If you speak another language like Spanish or German, you are familiar with grammatical gender. In Romance languages (and many others), nouns have a gender. In French, a chair is la chaise, a feminine noun, and a hat is le chapeau, a masculine noun. But did you know that English used to have gendered nouns too? (We were recently inspired to write about grammatical gender because the hosts over at Lexicon Valley, Mike Volo and Bob Garfield, discussed why languages have gender on three excellent episodes.)
Until the 1200s, English had grammatical gender. Instead of using the articles “the” or “a”, Old English had a masculine article “se” and a feminine article “seo”. The sun, for instance, was feminine, so it would be written “sēo sunne”. If you referred to the sun, you would even say “she”.
However, in northern England in the 1100s, grammatical gender disappeared. Historical linguists aren’t entirely sure why this happened, but Professor Anne Curzan suggests that genders were lost because of the language mixing that went on in Northern England during that time. Between the 700s and the 1000s, there were Vikings invading northern England where peasants lived. The two groups spoke different languages: Old English and Old Norse. However, it is quite likely that many people were bilingual and fluent in both languages. Both Old English and Old Norse had gender, but sometimes their genders contradicted each other. In order to simplify communication, gendered nouns simply disappeared.
Of course, gender did not disappear entirely. We still have gendered pronouns in English: he, she and it.
Do you think English would be better with grammatical gender?
Yes, grammatical gender brings in sophistication.
It would certainly be more complex.
I think it would be better with gammatical gender!HI
English is better precisely BECAUSE there are no pointlessly gendered nouns. Inanimate objects having gender defies logical sense, in other words, stupid.
It would be much more complex, but on the other hand, it would be easier to grasp foreign languages
it would be MORE complecated
@Capthaeth The darn with “logical sense”! Must I quote Henry Higgins*?
As the article said, Romantic languages – including French, which I’m learning and LOVE – have gender nouns. For example, “soleil” (sun) is masculine, so you would say “le soleil” or “un soleil”, and you would say “il” for “it”. But “lune” (moon) is feminine, so you would say “la lune” or “une lune”, and you would say “elle” for “it”. But when referring to a plural, you would say “les” (remember “Les Misérables”?), no matter what the gender.
In fact, we STILL use a similar thing in English – we use “an” instead of “a” in front of words starting with a vowel sound.
(*For those of you who don’t know, he was the snot-nosed language professor played by Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady”.)
making assumptions about the gender of genderless objects is pointless. Clearly, many objects do not have genders, yet other languages say that they do. For Instance, the sun, has NO GENDER, and it is not even living.
It is easy for many people to say that it would be nice in English to have gendered pronouns nut to tell you the truth it is a pain.
Why assign gender to an object? Doesn’t it just complicates things. A chair is a chair. Both sexes use them. The moon is the moon, not any more useful or important if you are male or female….unless you assign gender. Then its conceivable that in some countries, any problems arising from king tides etc could be blamed on a particular gender. The majority of society are having a hard enough time fully understanding English in its current form, lets not confuse them further.
Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing!
Although there are several other languages in a position to teach English a lesson of “logic” or two (keeping in mind that the concept of logic itself varies from one language to another), I do agree that grammatical gender would further complicate modern English.
On the other hand, it could do with a more phonetic spelling system. Although the spelling might seem second-nature to native speakers (though, in my experience, even native speakers seem to struggle with this, namely with homophones), anyone who has tried to learn English as a secondary language on her own will probably agree with me that you simply cannot guess a word’s pronunciation simply by looking at the way it is spelled.
In other words, if you’d have never heard a single sound of spoken English in your life, and you’d only have its alphabet (and the corresponding letter sounds) as a clue to decode the words, it would be virtually impossible for you to guess how English words are pronounced. The same cannot be said about very phonetic languages like, say, Romanian, whose pronunciation you can easily guess after learning the sounds of its alphabet. Simply put: you simply can’t learn English on your own without some involvement from a tutor, which makes it a pain to master.
So, although English has a (relatively) simple conjugation and gender systems, its spelling easily comes across as “illogical” to speakers of more phonetically spelled languages, like say, Italian or Spanish. But all in all, every language has its practical and complex elements, and that’s what makes them interesting to explore.
i’d definitely like grammatical genders!
We do still use gender. When referring to a shop or to another water craft, we say “her.” That is but one example. I need not expound.
Language is better when we have grammatical gender.
I don’t think many people would be smart enough to change to gendered nouns.
I agree with Capthaeth. Gendered nouns are illogical.
I completely agree with Capthaeth. It is pointless and illogical to give inanimate objects a gender.
Giving anything at all (even living things) is senseless :/. Why does one need to reference gender when on a topic unrelated to gender? Sure, it’s convenient when a group of people is mixed with “men” and “women,” but can’t we do just a little better? One thing we don’t need is more gender confusion.
I agree with Capthaeth. Though it does remove some “volume” from the English language, it makes things much simpler.
English is much easier to learn than other languages (at first). It has neutral genders; lack of conjugation and “irrégulier/regulier” verbs, like in French; and lack of accents, which are all perfect because as soon as someone wishes to become fluent, they get punched in the face with a ridiculous amount of odd rules of grammar.
I think the above reasons and many more are why English has been one of the top languages for the past half-century or so.
Giving anything at all *gender* (even living things) is senseless :/.
Probably more the fact that when somebody is attempting to learn a language, they’re going to use ‘base words’, like “Buy bread.” If you have a large proportion of the population attempting to collectively learn a new tongue, additions such as gendered nouns and word stressing are more likely to be dropped.
And yes, it’s a major plus for the English language.
English having grammatical gender would just throw the world’s economy out of swing, as well as pretty much destroy about two-thirds (if not more) of the world’s communications…
Sometimes in French, the one gender is one meaning, the other is another (la livre and la livre for example).
I meant LE livre and LA livre. I accidentally typed LA twice.
Why did boats remain female, I wonder?
I think that English without grammatical gender is better because English would be more simple.And also, English without grammatical gender is easier to conjugate.
Personifying inanimate objects is great for poetry, but for everyday speech, it would make it extremely confusing.
For example, the phrase “he died yesterday” could refer to a animal, plant, or even battery’s death.
I think that English without grammatical gender is better because English would be more simple.And also, English without grammatical gender is easier to conjugate.So,in my words,grammatical gender is kind of STUPID.
We don’t have or don’t need to follow other languages.
English is complex enough as is if you ask me, it’s one of the more sophisticated languages to learn, not because of the grammar, but because of the sheer number of words and their many meanings and applications
I agree 100%
I think because English is so widely spoken it is more convenient not to have gendered nouns, as it saves the extra difficulty of conflicting gendered nouns for bilingual people such as myself. It certainly adds a beauty to language, however as English is already very eclectic, and more of a universal standard communication method than an art form I don’t believe it would be of much use.
Language is for communicating, and the simpler the better. Priding oneself on the “complexity” of one’s language or its imagined “sophistication” is nothing more than emptyheaded snobbishness (and perhaps childish pique that English is so universal?)
Phoebe, Laura, Emma, you should be proud of me cause I am the youngest and I am so awesome.
If we have grammatical gender, it would be more complicated and harder to understand. But, that would make English more connected to other world languages.
Still, I think it’s best to stick with no grammatical gender. People are so used to speaking English the ‘norm’ way, they’ll get confused by the GG.
I’m currently taking French and I can tell you one of the most annoying things is to have to remember the gender of a noun. It affects the language in so many ways. Articles, past tense, most adjectives, and more are all modified by the gender of the noun they describe. What’s even worse is that you can sometimes have exceptions to gender modification. It really is an overly complicated thing to have to do in a language and I’m glad English doesn’t have it.
No, I don’t. There really is no reason for grammatical gender. I also speak Spanish. I think that the other languages would do well to get rid of it!
I agree with Capthaeth. 100%.
NO english is already to complicated and the only reason its popular because it’s not annoying w/ the calendario/a .
If the loss of gendered nouns was due to the reason the article suggests, why did that not happen in other localities in England and throughout at world (or if it has, why not to any great extent)? If the people in Northern England were bilingual, they would have known both languages. We obviously borrowed from Old Norse (the pronoun they and related words for example), but what would cause the loss of gendered nouns? I can understand mistakes, i.e., getting the gender wrong when one word is one gender in one language and another gender in the other language. Perhaps it is just a case of language change. But contact would probably cause the genders to undergo changes so that the genders in Old Norse in the region and in Old English in the region would align. In general, grammars usually simplify over time, and languages gain new words for new concepts, semantic shift occurs, etc etc. Perhaps that explains it, but perhaps not.
Also, what about neuter?
I must ask some questions though: In what way would the loss of grammatical gender facilitate communication between two groups of people with distinct languages? Language change spreads from one community to another, but not necessarily all the time, so what would cause the whole of the English language, in all its dialects, to adopt the genderless-nouns convention?
Pronouns that refer to gender are somewhat different than other nouns and than articles. The article does not make that difference clear.
Honestly English is already complicated enough without throwing gender into everything. In other languages gender is structured but, knowing English, we would find a way so gender had no logical rules and words had their own genders for ridiculous reasons
The sun, for instance, was feminine, so it would be written “sēo sunne”. If you referred to the sun, you would even say “she”.
^^^This is so strange to read, because the sun is usually given masculine characteristics. It’s often associated with the Greek god Apollo, while the moon is traditionally feminine, associated with the goddess Artemis and also with menstruation. In Romance languages, for example, you have le soleil et la lune (French) el sol y la luna (Spanish) where sun is masculine and moon is feminine. I wonder why it’s different for Germanic languages.
It would just unnecessarily complicate the English language. As mentioned, objects don’t have gender, so not only does it make sense to use “it” for them, it’s simpler. If you can be simple without losing any effectiveness, then that’s the best option.
@Capethaeth, i agree
yes it wood
i no, my username is weird
just slid across the keybord
@Capthaeth, i agree
@ Capthaeth, true
Can a chair reproduce? Can a doctor be either male or female? Must we say “police man,” or “police woman,” not simply police officer?
Agree with Capthaeth.
I like apples!
maybe not cause u would have 2 re-teach every one a new language!!!!
@Capthaeth Then again, the English language does have a lot of words that don’t seem to make sense phonetically. It is one of the most difficult languages to learn. And remember that language evolves over time.
Having just suffered through two semesters of French, I have to say GOD NOOOOOO!!!! But that’s probably just the Post-Linguistic Stress Disorder (PLSD) talking. Give me a few weeks until the flashbacks to — passe compose, imparfait plural formal masculine informal qualifiers for future perfect-tensed adverbial feminine predicate infinitives — cease long enough to finally grant me precious, precious sleep, maybe I’ll change my mind. Maybe then my capitalized NO from the beginning of the post will only have four O’s in it.
I’ll have to agree with Capthaeth on this one.
Grammatical gender is not sophisticated. It is absolutely pointless and unnecessary.
Kind of difficult as is without gendered nouns. Also, it would likely be almost impossible to add genders to ALL the nouns now -.-
We kind of have genders for nouns, like ships or tornadoes..
Just like the French language does..
I believe, rather than gender, each English noun should be either feline or canine.
Psh! It sure would be a heck of a lot easier to learn Spanish and French if we were already used to the format!
As long as the possessive pronouns are redone as gender-neutral, yes it would be a great idea. It would eliminate much of the gender politics required to write articles now, e.g. use of his or her or his/her and get rid of that awful word “its”.
I hope language bigots like ol’ Cappie do the world a favor, crawl back into his mother’s uterus and refrain from setting foot on other countries, because people like him/her/it are are narrow-minded twits who are too self-centered to appreciate languages other than his own, living in a make-believe, Easy as 1-2-3 World. To quote the great and late Carlos Fuentes, “Perfect order is the forerunner of perfect horror.”
C.S. Lewis commented on this in Perelandra when he said “Everyone must sometimes have wondered why in nearly all tongues certain inanimate objects are masculine and others feminine. What is masculine about a mountain or feminine about certain trees? Ransom [the book's main character] has cured me of believing that this is a purely morphological phenomenon, depending on the form of the word. Still less is gender an imaginative extension of sex. Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the organic adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine. Their reproductive functions, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity.”
Capthaeth, I think the reason you find it pointless to have gender assigned to inanimate objects is purely because you’ve been educated/conditioned to think that way – as have I. However it could be entirely possible that there was a time where it simply couldn’t be fathomed that a table could be thought of as anything other than being ‘male’.
What is the point of grammatical gender? I thought so. Modern english is fine.
I think grammatical gender of English is easier than another languages like French and its easier to learn the rules.It would be more confusing to divide every thing in to two categories of male and female.
Gender makes the language more precise and more easily understood, especially out of context. If we just see the word work, for example, we don’t know who is doing the action and, in this instance, we’re not even sure if it’s a verb or a noun.
Why do we need gendered speech? To stereotype our world? Even he/she is fairly pointless most of the time.
I dunno, we (Spanish Speakers) could use a more Gender-Neutral language
grammatical gender will increase the precision of the language , but it make for complex .If someone doesn’t know a language , having grammatical genders, can understand their usefulness
Can you imagine injecting this complexity into the English language?
Most Americans already appear to not manage to spell complex words and the evolution of spelling in the US is to make words easier; example: colour instead of colour.
English would be worse with gendered nouns. They add nothing, are not intuitive and often contradictory (my experience with gendered nouns in German, French and Spanish). In languages that have them, they basically have to be learnt by rote. English has a huge vocabulary, so this would be a massive exercise and make it even harder for English as a second lanuguage to be learnt.
I like English very much for not having gendered nouns. Why give geneders to genderless things? I am a native speaker of Slovak, a gendered language, but still prefer English, both because it has genederless nouns, but also because it has very simple ending for the possessive case, and for the other cases.
With really simple grammer English is a great “non-romantic” communitive power, which is perhaps one important reason for English being “the” world language.
NO! I am in my fifth year of French, and one of the things I hate most is having to consider if things are masculine of feminine. English is already hard enough without throwing in gender…it would be a nightmare. NONONONONO.
Complexity for complexity’s sake is painful and would get English nowhere.
I think one of English’s greatest advantages is its lack of grammatical gender, because it makes the language easier to learn. Philosophically I am actually opposed to excessive gendering, and I think our lack of gendered nouns helps us realize how unnecessary gender truly is.
English is already hard enough to learn without newbies having something else to worry about. Besides, many native speakers of English already don’t know how to speak it properly without having to worry if “sun” is masculine, feminine or neutral.
Yes! I just like the idea of having grammatical gender in general, and there’s also some evidence that speakers of languages that have grammatical gender see the world more animistically.
Well, it’s not entirely gone is it? I mean we still call the Moon “she”, though in a literary sense, and luck is also a “she” (Lady Luck) and so on…
No, because English is becoming the dominant and pervasive lingua franca of humanity, we will have a case where people learning English as a second language may be faced with contradictions in grammatical gender, just like what happened in Northern England in the 700s-1100 CE.
We must learn from the past ^_^
i think its pretty cool. if we had it we would probably say how crazy life would be without it.
I’d much rather we bring back the formal plural/informal singular forms of address. “You” and “thou.” It would make conversations with strangers/superiors a little less awkward.
English with grammatical gender? She is such a stupid idea!
Seriously though, English has enough problems with being a German-French halfbreed. Let’s not romanticize Romanticizing it.
“Grammatical gender brings in sophistication”??? I wish I could understand that one.
As an English speaker living in Germany and trying to learn its (his? her?) language I say, in fact shout, down with gender nouns! I see no reason to have to know whether a table or a lump of coal is a boy or a girl. They should dump it along with their backwards numbers, as we did centuries ago.
@Captaeth: Well, is there any logical sense in replacing words “man” and “woman” with “male” and “female”? I don’t see any point in it, just “political correctness” (which IMVHO is not logical at all). And having inanimate object with grammatical gender is sometimes very poetic, such as French “la mer”, or “sea”, feminine.
Ending gender nonsense was, is and will be the English language’s great advantage. The arbitrary gender requirements hobbling so many other languages, from Russian to Hebrew, from the ancients to Nordic to Romanctic, all of them with different gender assignations, are not found in English. I don’t know the Asian languages and I’m not sure of Esperanto.
No, English is better off having natural, not grammatical, gender. If something is inanimate, there is no logical reason to consider that thing as masculine or feminine.
I think saying that engendered nouns are “stupid” is a rather odd and silly thing to say.
However they are extraneous, and don’t really add anything to the language apart from extra complexity. I prefer the streamlined and more modern approach to English.
Next we should take a page out of the Koreans’ book and remove plurals.
Grammatical gender does not add sophistication. It is pointless especially when discussing objects. Japanese and English are more intelligent in this way. Yet, in other ways English breaks it’s own grammatical laws more than nearly any other language.
I personally believe that the English language is complex enough without worrying about genders for our words. I’m content with referring to the sun as an ‘it’ and not ’she’. Language genders also imply that their are only two genders, which is a belief that is becoming more and more outdated as society becomes more aware of gender binary
The beauty of English is that it is easy to learn, thus lots of non native speakers around the world are able to successfully communicate. Introducing a complication like gendered nouns would make the language less easy to become quickly proficient in. After all the early mutations in the language were for good reasons i.e. to facilitate understanding. It would never happen either not at this stage in the propagation of English, gendered nouns are not very useful either, which is why they were left behind in favour of efficiency
@Capthaeth you can’t express such an opinion light-heartedly. You can’t call the languages that have gendered nouns stupid when they are older and and far richer than the English language. For example, Greek which is the oldest written and spoken language in Europe has gendered nouns. You can’t call languages stupid in any way, let alone the fact that one third of the English words derive from Latin and Greek that both have gendered nouns.
I think it would worse with grammatical gender.
Esabelle said “it would certainly make it more complex”, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, in fact i think it’s a pretty bad thing. I generally find it annoying to make things more complex than things really NEED to be, and that should be pretty obvious fact, in other words MAKING things (more) complicated (than they already are) is a stupid thing to do in most situations , The only good thing about making things more complicated than they need to is when you just want to impress people or something.
ALSO the main reason why I think grammatical gender is a bad idea is, like, well really there’s no point in having it there, and like, you know, what about third gender people like fa’afafine (look it up if you don’t know what that is), what would they use to speak English? both? that just makes it weird.
in the eyes of someone from, what i think, MY generation, or at least some generation in the future, really, the only thing that gender really has to do with, is your physical body, truly nothing else. It should be that way.
(sorry this comment is so fricken long it just made me really want to say this because I honestly find it weird how even 2 out of 4 thought so differently than this)
No matter how simple English grammar becomes, people still manage to get confused by it.
Careful. You’re showing your ignorance with such emphatic denouncement. Gendered nouns usher language into an even deeper level of understanding, poetry and subtlety. Take the noun SUBTLETY, for instance. The word itself has an inherent feminine quality. Adding gender allows for more precision and color in communication. Language is far beyond logic, my friend. Embracing the con’genital’ gender of inanimate objects surpasses logic, in other words, brilliant…
Is this why ships are referred to as women?
Also, not a good idea to bring it back, they already say that English is one of the most complicated languages in the world and you want to make it more complicated still?
Nice punchline at the end. I laughed. Because complex language equals beautiful language! There’s a word for the day: sarcasm.
As a native German speaker, I can testify firsthand that grammatical gender communicates absolutely nothing of value. All it does is make languages that have it more of a pain in the neck to learn for non-native speakers.
Wow, that is interesting.. I’ve heard that English can be one of the most difficult languages to learn as a second one… I’d imagine the fact that we don’t have genders helps. Glad I read this article!
I’m a native English speaker, but have lived in countries where Dutch, French, or Spanish were the primary languages. All languages have idiosyncracies that can make fluency difficult to achieve, but the ability to ignore gender when referring to objects actually helps make English both easier to learn and more syntactically direct. Gender neutrality removes an entire layer of complexity that can otherwise trip up both speakers and listeners.
The author betrays considerable ignorance. E.g. English is a Germanic language, not a Romance one; gender was dropped because the Saxons and Danes couldn’t understand each others’ gender-based declensions, not because the nouns had different gender.
Everything (nouns, pronouns) should be gendered; especially inanimate objectcs (or concepts), which are either created (surely for some reason/purpose) or named by human beings; for non masculine/femenine notions there is always neutral gender to fulfill lack of “genderness”. Btw europian mother languages -latin and greek- used gendered nouns, and some modern languages (Serbian and all slavic for sure, maybe others too) have even gendered verbs; it brings precision and sofistication. NB: defying logical sense is not stupid; it is logicless.
completely 100% agree with capthaeth.
could not have said it better myself.
Engliash is probably easier to learn because of not having grammatical gender. In foreign languages that I hve learned like French, German, Latin
Knowing which gender is often illlogical and has to be learned adding more effort to language learning with little gain in understanding or elegance.
Gendered nouns are illogical and have no use. They do not add meaning or precision to a language, and merely complicate it the language unnecessarily.
I’m more apt to agree with Capthaeth on this. While I like the concept and understand the function of gendered nouns in languages like Spanish, for English, ‘he’, ’she’ and ‘it’ are just fine. There really is no reason in English to say Suna (female sun with made-up Spanish) vs. Suno (male sun with made-up Spanish). The sun is just that, an object that has no genitalia, thus, there is no need to give it any.
A thought: Even Hata (female hat with made-up Spanish) vs. Hato (male hat with made-up Spanish) as a tool to immediately be able to tell if the hat is on a woman or a man isn’t necessary. “SHE is wearing a hat.” is fine. “The HATA is worn (the hat is on her head).” just sounds…odd.
Like every issue to date, there is a good and a bad side to having gendered nouns.
The good side would be that it makes reading easier if the gendered nouns were present to imply the gender of the speaker and it adds a level of complexity to the language that is useful.
However, the problem of inanimate objects and animals acquiring a genedered noun then comes into the picture, meaning that some will be contradictory.
It doesn’t make any sense to say that because someone thinks a language is more “sophisitcated” or smarter-sounding makes it better. Simplicity of use and communication is what makes English a great international language. Forcing gendered pronouns onto a language for pedantry is just silly.
English is a hard enough language to master as it is without throwing in gender specific words.
Gotta agree with Caphaeth here. Gendered nouns seem like a sophisticated idea, but few would argue that German, with it’s 3-Gender system (!!) is a more sophisticated language than English. I speak both languages fluently and English is far more nuanced and capable of effectively expressing complex ideas.
Well, English is defenitely NOT better with gendered nouns because then we would have a very hard time with it. Although the U.S. is different from many countries, I think we should keep it that way. In language, there is nothing we should do because in the past, things just “disappeared” without the king banning a word (not that the president needs to ban a word, the last thing we want is a king). Nobody should freak just because of language. English is unique.
Linguistically speaking, English is already a complex enough language to dissect and difficult enough to learn and grasp all its nuances.
I think languages can’t be good or bad. Nervertheless, having no grammatical gender makes English more easy to acquire for adults than for example German or French On the other hand that languages that have more than 20 different genders (Central Africa) can be acquired by babies shows that this does not really make the language as such easier or better.
I am currently learning Italian, and I can say without a doubt that gendered nouns are one of the most unnecessary aspects of any language. It doesn’t make a language any more or less sophisticated, and is a waste of time to have to learn. In addition, there is no actual need for gendered nouns, as a chair, for example, cannot be either male or female
The earliest recorded English had not two grammatical genders like, for example modern French, but three, masculine, feminine and neuter, in common with the other Germanic languages at the time and, of course, other members of the Indo-European language family, such as Latin, Greek, Irish, the Slavic languages, etc. Of the Germanic languages, only German, Icelandic and Faroese have retained all three. The others, apart from English, have two, either masculine and feminine, as in Dutch or neuter and ‘uter’, which is ‘either masculine or feminine’, as in Swedish.
Grammatical gender must not be confused with natural gender as they do not have much to do with one another. It is perhaps unfortunate that these three classes of nouns were given the names ‘masculine, feminine and neuter’, as ‘A, B and C’ would have been just as good!
English still has grammatical gender, it is just that it agrees nearly always with natural gender. But sometimes it does not. A ship is (or used to be) referred to as ’she’, a baby as ‘it’. And what about (male) ‘midwife’ or (male) ‘nurse’? Or the young woman training to be an ‘actor’? Is a cow ‘it’ or ’she’? As English clearly displays, this is no impediment and it (or she?) gets along fine as things stand. A native speaker, obviously, is not usually troubled by such things.
How difficult we find it to learn a foreign language depends greatly on which language or languages we already speak. An English speaker learning German might well moan about having to learn the grammatical gender of every noun (although in many cases the form of the noun indicates the grammatical gender) but a thought should also be spared for the poor German speaker having to come to grips with English spelling and English word order!
Language is always logical, it is the premises that are not always fully understood.
I love English because there is no hassle of determining or discovering gender of things (mostly pointless to have a gender for themselves). Well, to taste the difficulty with genders, I suggest people have a look at Arabic and German. Everything is gender-based and confusing. BTW, in Arabic chair is Masculine.
The subject pronouns he/she/it in Chinese are homophonous, and were even written identically before linguistic reforms at the beginning of the last century.
I live, work and study in China, and as my wife can get rather jealous at times, it can be handy when I talk about female friends/colleagues. For example I might say (in Chinese) “me and my friend went to the restaurant for dinner. I had noodles and ta (he/she/it) had dumplings”. Wonderful!!!!
I think english is a very boring language. Using gendered nouns won’t make it more interesting.
Most northerners I know don’t even use the articles “the” or “a.” For example:
“Ah went t’ shop” = I went to (the) shop
“i’m ‘avin ‘am sarnie wi’ ‘im” = I’m having (a) ham sandwhich with him
Do you think this is why genders disapeared up north first?
Speaking language with grammatical gender is like expressing your words through sex discrimination. It’s definitely illogical.
I believe that we should be looking to the future of the English language, not the past. Gender specific nouns do seem rather pointless. As illustrated above, in old English, the sun was referred to as a feminine object, when realistically; the sun is neither male, nor female.
Do you think it is possible that the future of English could make it possible to refer to something that is gender specific (i.e. a man or woman) without actually specifying gender at all?
For example we could say “He went to the library” or “She went to the library”, but we could also already remove the gender by saying “They went to the library”, however, they implies the plural. So lets say we had another English word which disregarded gender…for example “saeh” (“SIGH”-“EH”) COULD represent something as neither masculine or feminine. Therefore “Saeh went to the library” – singular “They went to the library” – plural.
(No particular reason for choosing “Saeh” as my random English word…its just an example of a word…they all had to come from somewhere!!)
What I believe is more important than this issue, is the fact that the way we spell certain words, and say certain words is getting worse.
For example “Jewellery”…how often do I/you hear certain people say “Jewlery”?? Personally I think this extremely lazy…and how long will it be before “Jewlery” is in the dictionary, simply because “the masses” are too lazy to say the word properly?
P.S. despite my rant, I do apologise if you find any spelling/grammar mistakes (apart from “Jewlery” – that one was on purpose!)
I don’t get the point of it.
It seems there is more gender equality in societies with gender neutral languages…Finnish & English being 2 examples….vs. Spanish and Arabic…
i think it doesnt really matter as far as the person understands it……
It would be pretentious to re-introduce gendered nouns after getting rid of them. We have proved that they add nothing to understanding and add even less to sophistication.
Capthaeth, are you saying that all the current languages in the world that do have gender, and the languages that gave birth to english tongue itself were spoken by stupid persons? If so, it is a very prejudiced point of view.
Actually English still has gendered nouns. It’s not as obvious, but to some extent it still exists. When one is talking about their car for instance: “I just washed her” or “She sure handles well. “
As a previous Air Force linguist (5 languages), I find the foreign languages with grammatical gender and “genderized” nouns to be more beautiful and challenging than the English language. That’s only My humble opinion, of course.
Good God, no. English is difficult enough with all its weird spellings without throwing in a different gender for each noun into the mix.
The essential goal of language is to deliver messages in the most succinct & efficient way possible. It’s pointless to arbitrarily make a language more complicated than it should be – especially for something as petty as perception of “class”.
Many people have the wrong impression of languages in general. Generally, anything that sounds ‘exotic’ to one’s native tongue is afforded a certain element of perceived sophistication. A few superficial individuals even go so far as to tattoo Chinese/Arabic/other non-Roman alphabet characters onto their bodies, with meanings that they don’t realize have a very pedestrian/everyday connotation in that language. Others, still, speak or write basic (often erroneous) phrases in various Romance/Latin languages to make something appear more “sophisticated”.
I believe that gender particles will eventually be dropped from all languages, because, in all honesty, they’re useless & illogical – merely artifacts of times past, when languages were less efficient at communicating a point. (believe me – I speak French and am currently learning Spanish & Italian – all three are languages with grammatical gender.)
If one wants to add “sophistication” to a language – or, in the case of gendered nouns, add character to an object – one can simply play around with various linguistic devices, such as pronoun/syntax changes, or variation of semantics/registers, as the great wordsmiths of the ages have done/continue to do with the tools that they are given, in languages that grow organically, rather than having artificial “style” latched onto them.
Perhaps this quote from the movie ‘The Legend of 1900′ best summarizes my point:
“Take a piano…there are 88 [keys]. They are not infinite. You’re infinite… And on those keys, the music that you can make…is infinite.”
Sometimes beauty lies in simplicity & elegance.
I think it would be better. It would then be easier for us to learn other languages that actually have gender & stuff. Plus, we would be smarter because we could remember all those things JK we are already pretty smart. But I think the gender thing should have been there. Obviously we can’t bring it back NOW but it would have been extremely cool to have been like that in the first place.
It seems that two groups of crude brutes who learned another language in cooperation (and domination) would better fit the definition of refinement or sophistication.
Gramatical gender is absurd thing and certainly It woud be more complex.
I tend to aggree with capthaeth. If anyone can tell me how giving gender to inanimate objects helps in someway to give more meaning to what the speaker is saying I would be interested in the argument. But to say it gives it complexity only in learning the language but not in discourse or makes it sophisticated in some way but for the sake of being sophisticated isn’t sophistication at all. With today’s world being as complex as it is the more straight and to the point language can be without using all of these things that really aren’t very uselful the better.
Not at all. Gendered nouns are ridiculous, like French where a leg is feminine, irrespective of whether it’s a ballet-dancer’s or a dirty rugby player.
Perhaps the most preposterous must surely be “Le Clitoris” (!)
How on earth can such a thing possibly be masculine?
There’s plenty of areas where English logic fails, but non-gendered nouns is not one of them.
no because we have been living with no grammatical gender for too long and it would be very confusing.
Native speakers wouldn’t care about growing up with or without gendered nouns. Native Latin speakers were able to learn to differentiate six different cases, so for the natives it wouldn’t be problematic. However, I think we should let languages develop naturally and not introduce something by force, which introducing gendered nouns would clearly do.
yes that would be very fun
I think that English would be even better if it had more gender neutral words. For example, one does not always know whether to say Mr., Ms., or even Mrs. because one may not know whether the person is a male, female, or married. Accordingly, it would be nice to have a title that is gender neutral, like Messrs.
I’d feel like a sir.
yes i do think that it would be very helpful to have gender ed nouns because look how great other languages are to speak and how easy it is to comprehend.
Agree with Cap.
It also explains our poor national number of people who can speak a foreign language.
I remember trying to learn French and that and reflexive verbs were killers!
Do you think English would be better with grammatical gender?
- – - – - -
No, our ancestors who dropped it were wise.
In my writing work, I’m always getting hung up by the “he/she” thing and I despise the low-rent cop-out of using the pluralistic “they” just to dodge that issue. What to do? I usually end up rewriting the piece to avoid it altogether, but that’s a royal pain. Any suggestions? Should we all switch to Esperanto? That’s what it was invented for, a simplified language for us all. Klingon, anyone?
It would be much easier to learn the language for those who speak those romantic languages such as French and German. It would also make us seem a little bit less like the odd balls out since most countries have gendered nouns. Besides, English sucks as a language in general.
No, English is better without it. Often, the genders for objects make no real sense. ex/ “le vagin” in French
No, grammatical gender would make English more confusing. How would you know whether the sun, moon, chair etc are male or female? When we want to use a gender pronoun like he,she etc for them, we can personify these inanimate objects.
English is great the way it is.
The amount of grammarical gender we already have in the English lanuage causes problems in the transgender community. Adding more grammarical gender would cause more problems in that area, so I’m against it. And I’m pro “ze”, an experimental gender neutral pronoun for animate objects.
I don’t support the idea of gendered objects. Sure, it definetly would be more specific and complex, but what is the point? It would have to be a new sort pf language and every single person in the USA would need to learn it. And why do objects need femininity or masculinity? I am not trying to be mean to those who do support this idea, I just don’t know why.
Having gendered nouns is pointless; nothing is clarified by making a word either masculine or feminine.
It makes about as much sense as colorizing words would; dress must be written in red, balloon must be written in blue, etc.
English is one of the easiest, if not the easiest, language out there. One of the reasons is the lack of gender nouns. The other one is that despite that English has a rich vocabulary, most people and the american culture, only use but a fraction of its full potential.
It’s very interesting if nouns had gender.
I don’t personally look at a chair and say, you know what, that should be feminine! English, due to its cobbled together history, is complicated enough without the addition of grammatical gender.
I’m portuguese and have studied french, spanish, and italian and never quite understood the purpose of grammatical gender; which gender should the welcome mat be?
I find it interesting that the comment above associated grammatical gender with sophistication. I assume that’s related to Americans looking at Europe as more sophisticated, European languages have grammatical gender, therefore it is more sophisticated.
Could you imagine? English is difficult enough as is, never mind adding grammatical gender into the equation!
Thank our lucky stars that Old Norse and Old English speakers grappled and then compromised and dismissed the worrisome gendering of objects and thus streamlined the nature of that most wonderful and expressive language we call English–language of Shakespeare! Its great beauty lies in its flexibility, and the loss of gender enhances that value.
There simply is no modern reason for gendered nouns. In these days of emails/texts/scientific language there is no room for the above or accents/cedillas/umlauts/circumflexes etc
I am bilingual. One of the languages uses grammatical gender, the other does not. The use grammatical gender only makes the language more difficult to learn. All languages conjugate verbs so gender assignment is unnecessary and confusing.
Saying that having gramatical genders is stupid is quite unpolite, especially considering that other things about English could be considered less intelligent. For example there is no difference between the various gramatical persons in verbal conjugations: I GO, you GO, we GO, they GO; I ATE, you ATE, he ATE, we ATE, they ATE, one is always obliged to specify who is going, or who was eating. English is so elementary, other languages (the stupid ones with gramatical genders) are, in other words, less approximate.
I agree with Capthaeth, though perhaps the reply was put in a blunt way. Gender neutrality is something that we should strive for – it helps to break the social constraints of both genders – and therefore is something that we should strive for.
Definitely ‘No”! Eliminating the rare misunderstanding caused by not having gendered nouns is not worth the extra complexity. I believe a language’s ’sophistication’ lies in it’s simplicity and lack of pointless complications. English needs to go the opposite direction, especially with respect to spelling. A slow transition is required to eliminate the confusing aspects that make English as a second language so hard to learn. For example the many different pronunciations of ‘ough’, ’s’ sometimes represented by the letter s and sometimes by the letter ‘c’ – there are many, many examples. There are hundreds of simplifications that could be done. An authoritative group could be set up, a long term simplification plan worked out, and recommendations sent to school systems for 2 or 3 changes per year. In a hundred years English could be a lot simpler. I know, I know – I live in a dream world
Wonder how it was decided that a chair was female, a hat was male and the sun is female? Who made those decisions and why? xxxo
The reason the English struggle to learn other languages is in part due to the absence of gender in our own language. I switched of from French as soon as I was told that pens were masculine and windows were feminine. It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now. If it’s true that introducing gender would be a good idea, one has to wonder why the rest of the world is learning English.
I’m a translator and a native speaker of Russian which also has gendered nouns.
I wish it didn’t.
The simpler the grammar, the better, except when there aren’t enough tools to express something precisely.
“Sophistication” is trash.
The real question is why the hell anyone ever thought that a chair was feminine.
“Sophistication” is a psychological construction and that terminology has no place in linguistics outside of a description of language attitudes. Complexity in language is like a character sheet in D&D: every language gets the same number of points but they’re distributed differently. English is not better and gender is not pointless; it’s a grammatical genre or class that can help in distinguishing words. We only call it “gender” because historically that’s how it got started.
What’s the point of gender nouns? Since when did nouns have anything to do with genders in the English language? Who CARES what gender we are; we’re all non-existent animals in the vast universe!
I agree with Capthaeth. Gender use in language is not only pointless(most times) but can be down right confusing or demeaning at other times. I was taught a little Spanish and am currently trying to learn Japanese. I hate it when someone tries to teach me how to say things in a feminine way. I would rather just learn the general language. I feel that trying to make me sound more feminine in another language is the same as trying to teach a girl English with a valley girl accent simply because it’s more feminine.
Not only that, gender is becoming more and more loosely defined in this age. How would you refer to someone that had a gender change, someone who was very androgynous, a hermaphrodite , or someone of one sex that identifies more with the opposite sex?
It makes the language much nicer and more beautiful. However the lack of gendered nouns, special forms for conjugation (besides the added “s” for he/she/it) and declension (besides singual and plural) makes English easy to learn.
Using grammatical genders is like expressing our words through sex discrimination. It’s pointless and defeats the purpose of talking. Seriously, get a life and live it.
Grammatical gender brings “sophistication”, Carlos? So you are saying that because I speak a language that has no grammatical gender (and my mother tongue is not English, by the way) it makes me unsophisticated? Thanks for that.
I think that the fact English does not have gendered nouns makes other languages that do that much more interesting. Gendered nouns may have originated from old animistic religions where human characteristics were ascribed to inanimate objects, and speculating on why certain objects were judged to be either female or male is fun.
For one thing, gender acts as a multiplier for many orthographic rules. You could’ve had two cases, now you have six.
“Yes, grammatical gender brings in sophistication.”
OK, let’s replace “the” (which is obviously too crude) with the masculine-form “thelo”, feminine-form “thela” and neutral-form “thili”. Then we could replace “a” (which is far too easy and plebeian) with the masculine-form “ulo”, feminine-form “ula” and neutral-form “uli”. We could then spend absolutely ages deciding on the grammatical gender system which is most compatible with every other language ! Such clarity ! Such elegant simplicity ! Such sophistication !
Grammatical gender is about as sophisticated (and useful) as the Vermiform appendix.
English is a complicated, bastardized amalgam of so many languages that has more exceptions than rules. People take advantage of it and Americans are especially sloppy with it, both in text and speech. I think if nouns were gendered we would likely not have some of the lazy shortcuts that we have now, and I think as a language it would be learned and spoken more precisely.
English is hard enough to learn already; why add another layer of complexity with gendered nouns? I studied German for 7 years and was near-fluent in it but could never master gendered nouns. It’s almost completely random and differs from language to language.
If anything, English needs to create an ungendered pronoun. Having to use “he/she” or “s/he” gets awkward and annoying, and “they” is a poor substitute.
Sure. Grammatical gender (one of many types of noun classes) offers much greater clarity, especially, for example, when a pronoun’s antecedent might not be clear. On the other hand, this convention would usher in yet another challenge in a language that already has a tremendous number of irregularities. The obsessive-compulsive grammar folks among us would go nuts trying to correct all the misused articles and pronouns, and the grammatically lazy or witless among us would go nuts trying to keep the genders straight.
Sophistication, Carlos? I think “complication” is a better description for gender in language.
In Spanish, “skirt” and “computer” are masculine and “tongue” and “television” are feminine; why? My high school teachers never knew. “It just is,” was the explanation. In Spanish, the code for gender was the ending: words ending in “o” were masculine and “a” and “ción” were feminine, but then there were exceptions, “la mano” for hand and “el agua” for water being two of them.
Then there is a Spanish word like “pared” (wall): just by looking at it, you can’t tell its gender. Are walls feminine or masculine? (Feminine, as it turns out.)
English’s eccentricity in spelling already complicates and “sophisticates” the language; we don’t need gender too.
I didn’t know that English once had gendered nouns, but that does explain some things. Ships, the earth, and countries are still feminine. But apparently the sun changed gender, because “Ol Sol” is referred to as a “he” in classic English poetry (see “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time”).
The law–which, in places, has been unaltered since the early middle ages–also has gender-specific nouns. For instance, a man who executes his will is a testator, but a woman is a testatrix. Likewise the administrator of an estate is an executor, if male, but an executrix if female. And “spinster” is the last surviving example of the Anglo-Saxon ending “-ster” which made a noun (spinner) feminine.
But, in all honesty, I’m glad that English eschews gender almost entirely. It’s hard enough for people to learn without also having to figure out which arbitrary gender we’ve given to all of our nouns.
I think American Sign Language has the right idea with pronouns. There are no genders at all. I also think English desperately needs a specific pronoun to refer to God.
I don’t think it would be better if English have grammatical gender! … it will mess thing up, I guess
Much simpler without gender.
Consider that contradictory genders are assigned in different languages.
For example; DER Mond in German
LA lune in French.
Anything that decreases ease of communication would be a bad thing. It’s hard enough sometimes deciphering slang across the country, or especially across the ocean. Add gendered nouns to the mix, and it would be a nightmare. Besides, some people can barely handle the language as it is…
I have to agree with Capthaeth… Why do something if its simply for the purpose of making it more complex? What possible benefit is there of gendered nouns? I’m fluent in french also, but while I do know french, I also know that when someone uses the wrong gender you judge them on their lack of french knowledge, but you still know what they mean, so is the point of gendering simply to create irrational complexities to judge ones sophistication? it would seem so. Is there any other positive purposes for using gendering? i would love to hear.
Anyway of course you understand what said without genders.
“English is better because…” the only people I’ve ever heard say this were monoglot English speakers. I’ve never heard a polyglot argue that any language was better than another. :-/
It makes logical sense to have gender if you are a speaker of a language that uses it. It’s a whole different way of thinking, not just speaking, which is something a lot of English speakers have trouble understanding. But it’s worth noting that gender often adds a preciseness not found in English, and that’s worth respecting, IMO.
For example, in Spanish “la radio”= what you listen to over the air waves, whereas “el radio”= the box that transmits the sound (or radius, like in math). If you’re going on a trip, you ask someone if they brought “el radio” so you can listen to “la radio” on the beach. That is actually much more precise, wouldn’t you say?
…and that’s one of many examples…
I love how English has no gender grammatically, it makes things much too convoluted to bring gender to inanimate objects! It’s part of the beauty of the English language that we don’t have pointlessly gendered words!
Yes, according to Carlos C., grammatical gender brings sophistication into the language and for Esabelle, it makes it more complex.
However, isn’t English sophisticated or especially complex enough? One letter may have several readings, some words have such awkward spellings and the language itself has undergone plethora of alterations over the course of its history. Trust me, English WITHOUT grammatical gender is way better than if it were to have it!
“True perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
I think we’ll find that language will continue to evolve in favor of simplicity.
No, English is far more advanced and sophisticated than the Romance languages now because it has no grammatical gender anymore. English has developed a tremendous amount of grammatical flexibility in modern times that has contributed immensely to it becoming a popular global language. The lack of grammatical gender makes it easier and quicker to communicate in English, to express messages with more conciseness and reach out to a broader segment of people using less words. Things not so easily achieved with the Romance languages. As someone fluent in both English and a romance language, I understand firsthand the cumbersomeness that grammatical gender places on a language. It limits its flexibility and makes it less sophisticated. Kudos to the English language for being a thoroughly modern language!
Ah, I am so happy with what Capthaeth has said. There is nothing to be gained from the allure of sophistication that comes from gendered nouns. It is an unrealistic, unnecessary and perhaps dilutive division of thought.
No , my language has gendered nouns and this just makes it arduous to learn. Yes , it does make it more complex , but that doesn’t mean it makes it better.
Carlos, do you seriously think it’s worth making the language unnecessarily more complex in the name of “sophistication?” I agree with Capthaeth that not having pronouns is the more logical route, and makes the language much simpler to learn.
If you look at linguistic studies of cultures, particularly those of Sapir and Whorf, with gendered nouns there is a pronounced difference in the gender divisions of those cultures. The grammar of a language shapes people’s perception of reality. A less gendered language has a more equalizing effect than experienced by a culture with gendered language.
If you really look at it we still use some gender reference in English, but it is more subtle and most of the references we use are feminine.
For example, a boat or a ship is usually referred to as She. This isn’t an accident as the gender correlates to other languages. Lady Luck is another one.
What other examples are there?
OMG no way! Let’s stay with the KISS principal. Keep it simple stupid!
You find gendered nouns “stupid” simply because it is not something of which you are accustomed. The French, for example, would find it quite natural to address a table (une table) as “elle”; it would not seem illogical. When my French correspondent came to visit me (in my Anglophone country), she sometimes referred to objects as “she” or “he” because the word “it” does not exist in the French language. Actually, she found “it” to be a little strange.
I cannot blame you for what you think; it is just due to the perspective you have as an Anglophone. Personally, I find that the differences are interesting: In language, perspective and otherwise.
I second the comment made by Capthaeth.
Furthermore, though many are too daft to understand it, there are genders above and beyond merely male and female. Gendered noun languages are too ancient to keep up with rapidly progressive cultures and countries.
Absolutely not! English is difficult enough to learn for those that are raised speaking it, let alone those that must learn it later in life. Should we go adding grammatical gender, we would be making it that much more difficult for those trying to adapt and thrive in America.
yes English should have gendered grammar again. It should regain the glory of all its former properties. It should return to exactly how Old English is and unlike all the ways in which Old Norse contradicted it, because Norse is an old and awful language used by clearly awful people.
We still have it to some degree as we refer to ships and cars, etc. as a “her.” I’m not sure what are the pros and cons to having grammatical gender, it seems simpler without it, but I’m not fluent in any other language and ignorant to the intricacies of it.
But there is something charming about referring to things with a gender!
how do you live with this
Gendered nouns make a language needlessly complicated and is a barrier to multilingualism.
I think English still has too much gender! We need to lose the gendered pronouns as well! Grammatical gender adds nothing but unnecessary complexity. Using the plural pronoun to avoid the gendered singular isn’t the answer either.
@Carlos C. Languages with gramatical gender might seem sophisticated because they sound different, but there’s nothing sophisticated about needless complexity. The purpose of language is to effectively communicate. How, exactly, does grammatical gender make for better or clearer communication? The sun is not feminine (nor masculine). It adds nothing to pretend gender makes sense here.
Pirates/ sea captains still use gendered pronouns for inanimate objects, right?
She was a mighty ship who faired all seven seas!
Why would we want to complicate our language (even more than it is now)? Why would an object even need a gender? Objects don’t have reproductive organs, how could they possibly have a gender? Just plain goofy.
No thank you! This was one of my least favourite part when learning French. It makes no sense to me why an object/thing needs to be assigned a gender.
I totally agree with Capthaeth!
There is no need to make things more complicated.
I don’t think a language can be “better” because of gendered grammar. English is complicated enough with gender neutral articles such as “the” “a” “an”. Adding a gender to denote every object or thing would complicate the language especially since we don’t have clues or hints as to what is masculine and feminine like for example… Spanish. Words ending in “a” are feminine and words ending in “o” are masculine (although there are obviously some exceptions).
The use of “she” is still commonly
used in reference to items such as
nautical vesselssuch as ships, boats and
Still commonly used with reference to
the nautical boat or ship and propelled
devises used for our ease. I have always
been rather puzzled at my aversion to it’s use.
Perhaps it’s the association to the state of
exclusive ownership and power over all
things. Something to think about before it’s
Gendered nouns are inane ancient animism. Let the French keep their female feathers and tables. I prefer my females human.
Sorry for the broken sentences. I’m not used to posting engthly
comments via phone.
Honestly, yes and no. It would make learning other romance languages less of a challenge because the hardest part for me to comprehend were gendered nouns (I still just use masculine for everything unless corrected), giving me at least the ability to learn several more languages similiar to my own. But also, no because we were smart enough to know it was futile to begin with.
It is true that, as Capthaeth says, that inanimate objects having gender makes no logical sense. Nevertheless, I often think it would be cool to have gendered nouns in English. It makes the language more interesting, as well as adding characterization to inanimate objects. I find gendered nouns to be one of the most fascinating things about learning a foreign language – in my case, French. I like to wonder how things that have no affinity to either sex become gendered….like, what could make a chair, _la chaise_, feminine? I suppose it’s silly, but it’s fun to think about. (Also, if English still had gendered nouns, it would be easier to learn other languages. :p)
All “old” languages I’m aware of have/had gendered nouns. I feel like that makes our English a very modern, newfangled language. And I don’t particularly like that. :p
What Capthaeth said.
So English is better with all of it’s rules that have more exceptions than not? And it’s better even though it’s the most difficult of the languages to learn because of the countless idiosyncrasies that exist? English must be “better” because we speak it in America and we’re the best right? lol
I couldn’t agree with Capthaeth more. I’m sure there are various spurious arguments supporting gender assignment for nouns, however the simple fact is it overcomplicates language and hampers communication. Seeing as languages seeks to aid communication between people I fail to see how such a pointless complication serves this purpose.
It is one thing that is good about the English language!
i 100% agree with Capthaeth. i think English is easier to learn because of the lack of gendered nouns and all of the endings that other languages seem to have. i took Latin in high school and remember there was something like 540 endings for various nouns, verbs, etc. Now if we could just change English to be easier phonetically and for spelling…
Wow, this is really cool to know. I love history and I love grammar, so this blog post really hit the spot for me!
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
One of the most difficult parts of learning a new language can be memorizing the list of seemingly random masculine and feminine (and even neuter) nouns. Sometimes, the gender makes some kind of sense (hat being masculine in French isn’t completely inexplicable), but others do not seem to have logic behind them (why is chair feminine?). I know that as a student I had to take a little extra time and a lot of extra practice to make sure I used the right article.
English is confusing enough; we have rules, but the rules aren’t hard and fast (oftentimes, it seems the exception IS the rule). Many people learning English find it to be difficult because of this and a myriad of other reasons (all the borrowed words, phonetic spelling isn’t always as phonetic as it seems, etc.). English would be nearly impossible if we added gendered nouns to the mix.
Still English language is less usage of grammatical genders than any other language, but I think it is yes, it would be better to still use the grammatical gender in English.
[...] ‘Old English Gender’ issue, Leaves No Room to Rest — RESTROOM what have you — Matters not the best — [...]
“In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl.”
The novelty of it would make me think it’d be nice simply because it’s different. However, I understand that in an alternate universe I’d be thinking the same thing about ungendered nouns.
Some of the other responses say how English is better for its ‘logical’ lack of gendered nouns or how they bring sophistication to a language. The linguist in me reads these and understands that the phenomenon of phonetic symbols for things is not one that obeys logic or sophistication.
On the second to last paragraph, “the hot word” says that the pronoun “it” has a gender, but I don’t see how is that.
A note to “Capthaeth”, you are right about how illogical is to have genders on things, like we have in Spanish, thank you for pointing something that I have never noticed. But English also has its own “stupidities” to use the same word as you. One example of those, related to gender, are the words “friend” and “cousin”, it would be helpful to know, when somebody refers to them, if they are male or female.
I think grammatical gender would be good in certain topics and situations. But not with inanimate objects, like calling the sun a female. I agree there is a subtle sophistication added, but it’s also more informative than without. Like with Spanish, we can add the feminine article to say “amiga” or “amigo” to keep things clarified.
But, I have to say, I’m proud of my Vikings for coming in and chaning yet another thing as well… That is my family line..
I agree with Capthaeth, and would even like to see prevelance of gender neutral pronouns. (I personally favour New Spivak)
It is what it is and I think we should be happy with how it has evolved. It is a very interesting and complex language as is. Gender would not make it more sophisticated, just different.
Gender nouns would NOT make English better! I have been trying to learn Spanish, and gender nouns have been a huge obstacle. It’s been even harder to explain to my younger sibling that the sun isn’t really a boy, that’s just the way Spanish is spoken. Confusing!
I actually know Old English, and gendered nouns really do serve no purpose whatsoever in it. At least the various types of strong and weak verbs work well in poetics. Grammatical gender didn’t even correspond to the biological sexes, as one simply used “mann” for all people. And lastly, the idea of gender has evolved so much in the past hundred years that trying to simply put it at “male” and “female” is barbaric.
No, grammatical gender leads the culture of the language to much more defined gender roles. I think it’s retrograde.
Yes, English is fortunate not to have gendered nouns. People who learn English as a foreign language note how simple the grammar is because of this. Thank you to the people who sought out simplification and dropped gendered nouns!!
WHAT IS THE REASONING BEHIND MAKING ANYTHING MORE COMPLEX THAN NECESSARY? WHO CARES IF THE TABLE IS A GIRL OR A BOY?
TO ME IT REFLECTS STUPID-DITY, (AS RADAR WOULD SAY).
Sounds like it would be fun.
I wonder how come grammatical gender has survived in so many languages. Such an illogical feature should have disappeared as it did in English 900 years ago.
I agree with “seo Capthaeth”… but i will not call it stupid… maybe…? pointless…
Exactly @ Capthaeth!
I agree with Capthaeth! I’m not a fan of gendered nouns. In German, a cat is feminine and a dog is masculine. It’s silly to me!
gendering nouns still applies to vehicles in some senses; i don’t know a boy who doesn’t call his car or boat a woman.
Seconds Captheath. Also, an English language with gendered nouns would leave the door open to further discrimination.
No – efficiency and ease of acquisition are more important than sophistication when considering a language’s value in our present global economy (not to mention its changes of long-term survival).
I dislike gender because of the needless complexity it gives rise to.
Ahem if I may say, in english, there is still a gender for boats, isn’t it? They are feminine…and according to culture the symbol behind some objects make them feminine or masculine…so it’s not so stupid, I think.
Capthaeth–I agree 100%. Inanimate objects cannot have GENDER. It’s pointless! I’m learning French, and I love it, but it would be a lot less stupidly difficult if we didn’t have to memorize all the genders.
She would be better.
I speak german, though english is my first language. But the german gendered nouns make it very hard to learn because there is no pattern and no rules. The mother-tongue german speakers just know it because they grow up with it. So I am glad we don’t have it. It is part of the reason english is one of the easiest languages to learn!
I agree with john doe. I have studied languages like French, it causes needless complexity that doesn’t make any sense. A chair is not male or female. It is a THING!
I’m learning French. English is better off without gender-based nouns. Trust me on this one.
I have to say, I’ve studied Old English recently and the gendered nouns and verbs can be a bit of a pain. Love the language but trying to learn the gendered endings wasn’t easy. I’m not sorry modern English lacks this convention
I love that English doesn’t have gendered nouns; gender is a social construct, and it’s often needlessly constricting. Why try to fit the richness of a language into binary opposition? I have never understood this in other languages–glad we lost it so long ago!
yes it would sure make conversations < interesting
i wounder what gender a sword is
Seems to be pointless personification in regards to the inanimate; yet it would make the English language a hell of a lot more romantic!
As an english Canadian forced to speak Portuguese here in Brazil, I can assure you, NOBODY wants to revert english back to irrational gendered nouns!!!!! I love Brazil, but can´t stand Portuguese!
The mania (my opinion) for gender-neutrality has unfortunately killed a number of very useful conventions involving gender in English. For example, the gender of personification is (or rather was) feminine. Ships and nations are two common examples of non-human things that would be referred to as “she” or “her” rather than “it” or “that.” This was the standard for most of the last century (I’d like to find a collection of old AP style guides or similar handbooks to get a fix on when gender-specific personification fell out of favor). It is also the reason that hurricanes formerly had female names — not due to sexism or “hell hath no fury,” but because the storm was personified with a name and personification implied female gender.
The collective or non-specific gender term was masculine. This is the source of the fuss over gender-specific or sexist language and is what has led us to inelegant constructions such as “he/she,” “his or her,” “they” referring to a single person whose gender is not defined, or archly alternating between genders throughout the piece. I usually take the cowards way out in my writing and find a way not to use a non-gender specific pronouns at all.
Having taken Russian (1 yr) American Sign Language (2 yrs) German (5 years) Portuguese (2 yrs – including foreign residence) – I can honestly say that anyone can adapt to the use of grammatical gender. However, the pace at which we communicate these days, it is unlikely that English Speakers will find an economical reason to start saying things like, “Give she chair to him.” or “I read he book you gave me yesterday.” Honestly, does the gender we assign to a chair or a book really add value to our communication?
I think it is a bit silly because something that is not alive can not have a gender because it isn’t alive! So why should we make these things have genders? In French a bow tie is un noeud papillon (masculine) and in Spanish it is una corbata de lazo (feminine). Already this makes confusion especially to a French person trying to learn Spanish or the other way around. It adds to much confusion to languages, English is already one of the hardest languages to learn. In conclusion, I say no
I think that applying gender to nouns would only be suitable when we come across homonyms for ease of distinction. However, context is usually enough to ascribe the correct meaning to the noun.
I think boats and vehicles are commonly called “she” because it’s typically men that own them. Throughout history men have been thought to “own” their wives and daughters, men could buy and sell them just as you could a boat. Saying “she” also suggest an intimate relationship and that the “she” is something to be protected.
I also think adding gendered nouns is an unneeded complexity for new speakers of the English language.
Please realize that gender does NOT relate to the sex of an object: it refers to its FAMILY. Hence the word “gender”. Do we need it in English? No. I’ve never figured why other languages still used them. And they make no sense sometimes: a tie in French is feminine, but a purse is masculine. And in some languages such as German, word endings give no clue to gender, unlike Greek and Latin, which are fairly consistent with few exceptions.
A girl is referred to ‘it’ in German because while she’s still a girl, she hasn’t matured sexually – her breasts are not fully developed, her hips are not wide, etc. It’s not disrespect for the girl, it’s just that, in German terms, maybe in the German mindset, she simply cannot be classified as a ‘woman’, a female. Try to widen the space in your head and take a little time to understand the mindsets of speakers of different languages first before pulling out such harsh statements against them.
Gender in language is unrelated to natural gender, as pointed out by aodhán mac fhoirís. It’s just an arbitrary label for a group of ‘like’ words. In fact, gender just means ‘type’ in the broadest sense. I agree – let’s call them A, B, C, etc.
However, gender increases information redundancy as multiple words in an utterance must agree with one another. This can increase specificity in some contexts where other information is absent. Consider, ‘Buy it’ vs. ‘Comprala’. There is added information in the Spanish that is not present in the English. Sometimes that makes a difference; sometimes it doesn’t. There is almost always a way to add the missing information, but the gender encoding is one that strikes a balance between expressiveness and verbosity. Depending on the information need, it can be an efficient way to express just what’s necessary.
The same argument applies for all classes of words, including gender, plurality, shape, animate vs. inanimate, reliability of info, part-of-speech declensions, etc. What might appear as ‘more complicated’ to the foreign observer is just a set of internally consistent and systematic devices to provide useful information.
Asking laymen whether a language would be better off by having gendered nouns is akin to asking the same people whether we’d benefit from a purple sky – completely pointless.
As long as a language is able to communicate, it doesn’t really matter how it’s built. If English needed gendered nouns it’d would have them.
I wish linguists would write these articles.
For a fun example, let’s look at my previous post once it’s been stemmed and see how much English already relies on changing word endings for functional purposes:
Gender in languag is unrel to natur gender as point out by aodh n mac fhoir s It s just an arbitrari label for a group of like word In fact gender just mean type in the broadest sens I agre let s call them A B C etc Howev gender increas inform redund as multipl word in an utter must agre with on anoth Thi can increas specif in some context where other inform is absent Consid Bui it vs Comprala There is ad inform in the Spanish that is not present in the English Sometim that make a differ sometim it doesn t There is almost alwai a wai to add the miss inform but the gender encod is on that strike a balanc between express and verbos Depend on the inform need it can be an effici wai to express just what s necessari The same argument appli for all class of word includ gender plural shape anim vs inanim reliabl of info part of speech declens etc What might appear as more complic to the foreign observ is just a set of intern consist and systemat devic to provid us inform
(I used the Porter Stemmer at http://qaa.ath.cx/porter_js_demo.html)
Gendered nouns are nothing more than an arbitrary allocation of anthropomorphism. And to be honest, this can be deleterious. Our naming of the things around us is quite often our basis for knowledge, which is really only secondary to what the actual object is in reality. The more we confuse ourselves by adding arbitrary concepts, the less likely we are to interpret the universe as it actually is.
I speak Portuguese fluently and Portuguese uses grammatical gender. It’s so much harder, but it sound prettier. If a word ending in an “a”, it will most likely be a feminine noun, but if a word ends in a “o”, “ao”, or “e”, it will most likely be a masculine noun.
For example: Meu ombro = My shoulder
Minha perna = My leg
“Meu” is used before a masculine noun and “minha” is used after a feminine noun. The both mean “my”.
Another example: A janela = The window
O sapato = The shoe
“O” and “A” mean “the”. “O” is masculine and “A” is feminine.
English is so much easier for people in foreign countries to learn than for an American to learn a foreign language because English doesn’t use grammatical gender while Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, etc. does.
Thanks for reading this by the way.
I agree, it makes it all so complex and stupid.
English is perfect the way it is. How would people even sit down a memorize all the genders? Come On!
Oh thank God for those Norse invasions savings us from who knows how many more years of sexism !! … That is my least favorite part of a language class…I can understand most conjugations over the absurd decision over whether a chair iss feminine or masculine…
I think it would be kind of weird, but cool at the same time.
– - she referring to the sun. LOL
ya like i will b soo proud of u
All language should be genderless (btw: there are more than two genders).
Just say no to the binary!
The English language at the time we used gender nouns bore very little resemblance to the language which we use today. The loss of the genders was a necessity when the descendants of King Alfred re-conquered the Danelaw (the viking settlement areas).
At that time English was a very heavily inflected language with many declinations (like Latin or German) and THREE gender forms rather than two (again, as modern German). Comparing Old Norse/Danish with Anglo Saxon would be akin to comparing Italian and Spanish or Portuguese but with the added complexity of the declinations and the gender clash. Removing the genders helped the two ’sides’ a communicate better.
Furthermore, the English language absorbed many Viking words such as window (coming from wind-eye) but more importantly the adopted words had different qualities. So the Viking root words were ’skin’ (F) and ‘meat’ (M), while the Saxon equivalents were ‘hide’ (M) and ‘flesh’ (F).
Whilst dropping the ‘gender’ the ‘Feminine’ words became the words we use for people and the ‘Masculine’ words now describe animals.
It would bring more of a challenge to use gender… there’s really no point to it. Saying “She Moon” or “She Chair” would be quite hard getting used to and yet again, pointless.
i agree with john. i take french in college and we have masculine/feminine conjugation. its really annoying.
We so still do this some. For instance, when refering to a ship, we say she. As in “Isn’t she a beauty?” This occurs with cars too.
Kk, you didn’t PROVE anything. You only said that French is romantic, you are learning it, mentioning some guy. But in your examples, you did PROVE why gendered nouns are bad. So good job.
Gender is usually nice… because mostly, it’s all girls!
And girls are EPIC.
The genderation of nouns is idle meandering religious sexism: I’m gladdened to think the English language so-long-ago-resigned idle meandering religious sexism, to poetry: the storm, she’s a ‘bute’; the butter, she melts; the car, she rides…
While, having learned French most of my life, I do agree that gendered nouns do make things seemingly unnecessarily complicated, I think a change back to it could be aesthetically pleasing, and bring in the need to re-educate the younger generations in grammar and other formal rules of the language.
What I see to be the degeneration of what used to be a beautiful and rich language makes me terribly sad, and bringing gendered nouns back would be a useful excuse to bring back the quality and quantity both of English.
Logic, I’m afraid, has nothing to do with it in my mind. As a writer, and an aspiring formal linguist and teacher, language to me is not just functional but also formal, and it would be a LOT more fun to study if it was prettier, don’t you think?
(for those of you who want logic and ease-of-acquisition, why don’t you just split off from English? We could have “Folk/Standard” and “Business” English. Folk/Standard for those of us who care about our linguistic heritage and the aesthetics of language, and “Business” for you economists and people who want to be lazy)
I think that it is a great thing to not have the gendered nouns. Gender is not inherent, and it is unreasonable to place it into a language. I have quite an interest in language, and I think that gendered pronouns can be beautiful and poetic, but language’s primary use it to convey information. In all practicality, we should remove as much complication as possible.
P.S. #2. The other half of the statement “Instead of using the articles “the” or “a”,” doesn’t even make sense: Definite and indefinite, have been around since the earliest tonguage; H’ and Kh’, e.g. Han and Khan/Khon, definite and definitive, declined to indefinite and definite, So, when did English ever not-have, these…?
Yes, it would be better if English nouns had gender. As English is at this time, the referent for the word “it” is sometimes vague. Complex sentences would be more easily interpreted like they are in Latin and ancient Greek.
I agree that english has poor speling logic. We shoud all start speling our words foneticaly and tell anyone who says that is incorect to go stuf it.
i think we should vote
but having the gender back would honor the ancient languages
but if people are getting lazy, they would not want or care to preserve the origins
Sorry that was bad punctuation.
I wanted to say haha to you then tell you that phoebe, Laura, and I will be soo proud.
happy sisters right??
No… Jk we nevr get along…
I think English is complex enough as it is.
I don’t if we’ll be better off, but English grammar would definitely get much more complicated than it already is.
Thankfully, the English language did away with the pointless genders. Trust me, I’m learning French and German and I don’t see any beauty in having to think of the gender of an inanimate object. Asian languages (at least the Southeast Asian ones) are much easier in this respect.
This also makes English a lot easier to learn. But it’s STILL not easy in other departments! English imo is one of the hardest languages to properly spell/read. The “ou” diphthong/digraph can be pronounced in so many ways. Though (oh), through (oo), bough (ow), rough (uff, and where did the F come from?!), ought (uh), etc. That’s just one example. There are many more letters that are extremely confusing for a learner; not to mention the fact that English does not clarify which syllable is stressed (e.g. CO-ro-lla-ry or co-RO-lla-ry?).
Gender still exists in other languages, such as Spanish and French.
We are not too stupid to figure this out, if we were, bilingual people who speak English and another language would not exist. If we were too stupid, learning a second language with gendered nouns would not be possible. I am living, breathing proof that it is possible. I speak English, Spanish, and am currently learning French.
english isn’t bad enough?
by the way… i don’t believe the gendered languages are giving genders to THINGS, but rather to WORDS. it isn’t that the moon has gender, but that the words lune, luna, moon, etc have gender because of their construction. i’m not sure; a linguist will have to study and confirm that.
meanwhile, i’m against languages having gender-specific words for use when talking about people or oneself. most times online, i prefer to project a gender-neutral or at least gender-ambiguous identity. this is not possible in gendered languages when one has to use different words/endings depending on one’s gender.
yes so we can be mare like the French language
I’m still having problems with metrics. Don’tender change to gender. To confusing at my age. But a very esting article.
We kind of still do that. Alot of people refer to their car as her, just a less formal approach
I think it would be good to have different words in our vocabulary but who would acually use it and yes it would be easeir to understand differnt languedges but its also making the english laguedge more coplicated than it needs to be and already is.
I think English should of stayed with gender nouns. Yes, it would make English more complex, but humans aren’t stupid. They can learn things very easily, as well as adapt. Heck, humans can adapt to the moon less than 2 months, and come back to Earth and adapt less than 2 weeks!! We the BOMB. Even better than aliens.
Besides I think referring to the sun as ’she’ is rather cute. And this would also help us to relate to other languages as well.
“(for those of you who want logic and ease-of-acquisition, why don’t you just split off from English? We could have “Folk/Standard” and “Business” English. Folk/Standard for those of us who care about our linguistic heritage and the aesthetics of language, and “Business” for you economists and people who want to be lazy)”
Gender is just a way of dealing with nouns of different endings. In my experience, masculines end in a consonant, and feminines in a vowel. The association of male/female to the nouns probably came after the grammatical distinction historically. The grammatical distinction is unnecessary in a language that lacks rich declension and conjugation (English), and the gender distinction is imposed on the speaker rather than created by them. English is freer for it.
Ok I seriously can’t believe that some people who’ve commented actually believe that the fact that a noun is grammatically gendered has anything to do with the “genitalia” of the noun. Grammatical gender is a lovely way of expressing complex forms of agreement that native English speakers either get too lazy to be concerned about or, more likely, never learned in the first place. As a student of French, I can say that I really only began to understand English grammar through learning la grammaire française and the grammatical gender is more than just a means of complicating the language. For instance, in English, one could say “He brought it to them,” and one would have to rely on context clues to decipher what “it” means, especially if there were multiple nouns mentioned that “it” could mean. What did he bring? The dog (m.)? The money (m.)? The car (f.)? The grammatical gender is a means to specify whether the “it” was le (m.) or la (f.), serving both as a tool for achieving clarity of thought as well as injecting the language with a subtle finesse. These are my two cents.
Another interesting point about language is that the language we speak fundamentally shapes the lens through which we interpret and understand the world around us. Language is the means through which we transmit culture. It’s like that story about how the Eskimos have hundreds of words to describe the phenomenon snow, while, being a native Floridian, I can manage on about 4 or 5, like sleet, blizzard, hail, flurrie…etc. In French, some careers change gender whether it’s a man or a woman performing the job, such as pharmacien/-ienne, while other words do not change their gender regardless of the gender fo teh person holding that position. For instance, the word for president is masculine, le president, and even if there were a female president, she would be referred to as Madame le president, but actually that wouldn’t work because that is the term used to refer to the wife of the president. Yeah I know I said that the gender is a grammatical component and does not necessarily reflect the actual gender of the object, but in some cases, it does, and more importantly, it reflects the socio-cultural understanding of the word.
OK I’m done thanks for letting me ramble.
I agree giving gener to inanimate objects is pointless, but in the other hand, things like professions could use the gender. When talking about your teacher for example, you wouldn’t need to go out of your way to explain it’s a her or a he. Think teacherette for female conjugation haha
I think that some people aren’t thinking this through. They are saying that it would make English more complicated, but, in reality, it would make more sense to people learning it as a second language.
English is very complicated as is, and it has some general rules with ten million exceptions we’re supposed to magically know. Being an American, a lot of people don’t want to learn anything else, they think the world should learn English before they have to learn anything else.
Giving words a gender is nonsensical. There would be a complicated transition period, where people would eventually start using the genders more and more, and then it wouldn’t be a problem. People would say the genders as second-nature.
It would be hard, and not necessarily worth it. So why bother?
We DO have a gendered noun:
Much better off without gendered nouns. I wish we had a unisex 3rd person form when the sex of the person is not defined to save us from “he or she”.
The Russian language has three genders: masculine, feminine and “middle” or “neutral” gender. It is interesting that Swedish language also has neutral gender, but it does not have masculine and feminine, having “common” gender instead.
In Russian, genders are more or less easy to understand because they are largely defined by noun’s ending in nominative case. Like, if the noun ends with consonant it is masculine, if it ends with vowel it is feminine. There are other rules, but basics are simple.
Why not? I think it would be cool.
Tables are female
I would not want English to adopt gendered nouns for many of the reasons already mentioned. I like Japanese which lacks not only gendered nouns but also plurality, and that hasn’t prevented it from being a very sophisticated language.
No! English is hard already! I think this is pointless.
Oh yes, the English language needs more pointless, illogical rules that don’t follow any set pattern. Let’s just further complicate our language for the sake of it possibly looking prettier to some people.
And there’s no need to get all up in a huff because someone thinks gendered nouns are stupid. No one said English was the god of all languages for its lack of gender. It has its pros and cons just like any other language.
Well said, Capthaeth!
@Hugh There are several things wrong with your argument that need pointing out. English is commonly considered the hardest language in the modern world to learn. Also, conjugation generally makes learning a language easier. I am currently learning Spanish, and by knowing how to conjugate, all I need to know is the general verb, and I can create all the past, present, and future versions of it, as well as assigning ownership.
For example: Hablar – To speak. Through conjugation, I can make hablo, habla, hablas, hablamos, hableis, and hablan. And I can do that with past and future tenses as well. All by knowing “hablar”.
Also, English contains many regular and irregular verbs. In fact, the most commonly used verb, “to be”, is an irregular verb. One last thing I would like to point out is that English has the most ridiculous rules in regards to grammar. There are over 30 rules for pronouns alone.
The awesome part about linguistics is that linguists don’t take languages and give them a rating on a scale. They don’t say, “Spanish is the best language because it follows concise rules and has gendered nouns” and they don’t say, “English is the best language because it has more words than any other language in the world.”
Linguists DESCRIBE language. They do NOT prescribe. It’s what I love about the field. Grammar nazis and linguists are totally different and a linguist would never say, Latin-based languages are superior to English because they use gendered nouns. And though I may have my own opinion about my preference for English or my enjoyment of gendered nouns or my dislike of the Valley Girl use of “like” as a hedge, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate to its fullest extent the complexity of the development of every language. Including the abandonment of things such as gendered nouns and the widespread adoption of words such as “like” as fillers.
And you have to think about the way that the lack of gendered nouns affects us. It’s awesome to think that we are just a little different in the way we perceive the world simply because the language we use mostly sees no need to assign genders to everything. I think the new Fiat 500 commercial with the sexy woman who is really a Fiat 500 car is just… awesome. The fact that we have this remnant of genderization that assigns cars as female is an interesting cultural concept. Cars are a sign of power and desire, but at the same time, they’re dangerous. Just like women.
Language evolves just as cultures evolve. It’s so stinking cool to see what path it has taken.
But yeah, having gendered nouns would make life more exciting. Also, more complex.
I think gendered nouns are pointless and confusing, especially for non-native English speakers. I have many friends from China and India. Their native languages do not have separate words for “he” and “she”. Even referring to people by gender-specific pronouns is confusing for them; it would be 10x worse if we had gendered nouns!
Oh, yes! Let’s have a grammatical gender in English to add more “volume”!
Let’s cause more miscommunication and misunderstandings!
That is the purpose of language, after all!
..enough sarcasm yet?
I think that the english language should of kept gendered nouns, it would make it much easier to learn new languages, and I would really love to speak old english! It feels like it was an entirely different language.
Oh no! I’m still having difficulty with grammatical gender in French.That’s enough for me. Don’t make the problem more complex,please!
It is good that we don’t have that. The less complicated a language is, the better, because people go straight to the point and get things done instead of waisting time talking about nothing. English: shorter, straight to the point. Spanish: way more complex, nothing gets done
Having genders assigned to words is complicated. I speak German, and that is one language that would be much easier to learn if it did not have grammatical gender. She, he, it- Simple enough. Let’s not complicate it, ne? People who are saying that it would be a good idea to have gendered words obviously don’t speak a Romance language.
I’m not sure about whether English would be better, but it would probably be a lot harder for those whose primary language is a language other than English that doesn’t use gender specific words.
Agreeing with Capthaeth. Gendered nouns are entirely pointless, and complicate the process of conjugation. Why would an object be of a certain sex? There’s no sound basis for it. I resolve that language is more efficient without gendering, and the argument for ’sophistication’ seems extremely egocentric, self-righteous and pompous. Language isn’t for showing off. It’s for communicating and understanding one another. The simpler the grammar, the better.
“It” is a gendered pronoun?
Gendered nouns don’t really serve any purpose. I don’t see why it would be any more efficient to give a gender to every noun. I’ve studied romance languages like Spanish and French, as well as Japanese. Both English and Japanese are much more simplified by the fact that nouns and adjectives don’t have to agree in gender AND number. It’s even more pointless in French seeing as most plural versions of nouns and adjectives are pronounced the exact same way anyway.
It is interesting to note that English too was once so very gender specific and we thought that other languages apart from English had gender specific words…..
This is an eye opener….I like it. Thanks
No way. I’m in french Immersion, and it’s a pain in the butt to remember which are which! 11years of studying it, and I still can’t remember most of the time…
A chair is a thing, not a “she”. I’ve always thought applying a gender to a thing was stupid.
I’m glad English did away with it. Seriously, the point of language is to communicate. How does it facilitate communication to apply arbitrary genders to inanimate objects?
“Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken!”
We still call certian things “she”
Gender is simply an unnecessary convention of european languages. The advantages of English is the gender neutrality , conjugation simplicity, and its rich vocabulary, in comparison to other european languages. Why would anyone want to go backwards ? Maybe people who like gendered nouns also want to go back and use the Roman number system instead of the Arabic number system? Come on now, let’s not be silly, Roman numerals are only good for grandfather clocks.
Now, the next step forward… if only we could only simplify English grammar & spelling….
Personally, I find that, while it is an interesting idea, it would be unwise to begin using grammatical gender. Already we have people who tend to think of cats as female and dogs as male, even when looking at a male cat, they say she, or a female dog, he. It does not make sense, and it is completely incorrect. In my opinion, we should not consider anything to be a certain gender by class or species, because when we see a male animal which is usually considered a feminine animal, we only manage to confuse things. When it comes to inanimate objects, technically, the problem would be different, but the act of adding genders to objects could easily lead to adding genders to species of animals, which does not work.Besides that, when it comes to learning a new language, while it would make the concept easier to grasp, what happens when you try to learn a new language that does not have the same grammatical gender for a fair number of items. While one language may have cats as female, another may say they are male, it isn’t difficult for such an occasion to occur, you have to admit. Because of these two factors, I believe that grammatical genders are a bad idea.
If gendered objects are so illogical could those who want to Vulcanize human speech PLEASE explain why they think it necessary to repeat the phrase “gendered objects are illogical.” Even Spock would only need to say that once and would find it rather illogical to repeat it with such emotionalism.
If you have something to add on the subject then add it. Because it is illogical to simply repeat.
English would definitely be a sweeter language with gender nouns.
NO, we don’t want metric and we don’t want your new fangled grammatical gender nonsense! ;P
No. Giving objects a gender is pointless and stupid. I don’t call a table ’she’ or a chair ‘he’ and I prefer not to. Calling inanimate objects ‘IT’ makes things far simpler. To hell with so called ’sophistication’, how can someone be sophisticated is they give their belongings a gender?
In addition to “gendered” nouns – (which sounds like the past tense of a verb, as in “gendered up beyond all repair”) – several of these languages also have a two-tier formality structure. German makes no distinction between “you go” and “they go” in the formal but they do distinguish between “you go” and “you go” in the informal. You have to guess the meaning from context. This is total nonsense. English might have the world’s worst phonetics, but in grammar it is only as complex as it needs to be to express intricate ideas and descriptions with total precision.
And I’m assuming ships became ’she’ due to the captains being male. They grow attached to their ship, almost ‘intimate’ in a sense.
Absolutely. Other languages should take lessons from English and drop the gender. What is the purpose of having it? Without gender, would there be any drawback such as misunderstandings? “A” and “an” are not the same because we can rationalize this rule – it is based on how sounds blend together. Not the same as gender. As an English teacher, I see there are only two nonsensical grammar rules we have – using is, are, and am (or was and were) – just use one of them for present tense and one for past! – and putting “s” (or “es”) on the end of action verbs – “sits” instead of “sit”, for example. Rather than going backwards and creating more rules, let’s streamline English and make these changes instead.
Why is my comment deleted? Democracy is an unknown word for this site i guess…
@ whoever says grammatical gender would be cool:
I have been studying arabic ever since i moved to Egypt, which is my birth country. I’m Egyptian American and so I speak both arabic and english. and let me tell you this, having grammatical gender is horrible! you have to learn the gender of each and every word (well most of them, some have a special letter at the end which signals it’s feminine). whenever i write an arabic composition (or anything in general), i usually make mistakes in the gender, so i just simply kiss 9/10 goodbye. believe me, you won’t like it one bit.
As someone who speaks French, German and Russian (all with grammatical gender), I simply don’t see the need for it in English.
It doesn’t add anything to the language, just complication.
I would, however, like to see separate words in English for a male friend or a female friend, like the German Freund/Freundin, French copain/copine and Russian друг/подруга
I like optimal expressivity in a language, so it would be nice if there were still gendered articles AVAILABLE in English, so they could be used if you want to refer to a boat as feminine, for example. In general, however, I agree with Capthaeth’s post: “English is better precisely BECAUSE there are no pointlessly gendered nouns. Inanimate objects having gender defies logical sense…” I wish there were a NON-gendered pronoun available, too, for ANIMATE referents (since the neutral, but not neuter, singular “they” is now considered wrong) — to avoid all the “s/he” & “his/her” nonsense!
Nope, English is good as it is. When I was learning french, learning genders of different objects was the biggest challenge. It unnecessarily complicates a language. I don’t think le and la contribute to making French a beautiful language. The eloquence would be retained even without these articles.
My wife is from Germany & I have struggled with the gender thing for years. For instance, the word “bank” can mean a financial institution as in the USA, or a bench, depending on the gender . . . but is it really neccessary?
Throw into the mix the “polite” or “familiar” forms of the language and it can really get messy!
Personally, I hate German. If we turned our ellecaunt language of that of the precise German language it woud make us americans look like a fool. I say we keep our own language and keep are freedom!!!
Gender in roman languages has nothing to do with actual sex of the objetcs. In fact, in spanish, you may find exactly the same thing referred to as masculine or femenine, for instance one of the most obvious ones, is el pene y la polla. which are words that describe masculine genitalia and have masculine or femenine construction. it has more to do with the own origin of the word and from where did it derive.
And yes, it is simpler (let’s not use words as smart, logical, or stupid), the English way in this case.
What we really need is a word for she/he.
I speak three languages and have an easier time learning another than most.
It would be horrendous to return to a primitive state of gender-nouns.
It would seem rather obvious that the strides and leaps of modern civilization have been brought to you by the English language. The poetry and art of the old world was given to us by those languages which have gender and we thank them for that. They will always be a place in humanity for them.
English, however, has enumerated technologies beyond the centuries in a few simple decades due to the lack of constraint in concentration in the mathematics and electro-mathematics as well as quantum mathematics. Imagine if the dispute was hindered by the female wave front in calculations because there was a male point stuck in her?
Leave it as it is. If you want gender, learn French, or German, or Chinese.
English is perfect as is.
English is chosen as the global language because it is simple, and easy to learn, grammatical gender would make it hard to learn, because not all languages use the same gender to refer to things. On the other hand, some people may think that it is stupid to have grammatical gender, but actually it makes you closer to the thing you’re talking about, for instant, you can refer to your beloved dog as a “he” or your favorite home, food, book, anything that you feel somehow connected to, you use a gender pronoun for it, that’s why languages that have grammatical gender are called Romance Languages, it deals with emotions.
To have a language in which gender is built-in is to have a society in which gender is always an issue, all the time. It makes poor little brains, which love to classify things into boxes and roles, expect differences between everything based on sex/gender (and therefore it becomes “okay to treat them differently”). Countries with genderless language have more advanced women’s rights, far as I can tell, because there are less omni-present barriers to overcome. (I could be wrong.) Historically, when female leaders took power, they had to remove themselves from feminine verbiage or dress, which illustrates how powerful a discriminator “the language of femininity” is.
For instance, take “actress” and “actor,” or “comedian” and “Comedienne.” Is there a difference in these two things professionally? No. Perhaps the two were once used as means of giving acknowledgement to women in the profession, as opposed to excluding them, but this is a pointless distinction now, and enforces pointless labels. “Are these things different? Is one inferior? Should I treat them differently, and give them different expectations?”
Language is incredibly powerful. It would be a travesty for English to have gendered pronouns again, in my opinion. Thanks for asking!
No, English should not have gendered nouns. I’m learning French, and it’s the most confusing thing ever because it doesn’t just change nouns but also pronouns, verbs, and adjectives. It’s also really confusing to hear someone speak the language and say “elle est” or “il est”, which mean respectively “she is” and “he is”, but both could mean “it is” depending on the gender of the “it” in question. It’s difficult for non-native speakers to understand and learn.
ok, english is already the hardest language to learn, why make it harder? we already have feminane masculane and nueter nouns. (he she it.) does it really matter that the computer i am righting on is a guy or girl, or the chair?
I think that the fact that english has no gender makes it unique and wonderful. All languages are a result of their peoples’ history, and so we keep our language to retain that memory of the occurances of the past. The change from having a gender in the language to not having it reminds us of how dynamic and suceptable all languages are to history and its tides.
It’d be much simpler to learn English if the language had gendered nouns. It is less complicated to point out the object one is referring to when the noun has a gender. I know this because I speak Spanish fluently and I’m also learning French but that is just my point of view.
English is unarguably the best, most flexible and mathematically precise languages= in the world, and has produced some of the best literature. I love French and Spanish and understand that other languages have their attractions.
But to suggest complicating English is absurd. Nouns do not need to have genders and English has wisely dispensed with them apart from the brief flirtation recalled here. For one thousand years it’s been ‘the’ hat, ‘the’ sea. Other languages have genders and we don’t, thus for a learner English is far less complicated. It’s ‘a’ something, it’s ‘the’ something. And because of that you don’t need to change the spelling of other words connected with the gender of the noun. Thus “The hat is beautiful.” and “The sea is beautiful.” Not, “Le chapeau est beau,” “La mer est belle.”
English has become the world’s premier language – in terms of international usage – precisely because of both its range AND its simplicity. And you’d mess with that to what – make it more ‘romantic’?
The mind boggles. If you have a Swiss watch with 2,000 moving parts you don’t take it apart to add another two to see if you can improve it. English is doing fine, thanks. Leave it alone.
And that should have read, “…precise language…” (not languages with an equals sign…slip of the fingers and I missed it in checking.)
Yes! I think it would make people much more grammar conscious as well as even bring respect to words and even the female and male figure since we would be associating certain words with the feminine and masculine worth. Also, it might be easier for foreigners to learn English since it would become more of a romantic language and easier to associate with their language. If the English language had gendered nouns, the language might be taken more seriously as well and not be loaded up with so much slang.
I think that the lack of grammatical gender in English is a natural progression in evolution. The English language is complicated enough to learn without grammatical gender! People often complain of the strange letter combinations that produce unexpected sounds! (e.g. ‘enough’ isn’t spelled ‘enuff’?)
I agree with Rommel. English is complicated enough without adding the concept of gender. If you were to change the language to include gender only very young people would, being born into the changes, easily grasp it. (I have to get the 8 yr old across the street for help with electronics)
They tried to do it with the metric system a while back and quickly found out that while old dogs can learn new tricks, they just don’t want to.
I actually don’t find English to be sophisticated. We use the same words over and over because we can’t find synonyms for it; meanwhile, in other languages, words and phases have completely different names, thus adding substance and volume, as well as variety. Baby names are another example, too. How many people do you know named John? Randal? David? Other languages are even more creative with names, perhaps because their language overall stimulates more creativity.
I prefer French and Arabic to English, simply because there’s a million ways to say something in those languages without repeating yourself. English is limited.
me no speakey the english so me thinkey that gender nouns make everything mucheyful simpler
Just to add, for people saying English is easy and that’s its charm, for most people it’s not because of weird grammar rules, pronunciations, and spellings. The only thing it has going for itself is simplified verb conjugations; however, if you were to learn another language, you’d find that conjugating in other languages isn’t as difficult as it appears. English makes the memory lazy.
Because English is a Hybrid Language …
So It is difficult to create genderty
The populace of Earth
are becoming Genderless…
(gays and lesbians)
So what is use of it…!
Thus, better to stay Genderless…!
To breathe equality…!
I like to use ‘Thee’ in poetry
it is clear and easy…!
I think this entire discussion is a moot point. Personally, there is no logic behind either preference. Why? Because logic is relative. To a native speaker of a Romanian language, gender-based nouns make perfect sense. To a native speaker of English, it seems pointless. So who’s right? I don’t think any one language is better than the other, seeing how they’ve all adapted to their individual cultures and circumstances.
As for English spelling and pronunciation issues, this has happened because English has a tendency to “absorb” words from other languages (to borrow the idea from “The Adventure of English”) and make them it’s own. We have not only words that come from Old and Middle English, we also have Norse, French, German, Latin, to name a few. Take, for instance, the difference between live meat and meat on the table. When the French were ruling England, the common people had to adapt to the nobility’s language while still maintaining their own. So, when it was alive, it was a cow, the English word, and when it was on the noble’s table, it was beef, which comes from the French word “beuf.” And so both words survived. We have a tendency to adapt words from other languages and make them our own. Another example is “Kindergarten.” Did you that it’s actually a German word meaning “Children’s Garden?” So one of the reasons we have so many spellings that don’t “make sense” is because they come from other languages. Anyways, that’s my two cents.
I find that a gender brings a more difficult aspect to a language, but then again it is more understandable when saying a word like “it”. Sometimes that makes us need to think about the previous sentence about which ‘it’ they’re talking about.
Another benefit would be with nouns that have two meanings, like ’star’. It could be a physical star in the sky or a celebrity, and by giving either meaning a gender we would be aware of the meaning more clearly.
Honestly I think the concept of gendered nouns in any language is absolutely foolish. Interesting to know that we did once have them though, thanks for this article. However to bring them back to English would unnecessarily make it ridiculously complex, I think the only nouns that should be gendered are animate beings that have different sexes (i.e. animals), and the terms “he” and “she” are perfectly good at doing that so there’s no need to say “se” and “seo” or equivalents thereof again. In other words, English is good enough as is, don’t bother with gendered nouns other than what we already have.
I think the loss of gendered nouns is the natural evolution of the language, and allows a more simple and precise way to convey a message.
That’s what a language is after all – a means to pass a certain meaning to your reader (listener).
The simpler the language is, the less ambiguous it is, so your reader will understand the meaning faster, and with a lesser rate of error.
Worse – the more complex a language is, the more it is subject to misinterpretation, so people can imply that you meant something that you didn’t. I won’t even explain how dangerous that can be…
I use gender all the time in English. Plants/trees are masculine, cars are feminine, boats are feminine, dogs are masculine, cats are feminine. You can put gender anywhere and people understand and will even start to mimic you. Give it a try some time, you’ll see that gender assignment is trivial.
As to why the reduction, Old Norse and Old English were close enough to most likely be mutually intelligible. When languages are very close the root words are the same but the inflections differ. As a result, affixes are ground down to the common word between the two and over time the simplification becomes commonplace.
Continental Scandinavian languages have also lost a significant portion of their grammar complexity , including a reduction in noun genders. If you look at Faroese and Icelandic, they didn’t come into contact with other Germanic-based languages and as such are much more grammatically complex still.
Those who say that gender of inanimate things has no sense, is probably right.
I must say though that there is one advantage here in Russian language, compared to the English language:
speaking of animals. It is easier to tell a male from female animal. In the sentences “A bull has come” and “a cow has come” the verb emphasizes the sex: “пришёл бык”, “пришла корова” what makes the phrase to sound more stereophonic.
Also there is an interesting phenomenon of using a neuter gender for little babies, when their sex does not matter: “дитя”, “дитё”, “дитятко”.
English doesn’t need to assign OBJECTS with a gender. That’s idiotic. That’s one thing English got right, that other languages dropped the ball on, though some people do it with things like boats and planes in English. Although, it would be kind of funny to refer to a male electrical plug of some sort as ” plug”, and a female plug as ” plug”.
What English /does/ need is singular gender-neutral pronouns! “They”, which is plural, shouldn’t be our only option for this, nor the annoying “he/she” / “she/he”, or just picking a random “he” or “she”.
The “English Language” (as if there actually were such a thing) is complicated enough! For evidence of this, just read how people write & type text or how they pronounce their words or construct their sentences in our technologically & educationally “advanced” present-day era, and you’ll see that you could only expect our grasp of *BOTH* the “written” and the “spoken” language to fall even deeper into the abyss.
Losing grammatical gender, like many things, has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it certainly simplifies the morphology of English- no need for inflected noun or adjective endings, only one definite article, and so forth. But on the other, loss of grammatical gender- along with the other trappings of inflected languages, like case endings and distinct case articles- locks us into a strict word order. Because our nouns are largely non-inflected, we depend on the order of subject-verb-object (or, in passive voice, subject-verb-agent) to indicate the role of each noun in the sentence. We thereby lose the flexibility afforded by, for instance, German, in which only verbs are locked into position, and the specificity and clarity offered by the Romance languages when mixing pronouns.
English would certainly be more sophisticated with gendered objects, and that would be interesting. However, English is already one of the most complicated languages to learn. If people want to have gendered objects, they should learn French, Spanish, or any of the multitude of languages that have genders associated with objects already. The genderization, if you will, makes the language much more poetic, but honestly I don’t think that fits with English as a casual language.
Being a Portuguese teacher of EFL I think that the lack of gender in English makes it a much easier language to master for speakers of Romance languages. I remember when I was learning German I found extremely difficult to learn the gender of things, as it is, most of the times, completely the opposite in Portuguese. As for English, there’s no doubt it is a wonderful language, which makes everything sound much better and to the point than any of the other languages I know.
No, I do not think English would be better with grammatical gender, with one exception: I do like the German tradition of referring to any given cat as a she and any given dog as a he. We pretty much all neuter our pets anyway, and this would just make it so much simpler than trying to ascertain the gender of cats or dogs upon which we wish to comment. On the other hand (there’s always another hand, right?), I can see some pet owners getting very upset if someone referred to their prize breeding animals with the wrong pronoun!
Gendered nouns are unneeded…Most of the time…
we do still have one gendered adjective/noun — blond/blonde.
Whoever said, “Linguists DESCRIBE language. They do NOT prescribe.” doesn’t know Hebrew– the only known resurrected language…!
And speaking-of-which, Hebrew not-only has gendered nouns, but, gendered verb declensions and it’s a mess sometimes but-not-usually giving masculine and feminine person(s) the same ending: Try to figure out what inspired that!
(And they claim, Hebrew is easier to learn than English–! But vowel-points are like trying to learn absolutely which spot of each sidewalk square to step on…!)
If I had my way, I’d get rid of gendered pronouns as well. That way, we could talk about someone without first having to determine their sex.
I find it annoying that, in a public chat room, some people need to know whether I’m male or female before deciding whether to talk to me. What does it matter?
This article and the comments really bother me.
English didn’t lose its grammatical genderness in a century. In fact, we don’t know how long it took because there are no known manuscripts of the language for quite a while because everything was written in Latin and Norman French, since those were the prestigious and educational languages of the time. Scribes only wrote in these languages because they were paid to, paper was too expensive to waste on other things and those who spoke English were illiterate and poor. English probably lost its gender over the course of a few centuries.
Grammatical gender is not equal to natural gender. Some languages have up to 16 genders! A better word for grammatical gender would be something like “type” and replace masculine and feminine (and neuter) with other words, then we wouldn’t have misunderstandings like this when linguists bring bits of language down to laypeople. Grammatical genders are most likely an easy way to codify words when there is a casing system (see: Russian, German, Latin declensions) that tells you the part of speech of the noun and its adjectives (Modern English uses syntactic word order, rather than a case system). The genders collapse into one another because unstressed case endings (suffixes) sound similar and over time, they just merge into one gender or disappear completely. In Russian, the masculine and neuter coincide with a lot of different suffixes, so it’s completely possible that the neuter will collapse into the masculine in near future (linguistically speaking). Linguists have ended up just calling these different groups masculine, feminine and neuter to differentiate, although they are no longer just masculine and feminine living things. Grammatical gender has next to nothing to do with natural gender and much, much more to do with how a word sounds and how it acts grammatically.
Grammatical gender wasn’t something that people just decided to go out and do. It’s just the way that languages have evolved naturally within their respective societies.
Language isn’t completely logical. English is not more logical nor more sophisticated than other languages. There are plenty of things that don’t make sense in English. Why do we have “do” in certain constructions (negation, question, emphasis)? Why are infinitives constructed with “to”? What is going on with our orthographic system? Idioms?
English is not inherently easier for other people to learn than other languages. In fact–no language is inherently the easiest to learn. What matters is how similar your native tongue and the target language are, as well as what other languages you speak.
The reason English is spoken by such a large portion of the world (about 2 billion speak it to some extent) isn’t that English is simpler. It’s based in politics and history. The English speaking countries were strong colonial powers and are still strong politically and economically within the world (because of their strong colonial history). English is considered a language of prestige in many regions now because the US and UK are/were two of the strongest countries in the world.
I don’t think that English would be better or worse off with grammatical gender. It’s an extremely interesting historical fact of English and of many other languages, but in Modern English, it isn’t necessary to have that differentiation. You also cannot impose any concept on a language with force; it needs to happen naturally within the society/societies in which the language is spoken over the course of generations for such a large change to occur, as with what happened when we shed grammatical gender in the first place.
Wait a minute… we still have gendered nouns: actor/ actress, waiter/waitress, master/mistress. Why is a female teacher not a teachress? (Good thing she’s not!)
I would say there is positively NO point in gendered nouns in English. Firstly, a lot of languages already HAVE gendered nouns, so why add English to that list? Through experience, it has always been better to be the odd one out than get lost in a crowd (I am NOT saying English is the only language w/o gendered nouns, just that there are LESS without gendered nouns). This means that we as English speakers should not obtain gendered nouns just because nearly everyone else has done so. That would be stupid, destroy our diversity, and confuse us. Secondly, we are so used to English as it is, and if we added gendered nouns, all of us would have to learn English ALL OVER AGAIN! Does that sound like your idea of a good few years? No. You might think I am using the sake of simplicity to write my comment, but I am only basing this on common sense. Third, English is complicated enough without gendered nouns (trust me, I just finished IPW, and I had to be my group’s personal dictionary for five days), that gendered nouns are unnecessary. They would make it all the more difficult. If you want gendered nouns, then speak another language! English is a language that doesn’t NEED gendered nouns or want them!
I would say there is positively NO point in gendered nouns in English. Firstly, a lot of languages already HAVE gendered nouns, so why add English to that list? Through experience, it has always been better to be the odd one out than get lost in a crowd (I am NOT saying English is the only language w/o gendered nouns, just that there are LESS without gendered nouns). This means that we as English speakers should not obtain gendered nouns just because nearly everyone else has done so. That would be stupid, destroy our diversity, and confuse us. Secondly, we are so used to English as it is, and if we added gendered nouns, all of us would have to learn English ALL OVER AGAIN! Does that sound like your idea of a good few years? No. You might think I am using the sake of simplicity to write my comment, but I am only basing this on common sense. Third, English is complicated enough without gendered nouns (trust me, I just finished IPW, and I had to be my group’s personal dictionary for five days), that gendered nouns are unnecessary. They would make it all the more difficult.
I think it would be better if we had gendered nouns. Language is a reflection of culture, and we (should) have gender roles that, if we did have gendered nouns, they would reflect and make clear to other countries how we operate. People might say that adding gender to objects is nonsensical, but if one looks at language from the view of a cultural anthropologist, then one would see how gendered nouns in language is useful and important.
I feel that with america’s education system and the way it is already plummeting. Many people don’t understand simple literature. which brings me to my conclusion that adding on another component would simply confuse everyone, but I do believe if this idea had been in action 20 years ago when education was still held to a semi-high standard then this would have been a good idea. seeing as that didn’t happen the education system is only lowering its standards this goal is sadly out of reach.
I think English would benefit with having grammatical gender for one simple reason.
It would help put a stop to the abuse people are putting toward gendered and non-gendered words. For a simple example, people get upset if you refer to a “flight attendant” as a “stewardess” because you can’t call a male that. Hey genius, of course you don’t. You would call a guy a “steward.”
All gender-specific terms have a counterpart. That becomes so much more apparent when basically every term has a gender to it.
Even worse are the times when people take gender-neutral words and treat them like they apply to only one gender. For example: Chairman. Can a chairman be a woman? Of course, otherwise it would be like saying a human can’t be a woman. But when people see a natural gender to words they recognize the ones that are gender-neutral and stop trying to abuse our language under the asinine assumption that it is singling out men over women.
You don’t see this kind of language abuse in other languages.
I took German for four years, and I utterly despised the pointless complexity of gendered nouns. English is much better-off without them.
I think it’s simply much more logical to refer to all non-living, non-gendered things in a gender-neutral sense. Having to remember whether, for example, a chair is actually a “he” or a “she” is simply ludicrous and arbitrary; “it” is an “it.” For the sake of practicality, only literally gendered entities should be labeled so.
i think in both ways it is good :} ) mustache guy hahaha:):):)
First comment, genders brings sophiscation? How pointless and futile is that? It’s more practic and objective this way.
No – English is complicated enough (and doesn’t follow the rules it has) as it is. Keep non-gendered nouns the one uncomplicated thing in this language, please.
Gendered nouns are archaic and not sophisticated. The progression of society in becoming more scientific, logical, secular, and efficient has been influenced by the equality of genders in all aspects of life. Therefore, recognizing nouns in terms of gender is both illogical and unnecessary.
I think that, in the spirit of inclusion, we should have gendered nouns in English, as well as neutral nouns, bi-gendered nouns, and trans-gendered nouns. That way, no matter what one says or writes, it would be correct. Mark Twain is quoted as saying that he could not abide a man who could only spell a word one way; perhaps we could all be equally flexible in usage.
In English, for the most part it does not make since to add gender based nouns back. For other languages, the use of gender does make the languages make more sense for the flow of the language and understanding.of what is being said.
I think the comments about mono-glots (of English only), judging ethnocentrically other languages are quite valid.
Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and even German are beautiful sounding languages with their genders usually causing the languages and the words to flow so much easier when you have the genders down. They’re different and have gender based articles like el and la and der, die, das, but that doesn’t make them better or worse. They serve the people that speak those languages. That’s what’s important.
Languages develop naturally and the changes that occur need to make sense to the speakers of those languages. Usually trying to force changes on a language and the speakers of the language is difficult at best.
Language is tied to culture, so rapid changes are not usually seen.
I do agree with the comments about the use of ‘their’ when you mean a possessive for one person, but what’s a good answer to that? I don’t know… I think dictionary.com or merriam webster “their” in that instance is actually just fine. He / She is sometimes difficult too, but hey! we work through it…..
I’m totally satisfied English has no gender. Male or female – who cares? They’re just nouns and they don’t have sex I mean sexually. It could have been very difficult for those non-native to learn English, whose languages have no gender, since English is the international language. I remember I took French in high school. Everything has a gender (can they be trans?) I was always like ‘la or le? un or une?’
English is complicated enough! Just because the sun is more robust than the moon does not make “it” (not “him”) masculine, while the moon would be feminine. Just because one thing resembles the phallus is no reason to call it male; likewise with “female” objects. [Hence, male electrical plugs and female electrical plugs. However, in this case, it does simplify recognition. Still, we don't refer to one as "he" and the other as "she".]
English is a mixed up mess of many languages, and continues to add words (both newly created ones and those imported from other languages). Just stop to consider the words ending in “ough”. That’s right! You don’t know how to pronounce it, do you? Think of it: “tough”, “though”, “through”, “bough”, “slough”, “rough”, “dough”, “cough”. Try explaining THAT to a visitor from “another language”.
I learned to read and spell phonetically. It has helped me in many ways. Also, it has not helped AT ALL in other ways. (The “ough” words above are a perfect example of that.) There are so many words that somewhere along the way should have been changed to avoid confusion. We can only know what the word is or means by the context in which it is used: lead, led, lead; bark, bark; ark, arch, arch; heir, air; bough, bow, bow; an so on.
Political Correctness has added unnecessary complication to our language. Why can we not accept the concept of generic nouns (such as chairman, fireman, nurse, secretary); and “he” as a generic pronoun, rather than having to write/say “he/she” or randomly use “he” sometimes and “she” sometimes. [And be sure to use "he" and "she" equally!] Or else, we should use “it” when referring to someone of an unknown gender; and only use “he” or “she” when we know the gender of a specific person. We HAD gendered nouns (waiter – waitress, steward – stewardess), but these are now shunned as being “sexist”. We must now use the non-gendered “server” and “flight attendant”. Besides, all dogs are not male (which is easy to tell) and all cats are not female (not so easy to tell).
Life is complicated enough. [There's another "ough".] Let’s don’t make it any more so.
It will be more complicated surely!
By the way, it wouldn’t make learning other languages easier. Just saying. Every language has completely different gender patterns, for example a book is masculine in french, neuter in german and feminine in russian. If anything it would make it more confusing, because their patterns are likely to be different to yours.
Also, gender in uninflected languages like French and German is a real pain in the ass, because there’s no way of telling what gender a word is when you look at it. In inflected languages like Latin, Czech and Russian you usually (not always) can. English is about as isolating as they come, so it would just overcomplicate things.
So many comments on this darn GENDER ISSUE, wow.
To be honest, modern human languages are trash and there needs to be ONE language and ONE script for all engineered from scratch by people who actually know something about information, communication and human psychology. A language that would put some sense into our sloppy-thinking wetware.
Now, humans are also trash, the only thing they do well is reproduce. But that is probably true of all life forms in general, because that is what life is – a virus.
I would not agree to your statement that the less complex the clearer the less ambiguous a language is. German (my mother language) is a rather complex language, and that is why it was once on the brink of becoming world´s language for science. Up till today scientists deplore that it was not chosen, because the more complex a language is the more subtle and accurate a tool it is for description.
But I am not at all convinced that grammatical gender is necessary for that!
If English is one of the hardest languages on this planet to learn, why would we complicate things more by having to remember which inanimate things are masculine or feminine?
since 1ooo if english has been using with gramattical gender surely all the students would have been learning un till
@Betsy , comparing English determiners a/an with French un/une or le/la is incorrect. The a/an distinction is purely phonologically conditioned – as you say, we use ‘an’ before a vowel. Grammatical gender is precisely that – gender – and related to the inherent properties of the noun in question.
Of course! It’s not enough that hamburgers have no ham and french fries are American! Let’s add more confusion by calling inanimate objects boys and girls! Next thing you know, English will be split into several different languages. It’s hard learning all these irregular pronunciations and whatnot; let’s not throw gender into the mix. Boys are “he,” girls are “she,” nonliving things are “it.” That’s the only thing that English has over the other languages. Let’s not throw away the only thing connecting English to common sense. English has worked fine for the last 800 years. It’s even expanded! Don’t nullify all that progress, keep English the way it is. Unless you actually want to be practical and start calling French fries “American fries” or just “fries” in general. Then, it’s fine by me.
The logic that many people here are following is faulty. In French, there are gendered nouns. However, it has nothing to do with the object being described itself. A gender is assigned based on the ending of the word. For example, for a word to be feminine, it must end in “ion”, “e”, or if they refer to a female person, i.e, “la fille” (the girl). Examples are “la soupe” (the soup) or “la barbe” (the beard). Notice how “the beard” is feminine, even though it is a male thing. It is feminine because it ends in “e”.
I completely agree that a language would be much easier if grammatical gender was not present, but, with all respect, I find it more stupid to say that grammatical gender entails discrimination, or to even ask the stupid question “who decided to give these objects a gender?” I think we would do ourselves a great favor by enlightening our minds with the following quote from wikipedia, which is quite interesting:
(many people follow) ‘a long tradition of mistaking grammatical gender for natural gender in choosing these names. In fact, the word “gender” itself, which simply means “type, kind, or sort,” is now generally mistaken in English as referring specifically to social and biological distinctions. It is important to note that the terms are used purely for linguistic classification and have no biological implications. It is possible for words pertaining to the sexes (male and female) to be inconsistent with their respective gender designation in any specific language’
lol lol lol
English (and all languages) are simply beautiful. Regardless of genderization.
To Asher Fern:
The ending does NOT determine the gender. For example, “livre”: un livre = a book, while une livre = a pound (e.g., of butter). Here, the gender is an extension of the noun. Granted, there are certain word endings that are almost always masculine and others almost always feminine, but there are exceptions.
English with grammatical gender would NOT be better. It is almost like segregating genders. Right now, English is easily understood without all these confusing gender grammatical (except for the typical he she which doesn’t count). It’s easier for foreigners to understand as well. So communication would be easier and could save letters for adding something like an a or o to the end like in Spanish.
I happen to like gendered nouns, as I am a Spanish speaker. I find it brings much needed specificity when speaking generally [i.e. speaking of 'that' (thing)]. Esa or aquella narrows things down wonderfully.
@Asher Fern – You are seriously mistaken. There are countless words in Romance Languages whose gender has absolutely nothing to do with the ending. See: la radio, el programa, el mapa, el tema, la foto, etc. There is definitely a ‘trend’, but one can not and should not ever think of it as a hard and fast rule.
yes! English would be much lovelier with genders.
English with grammatical gender,well aside from being sophisticated, before making it part of the new grammatical word we have to be careful to avoid future blonder and the effect on the economy and it environment.
i see future argument between the Male & Female because most of the object will be refer to as She ( ?) you see what i mean.
English is already the most difficult language to learn. Why make it harder?
At the human level, gender differences are rapidly being erased: men’s purses, womens jeans, men’s make-up, women military warriors, same gender marriages, on & on. Why take a step backwards and separate our words by gender???
I’ve come to this a little late but throwing a spanner into the works, why assume there are only two genders? This in itself is quite a western view and something not shared throughout the world. Very little in this world that is ‘neutral’. It seems that any discourse within a gendered language is likely to discriminate in some way (Dale Spender’s book ‘Man Made Language’ is interesting on this). As a dyslexic, I say we should simplify English further rather than make it more complicated.
this is the strangest thing all day that happened to me.there are 2 genders no changing that.but why are their only 2. i only speak 5 languages and im in 3Rd grade i think it could only get stranger with 3 genders .then my friend a.j. might be a birl or goy!:o
im still creeped out !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!;o
It’ll be confusing
It’s fine without the gender.
This is funny this gender thing…I grew up speaking English, cuz my mom’s Canadian and also spekaing Portuguese because my father is Brazilian and in Portuguese as in all latin-derived languages we have genders… normally words ending in O and E are masculine so we say: o carro (the car); o elefante (the elephant); o cachorro (the dog)…. whereas words ending in A are feminine like a casa (the house), a cadeira (the chair)… our indefinite article also varies according to gender and plural so we say: um carro (a car), uns carros (some cars), uma cadeira (a chair), umas cadeiras (some chairs)..I know it sounds complex but when you grow up using it it’s really easy and you don’t even have to think to say it. However English grammar is a whole lot simpler than other languages.
This is funny this gender thing…I grew up speaking English, cuz my mom’s Canadian and also spekaing Portuguese because my father is Brazilian and in Portuguese as in all latin-derived languages we have genders… normally words ending in O and E are masculine so we say: o carro (the car); o elefante (the elephant); o cachorro (the dog)…. whereas words ending in A are feminine like a casa (the house), a cadeira (the chair)… our indefinite article also varies according to gender and plural so we say: um carro (a car), uns carros (some cars), uma cadeira (a chair), umas cadeiras (some chairs)..I know it sounds complex but when you grow up using it it’s really easy and you don’t even have to think to say it. However English grammar is a whole lot simpler than other languages.
Don’t complicate things by adding gender. I agree with other comments that gendered languages should consider getting rid of their genders. It doesn’t make sense.
It is truly a blessing that English eradicated its use of gender with nouns. Every language should follow suite. We have the he, she and the it. Let us suffice to say that this is enough.!!
In this Global Age, it. makes it much easier to learn a new language. We need communication and progress. Let’s have all languages use the it for all nouns except for the obvious he and she!!!!
I definetly think it would be so complexed and complicated, especially for countries were english is considered a second or third language. In regards to learning children in non-english speaking countries would be very difficult to develop children to fluently write nor speak the language.
Genders in languages where they are not needed makes things needlessly complex. We refer to subjects by gender in English only if that subject has a gender in reality. It adds some simplicity to a language already so complex that it is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn because its diverse origins have led to multiple exceptions to every rule.
Languages with genders for inanimate objects become confusing and difficult at times. It becomes even more confusing if there is a neuter gender in the language, but inanimate objects can be gendered, too. Take Latin, for instance. Why is a chair, sella, feminine, but a sword, gladius, masculine? Why is anger, ira, feminine, but fear, metus, masculine? And why not make it even more complex and consider that lunch, prandium, is neuter, but dinner, cena, is feminine? Are not lunch and dinner both necessary meals? Why is one neuter and another feminine? Clearly this confusion is completely unnecessary and could be easily avoided if all inanimate objects did not have genders.
Why did u say “find optical illusion” and put it in Chinese?????
no absolutly not
Do not complicate the english grammatical practice any further!
I frequently have to ask my gf when she said she went out with friends.
“were they make or female”. It would be nice if the answer was genderd..
wow i can not believe the comments on this that are in favor of gender. IF this was in fact taking place in the REAL world then it would just make it 1000% worse for anyone speaking the language. not to mention the up roar from females looking for equality in sociaty, yea i cant spell but whatever, lol, they would argue that the things getting called with a female are not as good as the things getting called male, ughhh, what a headache! how about just keep it non gender so no one gets sued over naming thier kitchen table a male or female name~ lol
Amazing!! topic ever had read before.
Pronouns have gender, and of course we have gendered nouns such as host/hostess, waiter/waitress, steward/stewardess. A boat is always refered to as “she,” reflecting its gendered background.
Even after living in Latin America for years, I still confuse gendered nouns and the noun markers “el” and “la.” I’m glad we don’t have to deal with such nonsense in English.
Betsy is confused.
“In fact, we STILL use a similar thing in English – we use “an” instead of “a” in front of words starting with a vowel sound.”
The reason we have a/an is because of pronunciation, not gender or anything like it. Thus we say, “a boy” and the consonant and vowel have distinct pronunciation. On the other hand, “an apple” is really “a napple,” and the consonant and vowel blend together.
The letter “u” is sometimes pronounced “you” as in “uniform,” so we say “a uniform” or “a university” for the same reason. When speaking of letters, we say, “an x” because that word is pronounced “ex.”
No I believe having genders is just complicating things. My native language is Farsi/Persian and the gender system does not exist at all in it. Nothing is masculine and nothing is feminine. This is why most of Iranians can’t understand why a ship can be referred to as she. It’s dead, it has no gender. In Persian, the words cow and bull, lion and lioness, etc are all the same. The word for lion is Sheer in Farsi but the word doesn’t say if the animal is male or female. You have to say female sheer or male sheer. I this this is better since you don’t have to know extra words. This is why French is really hard because you have to know if a table is masculine or feminine and this is just boring and complication.
Adding gender to nouns is superfluous
I’d like to point out that gender doesn’t equal sex. Yes both females and males use chairs, but remember, just because something is labeled masculine or feminine or even neuter, doesn’t mean it’s the same as male female or neither. And I’d also like to point out that gender arose naturally. It doesn’t have any thing to do with sex at all. Although at times it can overlap, but above all, it’s a system of categorisation.