Grammatical Gender

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grammatical gender

Modern English is largely an ungendered language. Whereas other languages might have masculine and feminine forms for nouns depending on the verbs, articles, or adjectives they are used with, English nouns by and large remain neutral. However, a personal pronoun can be inflected for gender to correspond to the gender of the person (and, in some cases, an animal) it represents.
Personal pronouns are only inflected for gender when they are in the third person and singular—first-person and second-person pronouns (singular or plural) and third-person plural pronouns remain gender neutral.
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Gender, Grammatical


(1) The traditional designation of an agreement class in languages where a system of agreement classes has developed from an originally semantic classification based on the distinction between animate and inanimate and/or between masculine and feminine. By “agreement class” is meant one of the groups into which substantives are divided on the basis of the way adjectives, verbs, and other words capable of agreeing with substantives are made to agree with substantives. The usual gender system comprises masculine gender (names of men and male animals, and names of some things), feminine gender (names of women and female animals, and names of some things), and neuter gender (generally only names of things). This system is represented in most of the ancient Indo-European languages, such as Latin, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit, and in some modern languages, including German and certain Dravidian languages. For example, gender distinctions are observable in the Latin meus pater (“my father”), mea mater (“my mother”), and meum caput (“my head”).

There are also two-member gender systems. An opposition between masculine and feminine genders is found in the Semito-Hamitic languages and in many modern Indo-European languages, including the Baltic, Romance, and Celtic languages and some Indic and Iranian languages. A distinction between nonneuter and neuter is found in Hittite, modern Swedish, and other languages.

In addition to these basic gender distinctions, a “common” gender is also possible. Words of common gender require either masculine or feminine agreement, depending on the sex of the person named, as in the French un/une enfant (“a child”) or the Russian etot/eta skriiaga (“this miser”).

In Slavic and other languages, each of the traditionally distinguished genders corresponds—as in Latin—not merely to a specific agreement class but to groups within that class. In Russian, for example, there are animate and inanimate agreement classes within each gender. Some linguists apply the term “gender” to any agreement class.

(2) A category used to grammatically classify nouns and corresponding pronouns on the basis of gender opposition. Gender is also an inflectional grammatical category of adjectives and other words expressing agreement, a category formed by juxtasquoition of the words’ gender forms, as in the Latin meus, mea, meum or the Russian moi, moia, moe (“my”).


Kuznetsov, P. S. O printsipakh izucheniia grammatiki. Moscow, 1961.
Kuryłowicz, J. “K voprosu o genezise grammaticheskogo roda.” In his book Ocherki po lingvistike. Moscow, 1962.
Zalizniak, A. A. Russkoe imennoe slovoizmenenie. Moscow, 1967.


References in periodicals archive ?
Several developmental aspects that converged in shaping Carlina's world view and her role within it have been explored: At 0;11 and at 1;9 Carlina displayed affectionate and nurturing behaviors; at 2;1 she drew attention to certain physical characteristics of females and differentiated those of her brother; at 2;4 she began sorting grammatical gender in accordance with the rules of each of her languages; at 3;0 continuing on to 4;8 and beyond she became increasingly aware of female accoutrements (earrings, skirts, long hair, etc.
In this case study, however, there seems to have been an additional contributory factor--the Spanish language, which also exerted its effect upon the child's process of enculturation because of pervasive grammatical gender, beyond the societal norms it also prescribes for gender behaviors and roles.
The Loss of Grammatical Gender in the History of English.
Whereas a full grammatical gender system, as for instance in German, Norwegian and Old English, requires agreement between nouns, adjectives and pronouns, 'gender' in modern English has only been described with reference to gendered pronouns, and that is also the scope of this paper.
While not committing to any one explanation, she suggests two reasons for this; one being that the referent has been personified as 'the man in the moon' and the other that it retains the Germanic grammatical gender.
When referring to human beings, biological sex often takes precedence over grammatical gender even in languages that have full gender morphology, such as in modern Norwegian where barn 'child' is grammatically neuter but usage shows that he and she are instead often applied according to the child's sex (see also Dahl 2000: 105-106).
Starting with the null hypothesis, that there is no difference between grammatical gender in Orkney and Shetland dialects and spoken Standard English in general, this hypothesis can be discarded.
Being essentially dialects of Scots (albeit with a Norn substrate), any remnants of a grammatical gender system in the Orkney and Shetland dialects also need to be discussed in the context of what happened to the grammatical gender system which existed in Old English.
The spread of the loss of grammatical gender starts in the North of England before spreading south.
The two-stage model of lexical retrieval: Evidence from a case of anomia with selective preservation of grammatical gender.
Phonological facilitation of grammatical gender retrieval.
Access to lexical phonology does not predict retrieval of grammatical gender in Welsh: Implications for theories of language production.