https://www.duolingo.com/JPRowden

Gender of Words

Does anyone know why madchen is neuter while junge is masculine? Why not have madchen be feminine?

August 30, 2016

13 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/person243

The "-chen" ending of "Mädchen" says that this is a diminutive of another word (same origin as "die Maid" and "die Magd"). It also signals that the word is neuter. On the other hand "Junge" ends in "-e" which is often a signal for a feminine word but here it tells you that the word originates from the adjective "jung"= "young", which means that the feminine version: "die Junge" = "the young (female) one" should also exist. But that word is not as often used if ever. Anyway, this should tell you that with genders in German you'll never know until you have looked them up in a dictionary.

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Salomee_e

Fun factor: there is also das Junge, an offspring of an animal.

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/tscomf

I agree with @dragonjok that gender does not always make sense.

But in this specific case, there is an explanation: The suffix -chen indicates a diminutive (I don’t think there is a direct equivalent in English). So for example Katze is a cat, and Kätzchen is a small cat or kitten. Mädchen is derived from Mägdchen, a small maid.

And every diminutive is sächlich, so it’s always das Kätzchen, das Mädchen, though it would be die Katze, die Magd.

By the way, you can also do this with given names, e. g. a small girl named Elisabeth (short: Liese) might be called (das) Lieschen, though this is not common anymore.

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/dragonjok

Geez you're right I forgot about that. Apologies for assuming German doesn't make sense. :D

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/tscomf

Kein Problem. Das denkt wohl jeder mal, egal ob Mutter- oder Fremdsprachler. ;-)

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/dragonjok

German genders don't make any sense sometimes, nothing to do against that. :)

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Tim2405

Im German and yes I think like you :D, sometimes it makes no sense

August 31, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/bs-duolingo

I think it is the suffix. In German -chen is a diminuitive form. And all nouns of any gender with -chen in the end become neuter nouns. It may be, that the origin of Mädchen is Magd (die Magd).

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/KenBookmye

Nope it's just screwy you have to work on just memorizing then they throw in dative and all of a sudden it's der Frau. Germans did it deliberately to prevent opposing armies from understanding their messages

August 30, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/drvdw

Is that true? I never heard that, and I don't really understand how that would make it harder to understand something in German. I think almost all sentences would be understandable, regardless of what article you put in front of a noun. Only in the rare case where the accusative or dative case is necessary to identify the object would there be any confusion, but context usually allows you to identify the subject and object.

August 31, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/KenBookmye

No it's not. That's just the way it evolved and you are right if you get the article wrong most Germans will just smile and gently correct you. It is true that it drives me crazy when you suddenly go from die (feminine) to der (masculine) when you use dative tense. It is also true that the US military used Navajo Indians as radio operators during WWII because the structure is so different than English the Japanese could not crack it. Sorry if I confused you. ken

August 31, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/JPRowden

I know me, I'm going to end up using ein and das most of the time, regardless of gender. There's a reason English developed from German but abandoned the gender identity of words. It's far too limiting and creates more complexity than needed. THough I think it's interesting to note that depsite the 'simplicity' of English, it is the hardest language to learn, mostly because unspoken context and tone can completely change the phrase or term. See 'sarcasm,' lol.

August 31, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/JPRowden

Thanks everyone. Very enlightening. IT was just frustrating because I got cocky in my lessons and that was a curveball for me.

August 31, 2016
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