https://www.duolingo.com/profile/possum404

Question for native German speakers, simply out of curiosity . . .

I'm curious--when a new word enters the German language, how is its gender decided? I'm going through the "communication" skills lessons right now, and I'm coming across words like radio, television, internet, website, computer, monitor, etc . . . they all have various genders assigned, but I'm wondering how? Who decides that radio is neutral, but computer is masculine?

August 4, 2014

23 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/territrades

Many of the words mentioned have roots that have already been present in the German language:

Der Fernseher (the television) is a more or less direct translation, as tele means something far away (far=fern) and seher means seer, viewer, watcher. Das Internet is probably neuter due to 'the net' means 'das Netz' in German. Monitor is of Latin root and was surely introduced into the language before any computers were around. Originally, it corresponded to a person, so it is masculine.

By the way, some nouns have different genders in Austria and Germany.

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Nayt502827

OMG THAT IS AN AMAZING DAILY STREAK I CAN NOT BELIEVE YOU HAVE A STREAK THAT BIGGGG!!! :O I have got to give you some lingots.

March 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tripleboobs69

I think that by default most of them end up being neutral but a lot of the time they're decided by unofficial rules about how the word sounds. For example words that end in "chen" are always neutral (this is why "das madchen" is not feminine). nouns ending in "keit", "heit", "ie" or "schaft" are always feminine. words ending in "ner" are always masculine. There are probably some exceptions, but learning things like these have made german gender a lot easier for me. Basically, gender is decided by the sound of the word as opposed to the masculinity/ femininity/ neutrality of whatever the word refers to.

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Takara

Sometimes it's decided by looking at a German synonym and adopting its gender. For example, "die Email" and "die Mail" und "die Message", because it is "die Nachricht", "die Post".... But there are often different options, "der Blog" vs "das Blog", both correct. "Das Cola" vs "die Cola", both correct.

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ursulias

@Takara: Vorsicht: "die Post" = the post office. "der Post" = the post, the message.

March 6, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alia.Mohammad

that's what really make German language difficult for us but more competitive. nice question by the way.

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rita1175

Good evening!

Concerning your "new word- which gender?" question I'd like to add one "hot button issue" for german native speakers.

Here it is: Nutella

I assume you know that brand? Well if not: it is a famous brand for a chocolate cream.

and basicly nobody is quite sure about its gender. it aint any word with any deeper roots, so also no way to define its gender.

here you can also have the wiki article http://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Nutella most important part: Substantiv, m, f, n so there they say it has 3 different genders so to say

hillarious, dont you agree? and allways quite an amusing quarrel for breakfast!

Have a nice day~

August 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SusanG22

was auch immer das Geschlecht, ist es fantastisch! : )

August 7, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vyyera

Btw, how was gender of old words decided? :-) I mean, DAS Pferd? All horses are insulted. Ha!

August 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Magister_Smith

"gender" in language doesn't necessarily mean male/female/neuter, but is rather simply a classification system for words. We could call words genders 1/2/3 or a/b/c instead, but we use masculine, feminine, neuter.

While gendered languages often have the actual gender of the word (if it is a person for example) match the grammatical gender, it is best o simply memorize the gender of a word before anything else.

August 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vyyera

Well, small children that learn a language don't memorize genders. They learn them by feel. Maybe linguists should pay more attention to natural language learning?

August 9, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AviAdventure

Good question.

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/possum404

Thanks for the answers, everyone!

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/M.Ghareb

Very good Question I wonder too about "Madchen" Is that a female? so why it is das Madchen not die madchen??

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Takara

The ending -chen or -lein is a diminutive form and thus is always neutral gender. Das Mädchen (the girl), das Bübchen (the boy, though it's an antiquated word. Today's mostly used word for boy is "der Junge"), das Fräulein, aber die Frau, das Kätzchen, aber die Katze

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/M.Ghareb

Thank you very much "Takara" i understood now that any word ending with chen or lien are defined with "das"

August 5, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/G.P.Niers

Take care though. It's ‘der Kuchen’ even though it ends in ‘-chen’. But it isn't really an exception since ‘Kuchen’ is not a diminutive.

Of course diminutives of ‘Kuchen’, like ‘Küchlein’, ‘Küchelchen’ and ‘Küchel’ are all neuter: ‘das Küchlein’.

August 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/M.Ghareb

I am puzzled :/

August 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/G.P.Niers

To keep it short and simple:

A diminutive is a word that is sort of a smaller version of the word it derives from. An English example? The word ‘dog’ has a diminutive: ‘doggy’, which makes the dog seem smaller, cuter, perhaps even dearer than usual.

German nouns (and even some other words) tend to have diminutives, often many different ones. These different diminutives are due to regional variations, but also personal preferences and fixed combinations. Sometimes different diminutives of the same word have different meanings.

But whatever the case may be, diminutives are always neuter.

But you cannot always tell if a word is a diminutive by checking if a word ends in ‘-chen’, ‘-lein’ or any of the other diminutive endings, because there often are words that end in the same letters for different reasons.

August 9, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sweilan1

Also, genders in new words can change. For example, Pepsi at one time was neuter; however, it changed after a few years to feminine.

A German expat asked me what the gender of "Pie" because she and her sister argued over it. She used das Pie and her sister would use der Pie. I told her I would of used das Pie because it was from foreign extraction. She thought about it for a moment and agreed with me and told me she was going to inform her sister it was das Pie. LOL!

August 7, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/imanasfoor

i was told by my german teacher that if a word originally comes from english then it is neutral (das) ... like the Internet = das internet .

August 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mestoking

Perhaps by the first translator.

August 5, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdrianJosh

mostly by the noun endings Die -maUS der -computER; = der lehrER

August 4, 2014
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