Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

Do Languages with Grammatical Gender Promote Sexist Attitudes?


Do Languages with Grammatical Gender Promote Sexist Attitudes?

Abstract Languages such as French and Spanish assign a gendered article to nouns. Three experiments examined whether reading a language with grammatical gender would increase sexist attitudes. Suburban, New York high school students (Nā€‰=ā€‰74, 85, 66) were randomly assigned to complete a survey of sexist attitudes in either English or a language with grammatical gender (French or Spanish). Students in the English condition expressed less sexist attitudes than students in the French or Spanish conditions, and the language used affected females more than males. When the experiment was replicated on bilingual students, similar results were found. Males also expressed more sexist attitudes than females. This study suggests that languages with grammatical gender promote sexist attitudes and have particular impact on females.

More from the author of the study:


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