Som (সোম)
Grammatical gender
It's said that one cannot write in most languages without revealing one's gender. English is an exception because saying "I'm tall" contains no gender information but the Spanish "soy alta" certainly does. Spanish gender indicators sit on the definite and indefinite articles, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs while in English it's only on the third person pronouns.

Hindi has another structure where the genders sit on the verbs and the genitive forms of the pronouns. Therefore, while "I'm going" in English or "voy" in Spanish contains no gender information, "main ja rahi hoon" in Hindi is a gender specific statement. At the same time, most of such strongly gendered languages including Spanish and Hindi lack the neuter gender and extend the masculine / feminine binary to abstract and inanimate things such as bus stops and universities.

Relatively few languages are almost entirely gender neutral, and my birth mother tongue Bengali is one of them. Only a few nouns have explicit genders, while verbs, adjectives, adverbs and pronouns have no gender. In other words, one cannot know the gender of a writer without being told specifically. So far as I know, Persian and Pashto share this gender neutral feature.

The question I have always found interesting is why do we ascribe such overwhelming importance to genders as to go to the extent of attributing them to things that clearly have no gender? La mesa is feminine, but why? A table doesn't look either male or female, does it? It's just an inanimate piece of furniture.

Does anyone has a clue about why grammatical genders exist?
May 31, 2020 5:26 PM
Comments · 9
You might be interested in this article: <a href=",is%20irrelevant%20for%20its%20gender." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">,is%20irrelevant%20for%20its%20gender.</a>;. I agree with it that the ending of a word often determines what gender it is and not a "feeling" that some things are masculine, feminine, or neuter. All words in German with the endings -heit, -keit, -ung are feminine. It's just a grammatical category and Germans don't regard abstract concepts like Freiheit (freedom), Möglichkeit (possibility) and Vermutung (assumption) as being "female". You could ask all the same why some languages have definite and indefinite articles, have cases, tenses, conjugate their verbs, have prepositions etc.
May 31, 2020
Because way back in the mist of time, you could not prior to science and knowledge ascribe a god as being an inanimate thing. Our humanity dictated that it could only be what we understood a he or a she.
This then got extended when languages evolved into giving inanimate objects the same genders as gods.
And as languages developed further some more modern languages thought it would be better to put genders into the more modern languages. English has absorbed languages but it as not modernised it; it is still the ancient language we have always spoken.
There endeth my little theory.
May 31, 2020
You can often tell the gender of an English writer not by the feminine or masculine grammar or linguistic endings, but by the words and phrases they choose, the tone and the style of writing.
It is mostly always obvious with native English speakers who contribute regularly to italki, and is usually obvious to other native born English speakers and writers, ignoring their names which are not always an indication if they have an avatar.
May 31, 2020
To that extent yes, but how about actual male and female persons, Miriam? Is it really necessary for us to be constrained to announce our gender with every statement we make? Effectively that's what Hindi, Spanish and many other languages oblige us to do, while Bengali and Odia do not.
May 31, 2020
"To that extent yes, but how about actual male and female persons, Miriam? Is it really necessary for us to be constrained to announce our gender with every statement we make?"

Well, as there are languages that can do without grammatical gender, it's obviously not innately necessary for human beings to announce their gender with every statement they make but there seem to be people who don't want to let go of gendered language as you can see in reactions against gender-neutral language.
June 1, 2020
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Som (সোম)
Language Skills
Bengali, English, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
German, Portuguese, Spanish