A discussion about articles and gender

I would like hear the opinion of those whose native language contains "feminim" and "masculin" articles (like german , french etc). As my native language (Hungarian) does not have this feature, it is really hard for me to imagine how this actually works. For example, if you see a chair, you have an implication that it has "masculin" attributions? How deep is it in your mindset? Does it happen to you that you name the article incorrectly or you know all of them by heart? It may seem a silly question but I am really curious, so feel free to share all of your thoughts no matter how strange they are! :) Thank you!

May 25, 2016


I'm (regrettably) only a native and fluent speaker of English, but my German teacher, who grew up speaking German and English, has said that gendered nouns do not really contribute to the perceived attributions of the object, and that articles are simply viewed as part of the word.

May 25, 2016

if you see a chair, you have an implication that it has "masculin" attributions?

No, nothing in the object itself to know the grammatical gender.
One "proof" is the fact it's masculine in DE but feminine in FR and ES. ;) ;)

How deep is it in your mindset?

Do you mean, how does our "mind" knows the grammatical gender?
Just by having practiced our language for years. ;) Sorry, but it's really that.

Well, some languages have "rules" (with almost no exceptions) depending on the spelling of the word that will give the gender: ES for example.

On the other hand, with languages like FR, there is just no rule: you can find some very general patterns, but you'll almost always have tons of exceptions so, as a native speaker, I think it's better to just accept to learn it by heart like I did when I learn it as a child.
Note: of course there are some pattern that work 99%+ of the time in FR too, ending -tionis feminine for example. But my point is that rules like ending "-e" is generally feminine is to be avoided IMHO because there are too many "counter-examples" to this alleged "rule".

Does it happen to you that you name the article incorrectly or you know all of them by heart?

By heat.
The gender is 50% of "knowing" the noun. IMO, you don't know how to say "chair" in such languages if you don't know the gender it has in the language.
In this sense knowing that it's une chaise by heart is just the same as knowing that in English it's chair: in both case you have to learn the word by heart (in English knowing a noun is one information, in those other languages you mentioned, knowing a noun is two info "the spelling + the gender").

My advice: consider that learning a noun is both learning its spelling and its gender.

May 25, 2016

I'm interested in this too. Nowadays new technologies come with new nouns. How do they give genders to new words? For example, who decided an identity card reader male or female? Do they have cases where people couldn't agree on whether a new word should be male or female?

May 25, 2016

Another thing to consider is that for the most part, grammatical gender is just a way of organizing nouns into groups (classes) to differentiate them more, especially in the case of homophones. There are lots of languages that don't use groups based on gender, but might instead group nouns based on things like how animate the thing is, how large it generally is, etc. In many east Asian languages, they use a type of word called a noun classifier with a noun to determine logical subgroups that the noun might belong in, like dog to animal. Not classifying nouns is, I believe, kind of the odd one out as far as most languages go.

May 26, 2016

In my case (Spanish) it's just a matter of knowing the noun. However, it's not uncommon to be guided by the way the word sounds in the sentence. Most of the time it depends if the article and the word sound like they combine. If it's the first time you say something and if the way it sounded felt odd, the first thing you're probably going to change is the definite article.

May 26, 2016
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