masculine, feminine and neuter in language
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17-11-2014, 11:51 AM
masculine, feminine and neuter in language
I recently downloaded an app called duolingo on my tablet. Out of the languages on offer i decided to have a go at german. What put me off from learning french and german at school (and is rearing its head again) is it was never really explained to me properly about the difference between masculine, feminine and neuter wording. I have googled the damn out of it and am still scratching my head. The app sheds no real details either and i think it relies on repetition to teach.

Its a bit frustrating getting everything correct except the gender part in my learning. So if anybody knows, or who could explain in simple terms any way of remembering or understanding the system i would be very appreciative.

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17-11-2014, 12:05 PM
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
Most languages have gender differences, some to the point that it almost seems like men and women have to speak different languages.

I find the best way to get past that isn't so much to try and figure out the rationality behind why things are the way they are, but to focus on reading and listening comprehension until you understand intuitively, even if you can't explain why.

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17-11-2014, 12:05 PM (This post was last modified: 17-11-2014 12:51 PM by Mathilda.)
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
I use duolingo as well although reading about.com's pages on it and practising using memrise.com has helped me figure out a lot of gender in German although I need to memorise how to conjugate it next which gets really confusing. These links will do more than anything to help though.

http://german.about.com/library/blgen_der.htm
http://german.about.com/library/blgen_die.htm
http://german.about.com/library/blgen_das.htm

The main thing I do is look at the end of the word or how it is used. For example:

If in doubt then choose masculine. Any role, job or social position will be masculine. Even really tenuous ones like neighbour (e.g. der nachbar), unless the feminine is specified e.g.

der König (the king)
die Königin (the queen)

Generally if it ends with e then it's feminine.

A noun derived from a verb will be feminine, so anything ending in -ung

e.g. die sammlung (the collection), sammeln (to collect))

Generally anything plural is feminine.

If it ends in -nis or -chen it is probably going to be neuter

Versäumnis = failure
Kaninchen = rabbit


But even the exceptions can make sense.

das Mädchen = young unmarried woman (you'd expect this to be die Mädchen because it's a girl but the -chen makes it neuter)
die Erkenntnis (you would expect it to be das Erkenntnis but this is one of the exceptions. Knowledge is always made up of many bits of information thus is plural, at least that's how I remember it)
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17-11-2014, 12:37 PM
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
(17-11-2014 11:51 AM)bemore Wrote:  I recently downloaded an app called duolingo on my tablet. Out of the languages on offer i decided to have a go at german. What put me off from learning french and german at school (and is rearing its head again) is it was never really explained to me properly about the difference between masculine, feminine and neuter wording. I have googled the damn out of it and am still scratching my head. The app sheds no real details either and i think it relies on repetition to teach.

Its a bit frustrating getting everything correct except the gender part in my learning. So if anybody knows, or who could explain in simple terms any way of remembering or understanding the system i would be very appreciative.

When there is an actual gender, things make sense.

Most words have no real gender, and you have to learn the noun WITH the article.

Tables are male, books are neuter, cups are female. It makes no sense. You just have to learn the noun combined with the article.

I think that is what you were asking...

I put myself through college by teaching German to company execs etc., who had to deal with Germany or move there. So I am quite familiar with the stumbling blocks Americans have when learning German.

If you are just learning because you want to - it helps a lot to watch kids TV programs - probably you can find a bunch on youtube or elsewhere on the web. Very useful, makes you soak things up the way you soaked up your first language.

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17-11-2014, 01:56 PM
Re: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
If you can, you can label things. Get a bunch of little white stickers and draw girly eyes and affix one to a cup.

Or you can find some blue & pink ones. Use yellow or green or something for neuter.
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17-11-2014, 02:41 PM (This post was last modified: 17-11-2014 03:15 PM by cjlr.)
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
Grammatical gender is just that - gender. From the same root as genre (or literally, genus). So it means type - nothing more. Back in the bad old days, it was simply that different word forms were treated differently. This is much clearer in something like Latin that hasn't drifted as much - an ending of -a is very likely "feminine", and an ending of -us is very likely "masculine", and so on. Modern languages are muddier. A French word ending in -e is probably feminine but there's less patterning to it.

Now, in the more common gender systems in Europe, personal pronouns also have grammatical gender, and since those follow the biological categories "male" and "female", the word "gender" itself has become over the millennia a term for a sort of ad-hoc gestalt social and sexual identity, instead. The actual division is largely coincidental, and we call things "masculine" and "feminine" only so far as we call all other word forms which share the declension of female pronouns "feminine", and so on; trying to find some sort of underlying rationale to e.g. German or French will just drive you insane.
(the gender of words for genitalia display no particular correspondence to the sex/gender likely to have them, for an obvious example)

In other languages (and language groups) the grammatical genders vary - there are animate/inanimate distinctions, or human/non-human, for example. Although the weirder systems ('weird' by our standards) tend to get called class instead of gender per se...

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17-11-2014, 03:27 PM
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
There is a good purpose for these genders, they allow complicated sentences (and thoughts). You can have a noun half a page up and because of the genders and the changes of articles and pronouns depending on the cases, you know which noun is being mentioned again without repeating it. That allows the glory of German (and the bane of English) - run away sentences that can be a page or longer and contain one complicated thought. You would need many sentences and paragraphs in English to explain the same thing. And it's harder to follow in English, you have to string many independent thoughts together instead of following one logical thought.

German is not a beautiful language, nor an easy one, but it lends itself to precise thinking.

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18-11-2014, 07:59 PM (This post was last modified: 19-11-2014 04:00 AM by The Polyglot Atheist.)
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
(17-11-2014 12:05 PM)Mathilda Wrote:  Generally anything plural is feminine

Well "die" is both the feminine and plural article, for nominative and accusative, but that doesn't make the plural feminine. It's just plural.

(17-11-2014 03:27 PM)Dom Wrote:  German is not a beautiful language.

Why not? Tongue

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19-11-2014, 04:59 AM
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
(18-11-2014 07:59 PM)The Polyglot Atheist Wrote:  
(17-11-2014 12:05 PM)Mathilda Wrote:  Generally anything plural is feminine

Well "die" is both the feminine and plural article, for nominative and accusative, but that doesn't make the plural feminine. It's just plural.

Useful to know! Thanks.

Got any tips for figuring out what's accusative, dative and genitive in a sentence when talking? I've had it explained to me but it hasn't really sunk in enough to use it in practise.
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19-11-2014, 05:02 AM
RE: masculine, feminine and neuter in language
(18-11-2014 07:59 PM)The Polyglot Atheist Wrote:  
(17-11-2014 03:27 PM)Dom Wrote:  German is not a beautiful language.

Why not? Tongue

Too many harsh sounds. But then, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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