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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
@Takara: Vorsicht: "die Post" = the post office. "der Post" = the post, the message.
that's what really make German language difficult for us but more competitive. nice question by the way.
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~
Btw, how was gender of old words decided? :-) I mean, DAS Pferd? All horses are insulted. Ha!
"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.
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?
Very good Question I wonder too about "Madchen" Is that a female? so why it is das Madchen not die madchen??
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
Thank you very much "Takara" i understood now that any word ending with chen or lien are defined with "das"
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’.
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.
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!
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 .