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  #21  
Old 16.12.2008, 12:47
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

This is one explanation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_gender
"The linguistic notion of grammatical gender is distinguished from the biological and social notion of natural gender, although they interact closely in many languages. Both grammatical and natural gender can have linguistic effects in a given language".

"If a language distinguishes between masculine and feminine gender, for instance, then each noun belongs to one of those two genders; in order to correctly decline any noun and any modifier or other type of word affecting that noun, one must identify whether the noun is feminine or masculine".

English doesn't need genders because adjective endings don't change. Or is it adjectives don't change because nouns in english have no genders? Who cares!

So genders are groupings of nouns which determines the declension of that noun or how associated words like adjectives behave. If you're looking to keep asking why in the hope of identifying the point in prehistory when the first human came up with the first linguistic rules that said nouns and associated words should get modified according to their grouping, or why that was necessary in the first place, I suspect you won' find the answer on this forum. Those folks are dust and didn't leave grammar books. We're just left with the legacy.
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  #22  
Old 16.12.2008, 12:50
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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to faciliate cross-pollination and/or inter-species shennanigans

i think one of the reasons may be, that gender or noun classes makes it much easier to avoid to repeatedly mentioning the same things by their proper terms, but by refer to them by pronouns.
and to make adjective agreements clearer.
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Old 16.12.2008, 12:56
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

Gender in French can change the meaning too.
eg
Le vase - vase
La vase - mud
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  #24  
Old 16.12.2008, 13:10
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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I am sure there is a more suitable thread or place to share these tips. What's more, I am not in a position to refuse this gender reality in French for advises like "like it or not, accept it" to have any relevance.
To be fair, canyaver, you did say in your original post "slightest insight is welcome" and not "definite facts only, please do not offer any discussion"

Welcome to public forum life...
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Old 16.12.2008, 13:11
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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I wondered the same thing when I studied French years ago, but there is no rhyme or reason for ascribing gender to nouns/inanimate objects. It just is. Like Nev says, you just have to learn 'em.
The other PITA is that the genderisation of nouns differs greatly between German and French, so you end up a lot more confused if you speak one and are trying to learn the other.
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Old 16.12.2008, 13:26
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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Gender in French can change the meaning too.
eg
Le vase - vase
La vase - mud
or in German

Der Leiter, the leader
Die Leiter, the ladder
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  #27  
Old 16.12.2008, 14:11
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

.......................................

Last edited by ElieDeLeuze; 08.07.2009 at 18:32.
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Old 16.12.2008, 14:11
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

UHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhh geeeeeeeeeeeee now you have me worried . Bringing SEX into grammer .DIE Gabel,DAS Messer ,DER Loeffel, DIE Tasse , never ever do I put DER Loeffel into DIE tasse I do not want to end up with DAS Geschier
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  #29  
Old 16.12.2008, 16:20
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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...All is well but there is one thing I can't get my head around about French: Gender of nouns. Why should any noun, table, chair, car, pen, door, etc, etc have a gender? Which purpose can it possibly serve?...
Nouns in English also have a gender. It is called neuter and is used for all inanimate objects (with some exceptions -- as noted above, a ship if often referred to as she) while feminine or masculine is used for animate objects with clearly defined biological gender (for example, goose/gander).

So the source of your frustration is that gender in French differs from that in English. As explained above, languages often have different codes to express the same feature because they have been developing in different political, economic, social and cultural circumstances. Languages also change over time. What they need they keep but what is not absolutely necessary is ditched over time.

The English of Beowulf (or even Canterbury Tales) was much more similar in grammatical features to Latin and therefore French, but the number of inflections in English gradually diminished. Which means that today masculine and feminine desingations, even for inanimate objects, are much more culturally relevant for the speakers of French than for those of English.
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  #30  
Old 16.12.2008, 16:34
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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I don't know but it has nothing to do with sex. Vagina in French is masculine! Trying to rationalise why a noun has one gender or another won't help. You just have to learn 'em.
un vagin ! , and the men's sex ( in jargon ) is feminin ( une bite ).

makes some sense after all.
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  #31  
Old 16.12.2008, 17:23
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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Hello,
This is my 5th month in Vaud canton and 3rd since I started taking French lessons. All is well but there is one thing I can't get my head around about French: Gender of nouns. Why should any noun, table, chair, car, pen, door, etc, etc have a gender? Which purpose can it possibly serve?

Slightest insight is welcome.

Best regards
Can Yaver
I asked the same question to my French teacher while I was taking French lessons, her reply was simple-this is how it is in French! When I asked the same question to another teacher, her reply was again the same-this is how it is in French! Its bit difficult to understand and get a grasp of gender of nouns in French but over a period of time, you yourself will feel-this is how it is in French
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  #32  
Old 16.12.2008, 18:10
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

latin sol(m), greek helios(m)
latin luna(f), greek selene(f)

german sonne(f), mond(m)

i think the problem is that german is PIE based so it has no written records or other way to infer etymology of words.
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  #33  
Old 16.12.2008, 21:24
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

I know, I know, it drives you mad, doesn't it! And I was most disappointed to find that learning the gender in one language doesn't give you a free pass in other gender-ridden languages.

I've had to force myself to take a Zen kind of approach, to accept that the reasons for why languages decided to split their nouns into various groupings is lost in the mists of time, and we have to accept the here and now (all of which does NOT come naturally to me). I find it helps a little to not think of gender, as I get hung up on the whole 'why is the table a girl?' issue but to have a more neutral term, like groupings. And to write out each new noun (or old ones that just don't stick) on either pink or blue flash cards, for a visual kick. Otherwise I start into a whole spiral of 'but why do the adjectives have to match, what does that add to the whole process? And the verb endings - I've already used a subject to explain who's doing the action, so just drop the endings, ok?' And that way madness lies.

My French is coming up for intermediate, and until now I've been coasting by on a sort of slurred 'llleah' article for some nouns. I also checked with my local friends what would happen if I got the gender wrong, and they told me that yes, it would be apparent I wasn't native French-speaking (like THAT would be a surprise to anyone!) but I would still be fully understood.

Today's French lesson, though, knocked all that for six, as we revised the different ways to say 'that <object> is mine/ yours/ theirs/ etc'. Turns out most of my French group entirely suck at genders; we all understood the rule of possessive pronouns, but there was a great deal of 'erm... something to replace les valises... erm... les miens. Non, les miennes... ahhhhh!'

I'm currently working through a great book which is explaining how the masculine/ feminine rules all come down to some spelling rules about the word endings. It's in French, though, so it'll be a while before you're able to take advantage of it! I'll try and remember to do a summary when I've finished the book (which will so not be this side of Christmas).

Sorry - I know this isn't answering your question of 'why'. Reminds me of the time I innocently enquired why all the most useful verbs were irregular, and stumbled into a linguistic mire that had befuddled great minds like Pinker and Chomsky for decades...

kodokan
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  #34  
Old 17.12.2008, 15:26
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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  #35  
Old 17.12.2008, 15:37
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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It's not correct in German, though it's commonly used in swiss German.
In fact very many German dialects do do it. It's just the official HG that doesn't.
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  #36  
Old 17.12.2008, 15:49
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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latin sol(m), greek helios(m)
latin luna(f), greek selene(f)

german sonne(f), mond(m)

i think the problem is that german is PIE based so it has no written records or other way to infer etymology of words.
actually, most European languages, and this includes both the Germanic and Latin families, are descended from common roots. Linguists believe that all these languages and some others besides are derived from a common language or group of related languages they call Indo-European because they spanned an area including India and Europe.

The obvious commonalities between the words you mention above are a good illustration of this. Other commonly cited similarities are Vater (German) / Pater (Latin) Mutter (German) / Mater (Latin) etc etc.

The fact that genders seem to have flipped between languages over the years, and in fact even the number of genders seems to have changed (3 in German, 2 in Latin, 1 in English etc) shows that the concept of gender isn't as deeply embedded as the language itself.

There are even words that flip genders between high and Swiss German, Tram is one that comes to mind,
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Old 17.12.2008, 15:52
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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I've had to force myself to take a Zen kind of approach, to accept that the reasons for why languages decided to split their nouns into various groupings is lost in the mists of time, and we have to accept the here and now (all of which does NOT come naturally to me).
asking why a particular gender applies is like asking why a verb in French takes ir and not er. It just does. Trying to explain some underlying pattern may be fun for linguists and may make some fantastic topics for lay science books as Pinker writes, but it doesn't actually help you while learning or speaking.
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Old 17.12.2008, 15:58
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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And to write out each new noun (or old ones that just don't stick) on either pink or blue flash cards, for a visual kick.
What an excellent idea, I'm very much a visual person so I reckon that could really help me out.
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Old 19.12.2008, 17:23
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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asking why a particular gender applies is like asking why a verb in French takes ir and not er. It just does.
Oh noooo! I hadn't even thought of that one! Curses, something else to ponder about fruitlessly...

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  #40  
Old 19.12.2008, 17:42
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Re: Why should a table have a gender?

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What an excellent idea, I'm very much a visual person so I reckon that could really help me out.
To help me learn the words of objects around the house my partner used color coded post-its and stuck them all over our flat. One color for Die - Der and Das which not only helped me learn the word but the gender as well. Now once I know the word they all get taped to the back of the bathroom door -- for review every now and again.
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