each noun has a definite gender no matter the number. For example, "children" is feminine ''
singularia tantum ''Singularia'' is a genus of moth Moths are a paraphyletic group of insects that includes all members of the Order (biology), order Lepidoptera that are not Butterfly, butterflies, with moths making up the vast majority of the order. There are ...
'' and "door" is neuter ''pluralia tantum''.


Grammatical gender can be realized on pronouns

Pronouns may agree in gender with the noun or noun phrase to which they refer (their
antecedent An antecedent is a preceding event, condition, cause, phrase, or word. More specifically, it may refer to: * Antecedent (behavioral psychology), the stimulus that occurs before a trained behavior * Antecedent (genealogy), antonym of descendant, gen ...
). Sometimes, however, there is no antecedent—the referent of the pronoun is deduced indirectly from the context: this is found with personal pronouns, as well as with indefinite and dummy pronouns


Personal pronouns

With personal pronouns, the gender of the pronoun is likely to agree with the ''natural gender'' of the referent. Indeed, in most European languages, personal pronouns are gendered; for example English (the
personal pronouns Personal pronouns are pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one ...

personal pronouns
''he'', ''she'' and ''it'' are used depending on whether the referent is male, female, or inanimate or non-human; this is in spite of the fact that English does not generally have grammatical gender). A parallel example is provided by the object suffixes of verbs in
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...
, which correspond to object pronouns, and which also inflect for gender in the second person (though not in the first): * "I love you", said to a male: ' () * "I love you", said to a female: ' () Not all languages have gendered pronouns. In languages that never had grammatical gender, there is normally just one word for "he" and "she", like in
Indonesian Indonesian is anything of, from, or related to Indonesia, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. It may refer to: * Indonesians, citizens of Indonesia ** Native Indonesians, diverse groups of local inhabitants of the archipelago ** Indonesian ...

Indonesian
, in
HungarianHungarian may refer to: * Hungary, a country in Central Europe * Kingdom of Hungary, state of Hungary, existing between 1000 and 1946 * Hungarians, ethnic groups in Hungary * Hungarian algorithm, a polynomial time algorithm for solving the assignmen ...
and in
Turkish Turkish may refer to: * of or about Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), offi ...

Turkish
. These languages might only have different pronouns and inflections in the third person to differentiate between people and inanimate objects, but even this distinction is often absent. (In written
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
, for example, is used for "he" and "she" and for "it", but in the colloquial language is usually used for "he" and "she" as well.) For more on these different types of pronoun, see
Third-person pronoun A third-person pronoun is a pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The tradition ...
. Issues may arise in languages with gender-specific pronouns in cases when the gender of the referent is unknown or not specified; this is discussed under
Gender-neutral language Gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language is language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender. In English, this includes use of nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions, formation of phrases ...

Gender-neutral language
, and in relation to English at Singular ''they''. In some cases the gender of a pronoun is not marked in the form of the pronoun itself, but is marked on other words by way of agreement. Thus the French word for "I" is , regardless of who is speaking; but this word becomes feminine or masculine depending on the sex of the speaker, as may be reflected through adjective agreement: ("I am strong", spoken by a female); (the same spoken by a male). In
null-subject language In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
s (and in some elliptical expressions in other languages), such agreement may take place even though the pronoun does not in fact appear. For example, in
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
: * "very grateful", said by a male: * the same, said by a female: The two sentences above mean literally "much obliged"; the adjective agrees with the natural gender of the speaker, that is, with the gender of the first person pronoun which does not appear explicitly here.


Indefinite and dummy pronouns

A
dummy pronoun A dummy pronoun, also called an expletive pronoun or pleonastic pronoun, is a pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the meth ...
is a type of pronoun used when a particular verb argument (such as the subject) is nonexistent, but when a reference to the argument is nevertheless syntactically required. They occur mostly in non-
pro-drop language A pro-drop language (from "pronoun-dropping") is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a ...
s, such as English (because in pro-drop languages the position of the argument can be left empty). Examples in English are the uses of ''it'' in "It's raining" and "It's nice to relax." When a language has gendered pronouns, the use of a particular word as a dummy pronoun may involve the selection of a particular gender, even though there is no noun to agree with. In languages with a neuter gender, a neuter pronoun is usually used, as in German ("it rains, it's raining"), where is the neuter third person singular pronoun. (English behaves similarly, because the word ''it'' comes from the
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
neuter gender.) In languages with only masculine and feminine genders, the dummy pronoun may be the masculine third person singular, as in the French for "it's raining": (where means "he", or "it" when referring to masculine nouns); although some languages use the feminine, as in the equivalent
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
sentence: (where the dummy pronoun is , which means "she", or "it" when referring to feminine nouns). A similar, apparently arbitrary gender assignment may need to be made in the case of
indefinite pronoun An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, si ...
s, where the referent is generally unknown. In this case the question is usually not which pronoun to use, but which gender to assign a given pronoun to (for such purposes as adjective agreement). For example, the French pronouns ("someone"), ("no-one") and ("something") are all treated as masculine—this is in spite of the fact that the last two correspond to feminine nouns ( meaning "person", and meaning "thing"). For other situations in which such a "default" gender assignment may be required, see below.


Grammatical vs. natural gender

The ''natural gender'' of a noun, pronoun or noun phrase is a gender to which it would be expected to belong based on relevant attributes of its referent. Although grammatical gender can coincide with natural gender, it need not.


Grammatical gender can match natural gender

This usually means masculine or feminine, depending on the referent's sex (or
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...

gender
in the sociological sense). For example, in
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
, ("woman") is feminine whereas ("man") is masculine; these attributions occur solely due to the semantically inherent gender character of each noun.


Grammatical gender need not match natural gender

The ''grammatical gender'' of a noun does not always coincide with its natural gender. An example of this is the
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
word ("girl"); this is derived from ("maiden"), umlauted to with the
diminutive suffix A diminutive is a root word A root (or root word) is the core of a word that is irreducible into more meaningful elements. In morphology, a root is a morphologically simple unit which can be left bare or to which a prefix A prefix is an aff ...
, and this suffix always makes the noun grammatically neuter. Hence the grammatical gender of is neuter, although its natural gender is feminine (because it refers to a female person). Other examples include: *
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
(neuter) and (masculine), meaning "woman" *
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
(neuter), meaning "woman" (the word is now pejorative and generally replaced with , originally 'lady', feminine of obsolete , meaning 'lord') * Irish language, Irish (masculine) meaning "girl", and (feminine) meaning "stallion" * Scottish Gaelic language, Scottish Gaelic (masculine), meaning "woman" * Slovene language, Slovenian (neuter), meaning "girl" *
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
(masculine), meaning "voluptuous woman" Normally, such exceptions are a small minority. When a noun with conflicting natural and grammatical gender is the antecedent of a pronoun, it may not be clear which gender of pronoun to choose. There is a certain tendency to keep the grammatical gender when a close back-reference is made, but to switch to natural gender when the reference is further away. For example, in German, the sentences "The girl has come home from school. She is now doing her homework" can be translated in two ways: * * Though the second sentence may appear grammatically incorrect (Synesis, constructio ad sensum), it is common in speech. With one or more intervening sentences, the second form becomes even more likely. However, a switch to the natural gender is never possible with articles and ''attributive'' pronouns or adjectives. Thus it can never be correct to say ("a girl" – with female indefinite article) or ("this little girl" – with female demonstrative pronoun and adjective). This phenomenon is quite popular in Slavic languages: for example Polish (deprecative "creature") is feminine but can be used to refer both man (masculine gender), woman (feminine gender), child (neuter gender) or even animate nouns (e.g. a dog being masculine). Similarly with other deprecatory nouns as , , , , ("wuss, klutz"); ("mute") can be used deprecatively as described previously, and then can be used for verbs marked for the male and female genders.


Gender contrasts on human versus sentient referents

In the case of languages which have masculine and feminine genders, the relation between biological sex and grammatical gender tends to be less exact in the case of animals than in the case of people. In Spanish, for instance, a cheetah is always (masculine) and a zebra is always (feminine), regardless of their biological sex. In Russian a rat and a butterfly are always () and () (feminine). To specify the sex of an animal, an adjective may be added, as in ("a female cheetah"), or ("a male zebra"). Suppletion, Different names for the male and the female of a species are more frequent for common pets or farm animals, English ''cow'' and ''bull'', Spanish "cow" and "bull", Russian () "ram" and () "ewe". As regards the pronouns used to refer to animals, these generally agree in gender with the nouns denoting those animals, rather than the animals' sex (natural gender). In a language like English, which does not assign grammatical gender to nouns, the pronoun used for referring to objects (''it'') is often used for animals also. However, if the sex of the animal is known, and particularly in the case of companion animals, the gendered pronouns (''he'' and ''she'') may be used as they would be for a human. In Polish language, Polish, a few general words such as ("animal") or ("animal, one head of cattle") are neuter, but most species names are masculine or feminine. When the sex of an animal is known, it will normally be referred to using gendered pronouns consistent with its sex; otherwise the pronouns will correspond to the gender of the noun denoting its species.


Syntactic structure of grammatical gender

There are multiple theoretical approaches to the position and structure of gender in syntactic structures.


Categorization of nouns into genders

There are three main ways by which natural languages categorize nouns into genders: * according to their form (morphology (linguistics), morphological) * according to logical or symbolic similarities in their meaning (semantics, semantic) * according to arbitrary convention (lexical, possibly rooted in the language's history). In most languages that have grammatical gender, a combination of these three types of criteria is found, although one type may be more prevalent.


Form-based morphological criteria

In many languages, nouns are assigned to gender largely without any semantic basis—that is, not based on any feature (such as animacy or sex) of the person or thing that a noun represents. In such languages there may be a correlation, to a greater or lesser degree, between gender and the form of a noun (such as the vowel or consonant or syllable with which it ends). For example, in
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
and
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
, nouns that end in or a consonant are mostly masculine, whereas those that end in are mostly feminine, regardless of their meaning. (Nouns that end in some other vowel are assigned a gender either according to etymology, by analogy, or by some other convention.) These rules may override semantics in some cases: for example, the noun / ("member") is always masculine, even when it refers to a girl or a woman, and / ("person") is always feminine, even when it refers to a boy or a man, a kind of form-meaning mismatch. (In other cases, though, meaning takes precedence: the noun "communist" is masculine when it refers or could refer to a man, even though it ends with .) In fact, nouns in Spanish and Portuguese (as in the other
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance languages
such as Italian and French) generally follow the gender of the Latin words from which they are derived. When nouns deviate from the rules for gender, there is usually an etymological explanation: ("problem") is masculine in Spanish because it was derived from a Greek noun of the neuter gender, whereas ("photo") and ("broadcast signal") are feminine because they are Clipping (morphology), clippings of and respectively, both grammatically feminine nouns. (Most Spanish nouns in are feminine; they derive from Latin feminines in , accusative .) But the opposite is correct with Northern
Kurdish language The Kurdish languages (, , ) constitute a dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible In linguis ...

Kurdish language
or Kurmanci. For example, the words (member) and (friend) can be masculine or feminine according to the person they refer to. * (His daughter is my friend) * (His son is my friend) Suffixes often carry a specific gender. For example, in
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
, diminutives with the suffixes and (meaning "little, young") are always neuter, even if they refer to people, as with ("girl") and ("young woman") (see #Natural gender, below). Similarly, the suffix , which makes count noun, countable nouns from uncountable nouns ( "dough" → "piece of dough"), or personal nouns from abstract nouns ( "teaching", "punishment" → "apprentice", "convict") or adjectives ( "cowardly" → "coward"), always produces masculine nouns. And the German suffixes and (comparable with ''-hood'' and ''-ness'' in English) produce feminine nouns. In Irish language, Irish, nouns ending in / and are always masculine, whereas those ending or are always feminine. In Arabic language, Arabic, nouns whose singular form ends in a ''tāʾ marbūṭah'' (traditionally a , becoming in pausa) are of feminine gender, the only significant exceptions being the word ("caliph") and certain masculine personal names ( Osama (name), ʾUsāmah). However, many masculine nouns have a broken plural, "broken" plural form ending in a ''tāʾ marbūṭa''; for example ' ("male professor") has the plural , which might be confused for a feminine singular noun. Gender may also be predictable from the type of Morphological derivation, derivation: for instance, the Arabic verbal noun, verbal nouns of Stem II (e.g. , from ) are always masculine. In French language, French, nouns ending in tend to be feminine, whereas others tend to be masculine, but there are many exceptions to this ( , , , , are masculine as , , , , are feminine), note the many masculine nouns ending in preceded by double consonants. Certain suffixes are quite reliable indicators, such as , which when added to a verb ( "to park" → ; nettoyer "to clean" → "cleaning") indicates a masculine noun; however, when is part of the root of the word, it can be feminine, as in ("beach") or . On the other hand, nouns ending in , and are almost all feminine, with a few exceptions, such as , . Nouns can sometimes vary their form to enable the Morphological derivation, derivation of differently gendered cognate (linguistics), cognate nouns; for example, to produce nouns with a similar meaning but referring to someone of a different sex. Thus, in Spanish, means "boy", and means "girl". This paradigm can be exploited for making new words: from the masculine nouns "lawyer", "member of parliament" and "doctor", it was straightforward to make the feminine equivalents , , and . In the same way, personal names are frequently constructed with affixes that identify the sex of the bearer. Common feminine suffixes used in English names are ''-a'', of Latin language, Latin or Romance languages, Romance origin ( ''Robert'' and ''Roberta''); and ''-e'', of French language, French origin (cf. ''Justin'' and ''Justine''). Although gender inflection may be used to construct nouns and names for people of different sexes in languages that have grammatical gender, this alone does not constitute grammatical gender. Distinct words and names for men and women are also common in languages which do not have a grammatical gender system for nouns in general. English, for example, has feminine suffixes such as ''-ess'' (as in ''waitress''), and also distinguishes male and female personal names, as in the above examples.


Differentiation of personal names

Given names are proper nouns and they follow the same gender grammatical rules as common nouns. In most Indo-European languages female grammatical gender is created using an "a" or an "e" ending. Classical Latin typically made a grammatical feminine gender with ( "forest", ) and this was reflected in feminine names originating in that period, like Emilia. Romance languages preserved this characteristic. For example, Spanish has approximately 89% feminine nouns with ending and 98% given names with the same ending. In the Germanic languages the female names have been Latinized by adding ''-e'' and ''-a'': Brunhild, Kriemhild and Hroswith became Brunhilde, Kriemhilde and Hroswitha. Slavic feminine given names: Olga (Russian), Małgorzata (Polish), Tetiana (Ukrainian), Oksana (Belarusian), Eliška (Czech), Bronislava (Slovak), Milica (Serbian), Darina (Bulgarian), Lucja (Croatian), Lamija (Bosnian) and Zala (Slovenian).


Differentiation of nouns with human referents

In some languages, nouns with human references have two forms, a male and a female one. This includes not only proper names, but also names for occupations and nationalities. Examples include: * English proper names: # male: ''Andrew'' # female: ''Andrea'' # neuter: ''Chris'' for both male and female * English occupation names # male: ''waiter'' # female: ''waitress'' # neuter: ''doctor'' for both male and female * Greek proper names () and () * Greek occupation names () "actor" for both male and female in Greek and () "doctor" for both, but with informal female variants () and () * Greek nationality names have five possibilities for 'English'. # male: () # female: () # masculine: () # feminine: () # neuter: () To complicate matters, Greek often offers additional informal versions of these. The corresponding for English are the following: (), (), (), (), (). The formal forms come from the name () "England", while the less formal are derived from Italian .


Meaning-based semantic criteria

In some languages, gender is determined by strictly semantic criteria, but in other languages, semantic criteria only partially determine gender.


Strict semantic criteria

In some languages, the gender of a noun is directly determined by its physical attributes (sex, animacy, etc.), and there are few or no exceptions to this rule. There are relatively few such languages. The
Dravidian languages Dravidian languages (or sometimes Dravidic languages) are a family of languages spoken by 220 million people, mainly in southern India and north-east Sri Lanka, with pockets elsewhere in South Asia. Since the colonial era, there have been smal ...
use this system as described
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. Another example is the Dizi language, which has two asymmetrical genders. The feminine includes all living beings of female sex (e.g. woman, girl, cow...), and diminutives; the masculine encompasses all other nouns (e.g. man, boy, pot, broom...). In this language, feminine nouns are always marked with ''-e'' or ''-in''. Another African language, Defaka language, Defaka, has three genders: one for all male humans, one for all female humans, and a third for all the remaining nouns. Gender is only marked in personal pronouns. Standard English pronouns (see #Germanic: English, below) are very similar in this respect, although the English gendered pronouns (''he'', ''she'') are used for domestic animals if the sex of the animal is known, and sometimes for certain objects such as ships, e.g. "What happened to the Titanic? She (or it) sank."


Mostly semantic criteria

In some languages, the gender of nouns can mostly be determined by physical (semantic) attributes, although there remain some nouns whose gender is not assigned in this way (Corbett calls this "semantic residue"). The world view (e.g. mythology) of the speakers may influence the division of categories. * Zande language, Zande has four genders: male human, female human, animal, and inanimate. However, there are about 80 nouns representing inanimate entities which are nonetheless animate in gender: heavenly objects (moon, rainbow), metal objects (hammer, ring), edible plants (sweet potato, pea), and non-metallic objects (whistle, ball). Many have a round shape or can be explained by the role they play in mythology. * Ket language, Ket has three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and most gender assignment is based on semantics, but there are many inanimate nouns outside the neuter class. Masculine nouns include male animates, most fish, trees, the moon, large wooden objects, most living beings and some religious items. Feminine nouns include female animates, three types of fish, some plants, the sun and other heavenly objects, some body parts and skin diseases, the soul, and some religious items. Words for part of a whole, as well as most other nouns that do not fall into any of the aforementioned classes, are neuter. The gender assignment of non-sex-differentiable things is complex. In general, those of no importance to the Kets are feminine, whereas objects of importance (e.g. fish, wood) are masculine. Mythology is again a significant factor. * Alamblak language, Alamblak has two genders, masculine and feminine. However, the masculine also includes things which are tall or long and slender, or narrow (e.g. fish, snakes, arrows and slender trees), whereas the feminine gender has things which are short, squat or wide (e.g. turtles, houses, shields and squat trees). * In French, the distinction between the gender of a noun and the gender of the object it refers to is clear when nouns of different genders can be used for the same object, for example vélo (m.) = bicyclette (f.).


Contextual determination of gender

There are certain situations where the assignment of gender to a noun, pronoun or noun phrase may not be straightforward. This includes in particular: * groups of mixed gender; * references to people or things of unknown or unspecified gender. In languages with masculine and feminine gender, the masculine is usually employed by default to refer to persons of unknown gender, and to groups of people of mixed gender. Thus, in French the feminine plural pronoun ''elles'' always designates an all-female group of people (or stands for a group of nouns all of feminine gender), but the masculine equivalent ''ils'' may refer to a group of males or masculine nouns, to a mixed group, or to a group of people of unknown genders. In such cases, one says that the feminine gender is markedness, semantically marked, whereas the masculine gender is unmarked. In English, the problem of gender determination does not arise in the plural, because gender in that language is reflected only in pronouns, and the plural pronoun ''they'' does not have gendered forms. In the singular, however, the issue frequently arises when a person of unspecified or unknown gender is being referred to. In this case it has been traditional to use the masculine (''he''), but other solutions are now often preferred—see
Gender-neutral language Gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language is language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender. In English, this includes use of nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions, formation of phrases ...

Gender-neutral language
and Singular ''they''. In languages with a neuter gender, such as Slavic languages, Slavic and
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...

Germanic languages
, the neuter is often used for indeterminate gender reference, particularly when the things referred to are not people. In some cases this may even apply when referring to people, particularly children. For example, in English, one may use ''it'' to refer to a child, particularly when speaking generically rather than about a particular child of known sex. In Icelandic language, Icelandic (which preserves a masculine–feminine–neuter distinction in both singular and plural), the neuter plural can be used for groups of people of mixed gender, when specific people are meant. For example: * ''þau (n.pl) höfðu hist í skóginum þegar kerlingin (f.sg) var ung stúlka og keisarinn (m.sg) óbreyttur prins.'' 'They (n.pl) had met in the forest when the old woman (f.sg) was a young girl and the emperor (m.sg) was only a prince.' However, when referring to previously unmentioned groups of people or when referring to people in a generic way, especially when using an indefinite pronoun like 'some' or 'all', the masculine plural is used. For example: * ''Sumir (m.pl) hafa þann sið að tala við sjálfa (m.pl) sig.'' 'Some people have the habit of talking to themselves.' An example contrasting the two ways to refer to groups is the following, taken from advertisements of Christian congregations announcing their meetings: * ''Allir (m.pl) velkomnir (m.pl)'' 'All welcome' is understood to be more general whereas ''Öll (n.pl) velkomin (n.pl)'' is more specific and emphasises the individuality of the group members. That the masculine is seen in Icelandic as the most generic or 'unmarked' of the three genders can also be seen in the fact that the nouns for most professions are masculine. Even feminine job descriptions historically filled by women, like ''hjúkrunarkona'' 'nurse' and ''fóstra'' 'nursery school teacher' (both f.sg), have been replaced with masculine ones as men have started becoming more represented in these professions: ''hjúkrunarfræðingur'' 'nurse' and ''leikskólakennari'' 'nursery school teacher' (both m.sg). In
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
(which has an overall common–neuter gender system), masculinity may be argued to be a marked feature, because in the Swedish grammar#Weak inflection, weak adjectival declension there is a distinct ending (''-e'') for naturally masculine nouns (as in ''min lillebror'', "my little brother"). In spite of this, the third-person singular masculine pronoun ''han'' would normally be the default for a person of unknown gender, although in practice the indefinite pronoun ''man'' and the reflexive ''sig'' or its possessive forms ''sin/sitt/sina'' usually make this unnecessary. In Polish language, Polish, where a gender-like distinction is made in the plural between "masculine personal" and all other cases (see
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), a group is treated as masculine personal if it contains at least one male person. In languages which preserve a three-way gender division in the plural, the rules for determining the gender (and sometimes number) of a coordination (linguistics), coordinated noun phrase ("... and ...") may be quite complex. Czech language, Czech is an example of such a language, with a division (in the plural) between masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, and neuter. The rules for gender and number of coordinated phrases in that language are summarized at .


Arbitrary conventional criteria

In some languages, any gender markers have been so eroded over time (possibly through Deflexion (linguistics), deflexion) that they are no longer recognizable. Many German nouns, for example, do not indicate their gender through either meaning or form. In such cases a noun's gender must simply be memorized, and gender can be regarded as an integral part of each noun when considered as an entry in the speaker's lexicon. (This is reflected in dictionary, dictionaries, which typically indicate the gender of noun headwords where applicable.) Second-language learners are often encouraged to memorize a modifier, usually a
definite article An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a that has a or as its or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common , and the ...
, in conjunction with each noun—for example, a learner of French may learn the word for "chair" as ''la chaise'' (meaning "the chair"); this carries the information that the noun is ''chaise'', and that it is feminine (because ''la'' is the feminine singular form of the definite article).


Gender shifts

It is possible for a noun to have more than one gender. Such gender shifts are sometimes correlated with meaning shifts, and sometimes yield doublets with no difference in meaning. Moreover, gender shifts sometimes crosscuts number contrasts, such that the singular form of a noun has one gender, and plural form of the noun has a different gender.


Some gender shifts are meaningful

Gender shift may be associated with a difference in the sex of the referent, as with nouns such as in Spanish, which may be either masculine or feminine, depending on whether it refers to a male or a female. It may also correspond to some other difference in the meaning of the word. For example, the German word meaning "lake" is masculine, whereas the identical word meaning "sea" is feminine. The meanings of the Norwegian noun have diverged further: masculine is "a thing", whereas neuter is "an assembly". (The parliament is the , "the Great "; the other s like are the regional courts. If someone may find it odd to simply call a Parliament "the thing", compare with the more notorious , the "public thing" of the Romans). It is a matter of analysis how to draw the line between a single polysemy, polysemous word with multiple genders and a set of homonyms with one gender each. For example, Bulgarian has a pair of homonyms () which are etymologically unrelated. One is masculine and means "finger"; the other is feminine and means "soil".


Some gender shifts are meaningless

In other cases, a word may be usable in multiple genders indifferently. For example, in Bulgarian the word , (, "wilderness") may be either masculine (definite form , ) or feminine (definite form , ) without any change in meaning and no preference in usage. In Norwegian, many nouns can be either feminine or masculine according to the dialect, level of formality or whim of the speaker/writer. Even the two written forms of the language have many nouns whose gender is optional. Choosing the masculine gender will often seem more formal than using the feminine. This might be because before the creation of Norwegian Nynorsk and
Norwegian Bokmål Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
in the late 19th century, Norwegians wrote in Danish, which has lost the feminine gender, thus usage of the masculine gender (corresponding exactly to Danish common gender in conjugation in Norwegian Bokmål) is more formal sounding to modern Norwegians. The word for "sun" can be another example. One might decline it masculine: , or feminine: , in
Norwegian Bokmål Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
. The same goes for a lot of common words like (book), (doll), (bucket) and so forth. Many of the words where it is possible to choose gender are inanimate objects that one might suspect would be conjugated with the neuter gender. Nouns conjugated with the neuter gender cannot normally be conjugated as feminine or masculine in Norwegian. There is also a slight tendency towards using the masculine indefinite article even when choosing the feminine conjugation of a noun in many eastern Norwegian dialects. For instance, word for "girl" is declined: .


Some gender shifts are associated with number contrasts

Sometimes a noun's gender can change between plural and singular, as with the French words ("love"), ("delight") and ("organ" as musical instrument), all of which are masculine in the singular but feminine in the plural. These anomalies may have a historical explanation ( used to be feminine in the singular too) or result from slightly different notions ( in the singular is usually a barrel organ, whereas the plural usually refers to the collection of columns in a church organ). Further examples are the Italian words ("egg") and ("arm"). These are masculine in the singular, but form the irregular plurals and , which have the endings of the feminine singular, but have feminine plural agreement. (This is related to the forms of the Latin declension, second declension Latin neuter nouns from which they derive: and , with nominative plurals and .) In other cases, the anomaly can be explained by the form of the noun, as is the case in Scottish Gaelic. Masculine nouns which form their plural by Palatalization (phonetics), palatalization of their final consonant can change gender in their plural form, as a palatalized final consonant is often a marker of a feminine noun, e.g. ("small boy"), but ("small boys"), with the adjective showing agreement for both feminine gender (lenition of initial consonant) and plural number (suffixed ).


Gender across languages

Related languages need not assign the same gender to a noun: this shows that gender can vary across related languages. Conversely, unrelated languages that are in contact can impact how a borrowed noun is assigned gender, with either the borrowing or the donor language determining the gender of the borrowed word.


Gender can vary across related languages

Nouns which have the same meanings in different languages need not have the same gender. This is particularly so in the case of things with no natural gender, such as sexless objects. For example, there is, by all appearances, nothing about a table that should cause it to be associated with any particular gender, and different languages' words for "table" are found to have various genders: feminine, as with the French ''table''; masculine, as with German ''Tisch''; or neuter, as with Norwegian language, Norwegian ''bord''. (Even within a given language, nouns that denote the same concept may differ in gender—for example, of two German words for "car", ''Wagen'' is masculine whereas ''Auto'' is neuter.) Cognate nouns in closely related languages are likely to have the same gender, because they tend to inherit the gender of the original word in the parent language. For instance, in the
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance languages
, the words for "sun" are masculine, being derived from the Latin masculine noun ''sol'', whereas the words for "moon" are feminine, being derived from the Latin feminine ''luna''. (This contrasts with the genders found in German, where ''Sonne'' "sun" is feminine, and ''Mond'' "moon" is masculine, as well as in other
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian su ...

Germanic languages
.) However, there are exceptions to this principle. For instance, ''latte'' ("milk") is masculine in Italian (as is French ''lait'' and Portuguese ''leite''), whereas Spanish ''leche'' is feminine and Romanian ''lapte'' is neuter. Likewise, the word for "boat" is neuter in German (''das Boot''), but common gender in Swedish (''en båt''). Some more examples of the above phenomena are given below. (These come mostly from the Slavic languages, where gender largely correlates with the noun ending.) * The Russian word луна ("moon") is feminine, whereas месяц ("Lunar phase, crescent moon", also meaning "month") is masculine. In Polish, another Slavic language, the word for moon is ''księżyc'', which is masculine. * Russian also has two words for "potato": картофель which is masculine, and картошка which is feminine. * In Polish the loanword ''tramwaj'' ("tram") is masculine, whereas the cognate loanword in Czech, ''tramvaj'', is feminine. In Romanian, ''tramvai'' is neuter. * The Polish word ''tysiąc'' ("thousand") is masculine, whereas the cognate in Russian, тысяча, is feminine, while the Icelandic language, Icelandic cognate ''þúsund'' is neuter. * The Spanish word ''origen'' ("origin") is masculine, but its close relatives ''origem'' (from Portuguese) and ''orixe'' (from Galician and Asturian) are feminine. * The French word ''équipe'' ("team") is feminine, while the Spanish word ''equipo'' is masculine. The Spanish form contrasts with Brazilian Portuguese ''equipe'' and European Portuguese ''equipa'', both of which are feminine. * The Italian word ''scimmia'' ("ape") is feminine, whereas the Spanish word ''simio'' is masculine. * The French word ''mer'' is feminine, whereas the Spanish cognate ''mar'' is generally masculine, except in some poetic contexts and among sea workers. Both mean "sea", and descended from the Latin ''mare'' which was neuter.


How languages assign gender to borrowed words

Borrowed words are assigned gender in one of two ways: * via criteria determined by the borrowing language; * via criteria determined by the donor language.


Borrowing language can determine gender

Ibrahim identifies several processes by which a language assigns a gender to a newly borrowed word; these processes follow patterns by which even children, through their subconscious recognition of patterns, can often correctly predict a noun's gender. # If the noun is animate, natural gender tends to dictate grammatical gender. # The borrowed word tends to take the gender of the native word it replaces. According to Ghil'ad Zuckermann, morphemic adaptations of English words into American Italian or British Italian are abundant with such cases. For example, the feminine gender of the British Italian word ''bagga'' "bag" was induced by the feminine gender of the Italian word ''borsa'' "bag". # If the borrowed word happens to have a suffix that the borrowing language uses as a gender marker, the suffix tends to dictate gender. # If the borrowed word rhymes with one or more native words, the latter tend to dictate gender. # The default assignment is the borrowing language's unmarked gender. # Rarely, the word retains the gender it had in the donor language. This tends to happen more frequently in more formal language such as scientific terms, where some knowledge of the donor language can be expected. Sometimes the gender of a word switches with time. For example, the Russian modern loanword ''виски'' (''viski'') "whisky" was originally feminine, then masculine, and today it has become neuter.


Donor language can determine gender

Ghil'ad Zuckermann argues that the cross-lingual retention of grammatical gender can change not only the lexis of the target language but also its morphology. For example, gender can indirectly influence the productivity of noun-patterns in what he calls the "Modern Hebrew, Israeli" language: the Israeli neologism מברשת ''mivréshet'' "brush" is fitted into the ''feminine'' noun-pattern ''mi⌂⌂é⌂et'' (each ⌂ represents a slot where a radical is inserted) because of the feminine gender of the matched words for "brush" such as Arabic ''mábrasha'', Yiddish ''barsht'', Russian ''shchëtka'', Polish ''kiść’'' (painting brush) and ''szczotka'', German ''Bürste'' and French ''brosse'', all feminine. Similarly, argues Zuckermann, the Israeli neologism for "library", ספריה ''sifriá'', matches the feminine gender of the parallel pre-existent European words: Yiddish ''biblioték'', Russian ''bibliotéka'', Polish ''biblioteka'', German ''Bibliothek'' and French ''bibliothèque'', as well as of the pre-existent Arabic word for "library": مكتبة ''máktaba'', also feminine. The result of this neologism might have been, more generally, the strengthening of Israeli יה- ''-iá'' as a productive feminine locative suffix (combined with the influence of Polish ''ja'' and Russian ия ''-iya'').


Distribution of gender in the world's languages

Grammatical gender is a common phenomenon in the world's languages. A typological survey of 174 languages revealed that over one fourth of them had grammatical gender. Gender systems rarely overlap with numerical noun classifier, classifier systems. Gender and noun class systems are usually found in fusional language, fusional or agglutinating language, agglutinating languages, whereas classifiers are more typical of isolating languages. Thus, according to Johanna Nichols, these characteristics correlate positively with the presence of grammatical gender in the world's languages: * location in an area with languages featuring noun classes; * preference for head (linguistics), head-marking morphology; * moderate to high morphological complexity; * non-accusative morphosyntactic alignment, alignment. Grammatical gender is found in many Indo-European languages (including
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
, French language, French,
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
, and
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
—but not English language, English, Bengali language, Bengali, Armenian language, Armenian or Persian language, Persian, for example),
Afroasiatic languages Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed lang ...

Afroasiatic languages
(which includes the Semitic languages, Semitic and Berber languages, etc.), and in other language families such as Dravidian languages, Dravidian and Northeast Caucasian languages, Northeast Caucasian, as well as several Australian Aboriginal languages such as Dyirbal language, Dyirbal, and Kala Lagaw Ya language, Kalaw Lagaw Ya. Most Niger–Congo languages also have extensive systems of noun classes, which can be grouped into several grammatical genders. Conversely, grammatical gender is usually absent from the Koreanic languages, Koreanic, Japonic languages, Japonic, Tungusic language, Tungusic, Turkic languages, Turkic, Mongolic languages, Mongolic, Austronesian languages, Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan languages, Sino-Tibetan, Uralic languages, Uralic and most Native American languages, Native American language families. Modern English makes use of gender in pronouns, which are generally marked for natural gender, but lacks a system of gender concord within the noun phrase which is one of the central elements of grammatical gender in most other Indo-European languages.


Indo-European

Many Indo-European languages, but not English, provide archetypical examples of grammatical gender. Research indicates that the earliest stages of
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
had two genders (animate and inanimate), as did Hittite language, Hittite, the earliest attested Indo-European language. The classification of nouns based on animacy and inanimacy and the lack of gender are today characteristic of Armenian language, Armenian. According to the theory, the animate gender, which (unlike the inanimate) had independent vocative and accusative forms, later split into masculine and feminine, thus originating the three-way classification into masculine, feminine and neuter. Many Indo-European languages retained the three genders, including most
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto- ...

Slavic languages
,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
,
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
, Ancient and Modern Greek language, Greek,
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
, Romanian grammar, Romanian and Asturian (two Romance language exceptions). In them, there is a high but not absolute correlation between grammatical gender and
declension In linguistics, declension is the changing of the form of a word, generally to express its syntactic function in the sentence, by way of some inflection. The inflectional change of verbs is called Grammatical conjugation, conjugation. Declensions ...
al class. Many linguists believe that to be true of the middle and late stages of Proto-Indo-European. However, many languages reduced the number of genders to two. Some lost the neuter, leaving masculine and feminine like most
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance languages
(see . A few traces of the neuter remain, such as the distinct Spanish pronouns, Spanish pronoun ''ello'' and Italian nouns with so-called "mobile gender"), as well as Hindustani language, Hindustani and the
Celtic languages The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic The Proto-Celtic language, also called Common Celtic, is the ancestral proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historica ...
. Others merged feminine and masculine into a common gender but retained the neuter, as in
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
and
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
(and, to some extent, Dutch language, Dutch; see Gender in Danish and Swedish and Gender in Dutch grammar). 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'', ''they'', and ''it''—Afrikaans , , , and ); Armenian language, Armenian, Bengali language, Bengali, Persian language, Persian, Sorani Kurdish, Sorani, Ossetian language, Ossetic, Odia language, Odia, Khowar language, Khowar, and Kalasha-mun, Kalasha have lost it entirely. On the other hand, some
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto- ...

Slavic languages
can be argued to have added new genders to the classical three (see
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
).


Germanic: English

Although grammatical gender was a fully productive inflectional category in
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
, Modern English has a much less pervasive gender system, primarily based on natural gender and reflected essentially in pronouns only. There are a few traces of gender marking in Modern English: * Some words take different Morphological derivation, derived forms depending on the natural gender of the referent, such as ''waiter/waitress'' and ''widow/widower''. * The third-person singular
personal pronouns Personal pronouns are pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one ...

personal pronouns
(and their possessive forms) are gender specific: ''he/him/his'' (masculine gender, used for men, boys, and male animals), ''she/her(s)'' (feminine gender, for women, girls, and female animals), the singular they, singular ''they/them/their(s)'' (common gender, used for people or animals of unknown, irrelevant, or non-binary gender), and ''it/its'' (neuter gender, mainly for objects, abstractions and animals). (There are also distinct personal and non-personal forms but no differentiation by natural gender in the case of certain interrogative and English relative clauses, relative pronouns: ''who/whom'' for persons, corresponding to ''he'', ''she'', and the singular ''they''; and ''which'' corresponding to ''it''.) However, these are relatively insignificant features compared with a typical language with full grammatical gender. English nouns are not generally considered to belong to gender classes in the way that French, German or Russian nouns are. There is no gender agreement in English between nouns and their modifiers (
article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identifiability of the referents of the noun phrases. The category of articles constitutes a part of ...
s, other
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
s, or
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s, with the occasional exception such as ''blond/blonde'', a spelling convention borrowed from French). Gender agreement applies in effect only to pronouns, and the choice of pronoun is determined based on semantics (perceived qualities of the thing being referred to) rather than on any conventional assignment of particular nouns to particular genders. Only a relatively small number of English nouns have distinct male and female forms; many of them are loanwords from non-Germanic languages (the suffixes ''-rix'' and ''-ress'' in words such as ''aviatrix'' and ''waitress'', for instance, derive, directly or indirectly, from Latin). English has no live productivity (linguistics), productive gender marker (linguistics), markers. An example of such a marker might be the suffix ''-ette'' (of French provenance), but this is seldom used today, surviving mostly in either historical contexts or with disparaging or humorous intent. The gender of an English pronoun typically coincides with the natural gender of its referent, rather than with the grammatical gender of its
antecedent An antecedent is a preceding event, condition, cause, phrase, or word. More specifically, it may refer to: * Antecedent (behavioral psychology), the stimulus that occurs before a trained behavior * Antecedent (genealogy), antonym of descendant, gen ...
. The choice between ''she'', ''he'', ''they'', and ''it'' comes down to whether the pronoun is intended to designate a woman, a man, or someone or something else. There are certain exceptions, however: * With animals, ''it'' is usually used, but when the sex of the animal is known, it may be referred to as ''he'' or ''she'' (particularly when expressing an emotional connection with the animal, as with a pet animal, pet). See also above. * Certain nonhuman things can be referred to with the pronoun ''she'' (''her'', ''hers''), particularly countries and ships, and sometimes other vehicles or machines. See . This usage is considered a metaphorical figure of speech; it is also in decline, and advised against by most journalistic style guides.''The Chicago Manual of Style'', 15th edition, 2003, p. 356. . Problems arise when selecting a personal pronoun to refer to someone of unspecified or unknown gender (see also above). In the past and to some degree still in the present, the masculine has been used as the "default" gender in English. The use of the plural pronoun ''they'' with singular reference is common in practice. The neuter ''it'' may be used for a baby but not normally for an older child or adult. (Other genderless pronouns exist, such as the impersonal pronoun ''one'', but they are not generally substitutable for a personal pronoun.) For more information see
Gender-neutral language Gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language is language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender. In English, this includes use of nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions, formation of phrases ...

Gender-neutral language
and Singular ''they''.


Slavic languages

The
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto- ...

Slavic languages
mostly continue the Proto-Indo-European system of three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter. Gender correlates largely with noun endings (masculine nouns typically end in a consonant, feminines in and neuters in or ) but there are many exceptions, particularly in the case of nouns whose stems end in a soft consonant. However, some of the languages, including
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
, Czech language, Czech, Slovak language, Slovak and Polish language, Polish, also make certain additional grammatical distinctions between
animate Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most an ...
and inanimate nouns: Polish in the plural, and Russian in the accusative case, differentiate between human and non-human nouns. In Russian, the different treatment of animate nouns involves their accusative case (and that of adjectives qualifying them) being formed identically to the genitive rather than to the nominative. In the singular that applies to masculine nouns only, but in the plural it applies in all genders. See Russian declension. A similar system applies in Czech, but the situation is somewhat different in the plural: Only masculine nouns are affected, and the distinctive feature is a distinct inflective ending for masculine animate nouns in the nominative plural and for adjectives and verbs agreeing with those nouns. See Czech declension. Polish might be said to distinguish five genders: personal masculine (referring to male humans), animate non-personal masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine, and neuter. The animate–inanimate opposition for the masculine gender applies in the singular, and the personal–impersonal opposition, which classes animals along with inanimate objects, applies in the plural. (A few nouns denoting inanimate things are treated grammatically as animate and vice versa.) The manifestations of the differences are as follows: * In the singular, masculine animates (in the standard declension) have an accusative form identical to the genitive, and masculine inanimates have accusative identical to the nominative. The same applies to adjectives qualifying these nouns, the same as in Russian and Czech. Also, Polish masculine animates always form their genitive in , whereas in the case of inanimates some use and some : ::animate: ("good customer"; nominative); (accusative and genitive) ::animate: ("good dog"; nominative); (accusative and genitive) ::inanimate: ("good cheese"; nominative and accusative); (genitive only) * In the plural, masculine personal nouns (but not other animate nouns) take accusatives that are identical to the genitives; they also typically take different endings in the nominative (e.g. rather than ). Such endings also appear on adjectives and past tense verbs. The two features are analogous to features of Russian and Czech respectively, except that those languages make an animate/inanimate distinction rather than personal/impersonal) . Examples of the Polish system: ::personal: ("good customers"; nominative); (accusative and genitive) ::impersonal: ("good dogs"; nominative and accusative); (genitive only) ::impersonal: ("good cheeses"; nominative and accusative); (genitive only) A few nouns have both personal and impersonal forms, depending on meaning (for example, may behave as an impersonal noun when it refers to a client (computing), client in the computing sense). For more information on the above inflection patterns, see Polish morphology. For certain rules concerning the treatment of mixed-gender groups, see above.


Dravidian

In the
Dravidian languages Dravidian languages (or sometimes Dravidic languages) are a family of languages spoken by 220 million people, mainly in southern India and north-east Sri Lanka, with pockets elsewhere in South Asia. Since the colonial era, there have been smal ...
, nouns are classified primarily on the basis of their semantic properties. The highest-level classification of nouns is often described as being between "rational" and "nonrational". Nouns representing humans and deity, deities are considered rational, and other nouns (those representing animals and objects) are treated as nonrational. Within the rational class there are further subdivisions into masculine, feminine and collective nouns. For further information, see Tamil grammar.


Austronesian

In the Austronesian Wuvulu-Aua language, vocative case, vocative words used when addressing a relative often specify the speaker's gender. For example, means 'sister of female', means opposite-gender sibling, and means female's father's sister or female's brother's daughter.


See also

*
Gender-neutral language Gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language is language that avoids bias towards a particular sex or social gender. In English, this includes use of nouns that are not gender-specific to refer to roles or professions, formation of phrases ...

Gender-neutral language
* Gender neutrality in genderless languages * Gender neutrality in languages with grammatical gender * Gender-neutral language in English * Gender-specific job title * Generic antecedents * Grammatical conjugation * Polarity of gender


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * Craig, Colette G. (1986). ''Noun classes and categorization: Proceedings of a symposium on categorization and noun classification, Eugene, Oregon, October 1983''. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins. * * Corbett, Greville (1994) "Gender and gender systems". In R. Asher (ed.) ''The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics'', Oxford: Pergamon Press, pp. 1347–1353. * * Greenberg, J. H. (1978) "How does a language acquire gender markers?" In J. H. Greenberg et al. (eds.) ''Universals of Human Language'', Vol. 4, pp. 47–82. * Hockett, Charles F. (1958) ''A Course in Modern Linguistics'', Macmillan. * * Iturrioz, J. L. (1986) "Structure, meaning and function: a functional analysis of gender and other classificatory techniques". ''Función'' 1. 1–3. * Mercier, Adele (2002) "L'homme et la factrice: sur la logique du genre en français". "Dialogue", Volume 41, Issue 3, 2002 * Steven Pinker, Pinker, Steven (1994) ''The Language Instinct'', William Morrow and Company. * Di Garbo F, Olsson B, Wälchli B (eds.). 2019. Grammatical gender and linguistic complexity I: General issues and specific studies. Berlin: Language Science Press. . . Open Access. http://langsci-press.org/catalog/book/223 * Di Garbo F, Olsson B, Wälchli B (eds.). 2019. Grammatical gender and linguistic complexity II: World-wide comparative studies. Berlin: Language Science Press. . Open Access. http://langsci-press.org/catalog/book/237


External links


An overview of the grammar of Old English
at ucalgary.ca * *
doi: Grammatical Features Inventory
at Surrey Morphology Group
The Exceptions: European Male Names Ending in A
at NamepediA Blog {{DEFAULTSORT:Grammatical Gender Grammatical gender, Linguistic morphology