Posts Tagged ‘German’

Grammatical Gender in Indo-European languages


The History of English (Scott Shay) has a very readable overview of grammatical gender, and other grammatical concepts, in the Indo-European language and its modern descendents such as English and German. See page 19.


Gender of 84 Nouns in 14 Languages


This paper, Evolution of Gender in Indo-European Languages by Harry E. Foundalis, explores whether and how the language one speaks influences the way one perceives reality.

Of special interest to this discussion is “Appendix A: Words Examined” which contains charts showing the gender assignment of 84 common words in 14 languages (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, German, Icelandic, Irish, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Albanian, Greek, Kurdish). As one might expect, gender assignment appears arbitrary and varies from one language to another, though closely related languages (Portuguese and Spanish, for example) often classify a given noun the same way.

An example:

Paper (a sheet of)
Language M, F, or N
French M
Italian F
Portuguese M
Spanish M
Dutch N
German N
Icelandic M
Irish M
Polish M
Russian F
Serbo-Croatian N
Albanian F
Greek N
Kurdish F

Sun and Moon


In the Romance languages, such as French, Italian and Spanish, “sun” is masculine and “moon” is feminine.

  • le soleil, la lune
  • il sole, la luna
  • el sol, la luna

(Obviously, because this is how the grammatical gender was done in Latin). But in German and other Germanic languages, we see the reverse.

  • die Sonne, der Mond