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The gender ( plural : genera; from the Latin genus "type, genus, gender", as a grammatical term based on ancient Greek γένος genos ), or German the grammatical gender, is a classification of nouns that occurs in many languages , each of which is assigned a gender is. The word form of other words that refer to the noun must match this gender, for example the form of articles , adjectives and pronouns in German . Such rules of correspondence are called congruence . A language has a pleasure system if there are such rules of gender congruence, from which one can then see different classes of nouns. The classification of nouns, which is shown by the congruence, can support the interpretation of pronouns: In a construction like “the lid of the box, which is painted green”, you only know what the relative clause refers to through the use of the relative pronoun .

In German and other languages ​​there are genera that bear the names of the biological sexes “male / masculine” or “female / feminine”. There is certainly a certain connection between biological and grammatical gender in many words (see here ). However, the gender does not designate biological or other properties of the living being, object or concept referred to by the word, but only the manner in which other words are congruent. Most masculine and feminine words also refer to something that has no biological gender. In other pleasure systems, the assignment of genera to nouns does not have to have anything to do with biological genders.


Categories, inflection, congruence

In languages ​​that have genera - except in a few special cases - each noun is clearly assigned a gender. This has the effect that other words that relate to the noun are bent ( inflected ) depending on the gender of the noun, i.e. change their form. Gender is the grammatical category on which this inflection is based . For example, the adjectives in the phrase match

ein Adj[angeblich-er]  Adj[nigerianisch-er] Prinz(mask.)

the gender (masculine) of the noun Prinz . The matching rule exists between the noun and its attributes as well as the article one (in the example we have two separate attributes, therefore twice diffraction). Such an assumption of a grammatical category with an inflection is called congruence . The noun prince, on the other hand, has the gender “masculine” as a fixed feature, it does not arise there through congruence with the grammatical environment.

The gender of a noun is firmly assigned to it, so there is no inflection of nouns according to gender. Cases such as Koch (so-called Movierung ) are not a counterexample, because this is a derivation of a new word, not different inflections of the same word. You can see this from the fact that the base of the derivation, namely cook, itself already has a masculine gender; the derived cook is a new word with a different gender. Therefore, there is also the difference that the plural of a noun is very much an inflection form, in contrast to the gender: The plural only comes to the root of the noun through the inflection ; this feature is not already present in the root.

In order to prove whether a language has gender, it is therefore important not simply to look at the “gender” of a noun, but gender as a grammatical feature only shows itself in the inflection of other words due to congruence rules. Which parts of speech in a language match the noun in terms of gender differs from language to language (see section Gender Congruence ). In some cases, a pronoun can also have its own gender, with which other words are congruent (see section Gender of Pronouns ).

In some languages ​​one can infer its gender from the form of the noun and from the inflection forms after number and case. Or there is a connection between word meaning and gender. Such morphological (relating to the word forms) or semantic (relating to the meaning) connections do not constitute gender; rather, this is characterized by the gender congruence of other words. It is important to distinguish between this, because such connections often do not cover all nouns or have some exceptions, whereas the congruences are clearly determined by the gender, even if the assignment of the gender to the noun appears irregular. For example, in German, words that only designate female persons or animals regularly - but not without exception - have feminine gender, diminutive on "-chen", on the other hand, neutral. The word “girl”, in which these two rules contradict each other, nevertheless has an unambiguous gender that clearly defines all congruences in the same sentence, namely the neutral one. In the sub-clause “ the girl who wore her hair open” there cannot be any feminine congruence with “girl”. - For the delimitation of the genera of morphological and semantic properties of nouns, see the section on gender dependencies .

Other categories of the noun

In addition to the gender, there are other categories of the noun that can also affect other congruent words. This is about the interaction with gender. Gender, number and - if present in the language - case are often mentioned as the three categories responsible for noun congruence ( KNG congruence ), but other categories, in particular definiteness and liveliness , can also play a role.


Some languages only distinguish the genera in the singular, not in the plural. This applies to German and the other Germanic languages ​​with the exception of Faroese and Icelandic, as well as to the north-east Slavic languages ​​Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian and the south-east Slavic languages ​​Macedonian and Bulgarian. In these languages, the congruent articles and adjectives in the plural are independent of the gender of the noun in all cases:

  • old he Lord - plural without the article : N / A: old e gentlemen, G: old he gentlemen, D: old s Men - plural Article : the / the / the / the old s Men
  • old e lady - plural without the article : N / A: old e ladies, G: old he ladies, D: old s ladies - plural Article : the / the / the / the old s Ladies

All Baltic and many Romance languages, on the other hand, also distinguish two genera in the plural form , namely masculine and feminine, as do the Semitic languages.

If the gender differences have disappeared in the plural, can be in words without singular (the Pluraliatantum ) the underlying gender not from the congruences determine, but at best from the word history as costs and Holiday , which from the Middle High German feminine all costs and from the Latin feminine plural word feriae descended . In dictionaries, “plural” is often given instead of a gender.

In some daughter languages of Latin, there are so-called ambigene nouns which a remnant of the old class of Neutra continue. These nouns always behave like masculine in the singular, but like feminine in the plural. In French and Italian this is only a handful of words, while in Romanian this scheme has a large number of nouns (several thousand); The group of these nouns is therefore often labeled as neuter in Romanian, although it does not have its own forms, but only uses the respective forms of the other two genera depending on the number. Ambigenera is also found in Albanian.

Examples of Ambigenera:

  • in Italian : il labbro (Sg.m.def.) - le labbra (Pl.f.def.), the lip - the lips
  • in French : l'amour mort - les amours mortes (Pl.f.def.), die tote Liebe - die dead loves
    and le vieil homme (Sg.m.def.) - les vieilles gens (Pl.f.def. , just before the noun), the old man - the old man
  • In Romanian : scaun ul (Sg.m.def.) - scaune le (Pl.f.def.), the chair - the chairs

If one does not assume that gender and number are completely independent of each other, one arrives at a description in which the mostly two numbers are divided into one or more classes and for each word it is determined in which singular and plural class it is, if it is occurs at all in the respective number. In this model, for example, there would be four classes for German: the three singular genera and a common class for all plural words, including the plural, since the congruences of plural words do not depend on the gender of the singular word. In Romanian or French there are also four classes, namely masculine and feminine, each in singular and plural, and the ambigenera also fit into the scheme. This is done with the nominal classes of the Bantu languages; it is not common for the genera of the Indo-European and Semitic languages.


Case is a category that changes the word form in the noun and in congruent words - more or less the same that also congruent with the noun in terms of gender . In German the nouns are hardly changed anymore (only genitive-s for masculine and neutral words in the singular and dative-n in the plural), so that the case is mainly shown on the article and then on the adjective if the article is missing or no gender and case-specific ending. There are fully developed cases in most of the Slavic, Baltic and Island-Nordic languages, whereas the other Germanic and Romance languages ​​have given up the case distinction.


The definiteness of a noun is a grammatical category used to indicate whether the noun means certain things or people or indefinitely. Together with the categories gender, number and case, it can act on congruent words as described below.

In German and many other languages, definiteness is expressed through the use of the definite article that is congruent with the noun by gender, number and case. The replacement of the definite by the indefinite article is not understood as an inflection of the article according to the category definiteness. The article can also be attached to the noun itself as a suffix (as in the Scandinavian languages ​​depending on the context and in Romanian and Albanian) or as a prefix (as in Arabic and Hebrew ). Other congruent words such as adjectives are less affected. For example, in Hebrew, not only the noun is provided with the gender and number-independent article prefix ha- , but also adjectives, and the construction of the entire noun phrase depends on gender and definition:

  • schloscha jeladim tovim (indef., mask.) - three (basic form schalosch ) good (GF tov ) children (GF jéled )
  • schlóschet ha jeladim ha tovim (def., mask.) - the three good children
  • schalosch jeladot tovot (indef., fem.) - three good girls (GF jalda )
  • schalosch ha jeladot ha tovot ha élle (def., fem.) - these (gender-independent GF élle ) three good girls


In many languages, a distinction is made in the grammar between animate and inanimate nouns, with the boundary mostly running between humans and animals on the one hand and plants, things and abstracts on the other, sometimes between humans and animals. In the Anatolian languages , an extinct branch of the Indo-European languages, liveliness is the main criterion for assigning nouns to the two genera.

In languages ​​with a different enjoyment system, the liveliness category can further differentiate the genera. Examples:

  • In some languages, whose enjoyment system is no longer related to natural sexes, different pronouns are still used depending on the gender of the person, e.g. B. in Danish , where the personal pronouns of the 3rd person singular for things, depending on the gender, are the ( utrum ) and det ( neuter ), but for persons, depending on the gender, are han (male) and hun (female). If you see this as a gender difference, there are four instead of two genera.
  • It is similar in English , where he , she and it (with the possessive pronouns his , her and its ) are mainly differentiated according to liveliness and natural gender, although there are no other genera.
  • In some Slavic languages, in the singular of masculine words and in the plural, the accusative case has the same form as the genitive in living beings, and in inanimate as the nominative. You then differentiate between an animate masculine for people with male sex ( Czech nový král = new king, genitive nového krále , accusative nového krále) and an inanimate masculine (Czech nový hrad = new castle, genitive nového hradu , accusative nový hrad ), So in a way they have four genera.
  • In Swahili there is a pair of classes (class 1/2 for singular / plural) exclusively for living beings, but living beings can also appear in other classes. They then have part of their congruences according to their class and part according to class 1/2 because of the property of being animate. Here, too, the number of genera increases if this is viewed as a gender difference.

In grammars , one refrains from considering these distinctions as separate genera and instead describes the deviations in animate nouns as supplementary rules about declension and gender congruence.

In German, as in the first two examples above, the liveliness mainly affects pronouns (who / what, someone / something); see the section Gender of Pronouns .

Liveliness is given by the meaning of the word, so synonyms have the same liveliness. When it comes to gender, on the other hand, it can change when a word is replaced by a synonym: “a person and his profession”, but “a person and her profession”, or “a woman and his profession” but “one Woman and her job ”. If something like this does not appear anywhere in the language, it is questionable whether it is a gender distinction.

An example of another categorization according to word meaning that is usually not considered gender is the counting unit words in East Asian languages, which can be viewed as modifications of the preceding numeric or demonstrative pronoun and which depend on the noun following.

Not clear gender

The gender of a noun is not always unambiguous, even if it is not a matter of coincidental equality ( homonymy ) of different words such as the Kiefer or the Tau . Sometimes the same word is used regionally or individually with a different gender, without one of the genera being correct and the other incorrect: the rubber , the catheter , the cola , the disgust , the the dispensation , the treatise . For some words, when the meanings of the same word developed apart ( polysemy ), the gender differentiated at the same time: the shield , the merit , the corpus , the acknowledgment , the part , the sea .

For the ambiguity of gender in plural and ambigenera, see the section on number .

Some apparent ambiguities in gender also come from the expectation that gender must always correspond to biological gender. The ancient grammarian Dionysios Thrax (2nd century BC) calls in his Greek grammar, in addition to the usual three genera, which he regards as undoubtedly existent, two more that "some add":

  • Γένος κοινόν ( génos koinón "common sex"; Latin genus commune ) denotes the gender expression of nouns that are used as masculine or feminine depending on the biological gender of the person being referred to (e.g. in Dionysius (ho / hē) híppos ( Horse)). In German such words are rare ( the praeses , the Hindu , the trainee ), in French they are common ( un / une enfant , le / la ministre, le / la pianiste and other personal names ending in -e ) . They behave like two polysemous words with different gender.
  • Γένος ἐπίκοινον ( génos epíkoinon "mixed gender"; Latin genus promiscuum or genus epicoenum ) denotes the gender expression of nouns with a clearly defined gender, the meaning of which includes beings of both biological sexes. As examples, Dionysios names (hē) chelidōn (swallow) and (ho) aetós (eagle), i.e. a masculine and a feminine for animals for which there are no specific words for males and females, but he does not mention neuter or personal names.

The Latin terms were coined by Aelius Donatus (4th century AD), who adopted the classification of Dionysius with changes. The German terms from early New High German translations by Donatus are hardly used today. In the general German vocabulary the word Epicönum (also Epikoinon ) can be found for a noun belonging to the genus epicoenum .

These terms are not always used consistently. In English and French, the adjective epicene or épicène is used in both of the meanings described above. Genus commune is also used synonymously with utrum .

Nominal class

The term nominal class was introduced in the 19th century, initially with reference to a classification of nouns in Bantu languages (such as Swahili ). As with gender, which has been known from Greek and Latin since ancient times , the noun serves as a reference point for other words in the sentence that are congruent with it; Nominal class therefore meets the same definition as gender. One usually speaks of gender when it comes to the classical languages ​​such as Sanskrit , Hebrew , Greek and Latin and to other Indo-European and Semitic languages: these have two or three genera, one of which is usually masculine and one feminine. In languages ​​with finer classifications and when comparing completely different classification systems, one speaks more of (nominal) classes, but gender is also used in this way. It's a more historical distinction with no sharp dividing line.

The nominal classes of the Bantu languages ​​differ in the following points from the genera of the Indo-European and Semitic languages:

  • Singular and plural are counted separately (see the section on numbers ).
  • We can consider the pairs of singular and plural occurring class as the genera or declensional classes, as the congruences up to the section liveliness described specificities result from the form of the noun in singular and plural.

Gender of pronouns

This section describes the situation in German . In other languages ​​with gender, different rules may apply.

In the narrower, more modern sense, pronouns are words that take the place of a noun or proper name in a sentence: personal , indefinite and question pronouns , as well as possessive and demonstrative pronouns if they are not accompanied by a noun. They have a gender that can be picked up by a possessive pronoun (gender of the owner, not of possession) or a relative pronoun . Examples:

  1. He who puts on his jacket ...
  2. She who puts on her jacket ...
  3. It that puts on his jacket ...
  4. My (instead of: my car ) doing his job ...
  5. This (instead of: this machine ) that generated its operating costs ...
  6. Someone who puts on his jacket ...
  7. Who is it that puts on his jacket?
  8. One can its not always hide the feelings of a suddenly come.
  9. Something that doesn't do its job ...
  10. What is it that is not doing its job?

In the case of personal pronouns (e.g. 1 to 3), the noun they represent has been mentioned beforehand, and you almost always adopt its gender (for counterexamples see below). Possessive pronouns and demonstrative pronouns that do not accompany a noun (e.g. 4 and 5) have the gender of the missing noun, which can be ambiguous (e.g. 4 mine for my car or mine for my car ). Indefinite and question pronouns (e.g. 6 to 10) have their own gender, which they have not taken from a noun or proper name. They are masculine for people (someone , man , who) and neutral for things (something , what) , regardless of what gender and what sex they mean. If you want to incorporate the natural gender of people with the help of gender, you can say, for example:

  • One who puts on his jacket ...
  • One who puts on her jacket ...

Indefinite pronouns with the following relative pronouns are often replaced by question pronouns without changing the gender:

  • Who comes too late to be punished by life. (Instead of: someone who comes too late is punished by life. )
  • What does not interest me, which I do not read. (Instead of: I don't read something that doesn't interest me. )

Personal pronouns do not always include the gender and number of the noun they represent. Especially for a person whose natural gender is known, pronouns with the corresponding gender are often used , and singulars that denote a plurality of things are also given plural pronouns. Such a choice of pronoun is an example of a constructio ad sensum . As with all stylistic devices that violate formal grammar, their use is controversial. Often the break is softened by inserting another noun or a name with the new gender as a predicate noun:

  • The girl that 's just come in, say Susanne. She works here.
  • The other hostage was a man. He was about forty years old.

In general, however, personal pronouns cannot refer to predicate nouns:

  • The buttercup is a meadow flower. He (not: she ) blooms yellow.

Reflexive possessive pronouns (i.e. his / her , so that his / her own is meant) should, if possible, follow the gender of the reference word, be it a noun or pronoun:

  • The girl had her (not: her ) hair tied in a ponytail.
  • A girl had come in. Her (not: his ) hair was tied back in a ponytail.
  • A girl had come in. His (not: her ) hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

Relative pronouns always follow the gender of the word to which they refer:

  • The student is a nice girl, the (not: the ) is also very diligent.

Gender congruence

The gender is a fixed grammatical category of the noun that can be marked on the noun itself. With Italian nouns such as origano “oregano” or salvia “sage”, the masculine or feminine gender can usually be recognized by the ending ( -o or -a ); you don't recognize it with German nouns like sage , columbine , monotony . However, this is not critical; What is important is that the gender is marked on other words in the sentence that match the referential noun, i. H. have the same gender. For example, For example, in German the adjective attribute with the antecedent in gender: fresh he sage - fresh e parsley - fresh it basil . Often the gender congruence of determinants and attributes of a noun. With participles in the formation of certain tenses, as in Russian and Arabic , or in the passive voice, parts of the predicate congruent in numerous languages ​​with its subject in gender and not just in number . In Romance languages, the same participle congruent with the subject in passive formations, but not in perfect formations.

Demonstrative pronouns can also be congruent with their predicative nouns in their subject function, for example in Latin and Italian ( faccenda is feminine, problema masculine):

Quest a è un a faccenda seri a - This is an e seriously e affair
Quest o è un problema seri o - This is a seriously it problem

Congruence of the article

In German it is common to denote the gender of a noun by giving the form of the definite article. But this is not possible for all languages ​​with genera:

  • Many languages, etc. a. Latin and Russian have no articles or any other marking of the definiteness of a noun.
  • If there is such a marking, it can also be independent of gender and number, as in Hebrew and Arabic, and it can also be applied to the noun itself, as in Scandinavian and Semitic languages, i.e. not to any other word in the sentence.

Congruence of the adjective

Adjectives usually change their form according to gender, number, and - if available in the language - case of the associated noun. In German there are also up to three forms with the same gender, case and number, depending on whether the adjective is used as an attribute or a predicative, and in the first case on whether a certain article or demonstrative pronoun precedes it. There are similar distinctions in other languages; here are examples from Danish, German and Russian:

n et grønt træ m a green tree n seljonoje derewo
det grønne træ the green tree
he træet green the tree is green derewo séleno
u en green tight f a green meadow f seljonaja lushajka
the green one tight the green meadow
narrow it green the meadow is green lushajka selená
n et grønt hus n a green house m seljonyj dom
det grønne hus the green house
he huset grønt the house is green dom sélen
p grønne træer p green trees p seljonyje derewja
de grønne træer the green trees
træerne he green the trees are green derewja séleny


m = masculine
f = feminine
n = neuter
u = utrum
p = plural (in these three languages only one plural for all genera)

Congruence of the numerical word

In some languages ​​the numerals also differ beyond the one for nouns of different genera, for example in Hebrew or in Bantu languages ​​such as Swahili. In Russian the numerals are declined, but only the two is different according to gender. In Hebrew there is a special feature that the numerals used to count masculine objects have feminine endings and vice versa.

Congruence of pronouns

Personal and demonstrative pronouns in languages ​​with genera mostly depend on the gender of the noun they are used. Possessive pronouns can be based on the gender of the owner (his  /  her) and that of possession (his  /  her) . In many languages ​​only one of the distinctions is made.

As functional words , pronouns do not necessarily have to be separate words; they can also be in the form of clitics or affixes . Example: The phrase he / she see is le / la voir in French and verlo / verla in Spanish . In German there are two words that also appear individually - for example as an answer to a question - and between which you can insert any other words; In French, le / la does not appear individually as an object pronoun, but only as an unstressed clitic before the verb, and in Spanish it is written together as a suffix with the verb, which makes less of a linguistic difference than a purely orthographic one.

In Swahili, the personal pronouns only appear as separate words in exceptional cases, mainly to underline the grammatical person and therefore independent of gender. Otherwise their function is taken over by gender-dependent verb prefixes, e.g. B. amelitazama (he / she has looked at it; with the subject prefix a- , the object prefix li- and in between the tense prefix me- for the perfect). Unlike in the previous examples, these pronominal prefixes not only replace subject and object, but also serve to conjugate the verb, which is not changed in the verb stem: mama amelitazama gari (the woman looked at the car; literally woman she-has-it -looked at car ). So here the verb form shows congruence with the gender of subject and object - unless one regards the prefixes as clitics and their combination with the verb stem only as an orthographic convention.

Possessive pronouns also have the form of affixes in some languages , which then congruent with the gender of the owner, e.g. B. in Hebrew sefer / sifro / sifrah (book / his book / her book), sfarim / sfaraw / sfarejha (books / his books / her books).

Congruence of the verb

With regard to the possible gender congruence, finite and infinite verb forms behave differently. Finite verb forms are those that have a variety of grammatical categories such as person , number , tense , gender, and mode marked. In German and other Indo-European languages, the number of the subject is marked by the finite verb, but not its gender; In other languages, the gender and number of subject and object can also be marked on the verb. An example of this from Swahili, a language with agglutinating deformations, was discussed in the previous section.

But there are also such congruences in finite verb forms of inflected languages . An example of subject congruence from modern Hebrew:

  • Shmuel raqad. Atta raqadta. Lea raqda. Att raqadet. (Shmuel danced. You (m) danced. Lea danced. You (f) danced.)
  • Shmuel jirqod. Atta tirqod. Lea tirqod. Att tirqedi. (Shmuel will dance. You (m) will dance. Lea will dance. You (f) will dance.)

In Biblical Hebrew there are exactly the same forms with a different word order and slightly different meaning; but the subject congruence is the same. Object congruence is restricted to Biblical Hebrew if the object is a pronoun:

  • ta'asvennu (you (m) will leave him)
  • ta'asveha (you (m) will leave her)

Infinite verb forms are used in a sentence similar to other parts of speech, namely infinitives like nouns and participles like adjectives or adverbs. With regard to gender congruence, they inherit the properties of these parts of speech. For example, German present participles have to be the property of adjectives genuskongruent the attributive use of the noun: a smiling he seller , but a smiling e saleswoman . The following French examples show that gender congruences can occur with both the subject and the object of the verb:

  • les mots (m) qui étaient dits (the words that were said)
  • les paroles (f) qui étaient dites (the words that were said)
  • les mots qu'il avait dits (the words he said)
  • les paroles qu'il avait dites (the words he said)

A middle position between finite and infinite verb forms are those forms that are participles in linguistic history, but next to which there is no finite verb in the same sentence, namely if a verb sein is not explicitly added because it is optional in the language.

  • Hebrew: Shmuel roqed. Atta roqed. Lea roqedet. Att roqedet. (Shmuel dances. You (m) dances. Lea dances. You (f) dances. Actually: Shmuel [is] dancer.… You (f) [are] dancer.)
  • russ .: Boris Tanzewal. Ty Tanzewal. Anna Tanzewala. Ty Tanzewala. (Boris danced. You (m) danced. Anna danced. You (f) danced. Actually: Boris [is] danced. ... You (f) [are] danced.)

Such forms are perceived by the speakers as finite verb forms. In this way, a gender congruence with the subject can come about at the expense of person congruence, even if it does not otherwise occur in the language.

Gender dependencies

Which gender or which noun class a word belongs to can depend on many factors that are often no longer comprehensible today. Here are a few of them.

Masculine, feminine, neuter, uttrum

For the novel by Roland Barthes see Das Neutrum .

Many languages ​​have masculine (m.) And feminine (f.) Under their genera, some of them, including German, additionally neutral (n.) . This does not mean that all masculine and feminine words designate male or female beings and neutral words designate things - this is not the case for any of the languages ​​considered here.

A word is called generic if it is applicable to beings of both sexes, otherwise (gender) specific . These two terms have nothing to do with genera and can therefore also be used in connection with languages ​​that have no genera at all (like Hungarian ) or whose enjoyment system has nothing to do with gender (like Swahili ); the words for girl and human are specific or generic in these languages ​​too. For words that denote something that has no biological gender (such as things or abstracts), the terms generically and specifically have no meaning, even if these words occur in connection with only one gender, for example words for sex organs or for gender-specific clothing.

A pleasure system has a relation to biological sexes when specific words, that is to say denoting beings of only one sex, predominantly - with a few systematic or individual exceptions such as in German diminutive or woman - have a gender-dependent gender: then this is called regular Gender for masculine beings masculine and that for feminine feminine . In addition, as in German, there can be a third gender, the neuter ( Latin ne-utrum "none of both"). Generic words and words for things and abstracts can have any of the genera in such languages. Masculine generic person names, for which there is also a female form , are also used specifically for men, which can be ambiguous or ambiguous depending on the context (see generic masculine ).

The opposite of neuter is utrum (Latin utrum "one of both"; from uter "which of both? Who always of both"). This word is used when the earlier masculine has coincided with the earlier feminine except for gender-specific pronouns for living beings and the common gender now forms the opposite of the neuter, as in Danish , Swedish and some Norwegian dialects . The Utrum also contains the inanimate and the neuter also animate, just as there are many inanimate masculines and feminines and some animate neuter in German, such as German the child , Danish et barn , a neuter in both languages. So it is not simply a matter of a contrast between the animate and the inanimate. It is different in the extinct Anatolian languages Hittite and Luwian : there the utrum stands for living beings (not necessarily exactly according to today's definition) opposite the neuter for inanimate things. The uterum is sometimes referred to as the genus commune in both cases . Originally, however, this term has a different meaning, namely that one and the same word belongs to a different gender , depending on the sex of the living being . In Swedish the utrum is also called real genus .

The concept of movement has nothing to do with genera, i.e. the morphological change of a generic or gender-specific word in order to turn it into one with a different gender reference. Often it is about creating a word for female beings (teacher → teacher, dog → bitch) , occasionally also for males (widow → widower, turkey → turkey) . In languages ​​with gender-dependent genera, the movied word then has the corresponding gender, but even in languages ​​without genera there can be movings , for example Hungarian tanár (teacher) → tanárnő (teacher).

Declination class

In languages ​​with case , words with different gender are often declined differently; they are then in different declination classes . However, these must not be confused with the genera. The difference can be made clear with the following example from Russian:

the nice Fyodor the nice Nikita the nice Anna
Nominative milyj Fyodor milyj Nikita milaja Anna
Genitive milowo Fjodora milowo Nikity miloj Anny
dative milomu Fyodoru milomu Nikite miloj Anne
accusative milowo Fjodora milowo Nikitu miluju annu
Instrumental milym Fyodorom milym Nikitoj miloj Annoj
Prepositive milom Fjodore milom Nikite miloj Anne

The declension of Nikita is the same as that of Anna due to their same ending -a , which occurs only with very few non-feminine nouns. The adjective form, i.e. the congruence with another word, on the other hand, is the same as with Fyodor. Since the definition of gender is only about such congruences, the equality of the inflected endings of the names has nothing to do with the genera, but the equality of the forms of the adjective does.

In languages ​​with gender but without a case, the declension is limited to the plural form. An example from Hebrew : masculine nouns and adjectives form the plural with -im , feminine with -ot , so that the endings for both parts of speech are the same, e.g. B. morim tovim (good teachers), morot tovot (good teachers), battim tovim (good houses), arazot tovot (good countries). If, as an exception, a masculine noun has a plural ending -ot or a feminine -im , the genera can be recognized by the endings of the adjectives because of the gender congruence, e.g. B. schulchanot tovim (good tables), schanim tovot (good years).

Closely related is the question of whether the gender of a noun can be seen in the form of the word, such as prefixes or endings. In many languages ​​this is the case for many words, but rarely for all. In German this is limited to suffixes that result in a clear gender, such as -ung (f) , -heit (f) , -keit (f) , -schaft (f) , -in (f) , -tum (n , rarely also m) , -lein (n) , -chen (n) , -ling (m) .

The pleasure system of the German language

In German, the following genera are distinguished:

  • masculine gender (male gender), short: masculine. Example: (the) spoon
  • feminine gender, short: Feminine. Example: (the) fork
  • neutral gender (neuter gender), in short: neuter. Example: (the) knife

For languages ​​with other gender systems, see the section pleasure systems .

Gender and sex in German

In German, the gender of a noun identifying a person partly corresponds to the sex of the person concerned (e.g. the woman , the man ); typical exception are the diminutives ( diminutives ) that are always plural (z. B. the girl , the little man ), but in the opposite direction, no reliable statement is possible. Is the biological sex is unknown or not important or should be talking about a mixed-gender group, there is the German the possibility of generic terms in the form of generic use: generic masculine (man , the dog) , generic feminine (the person , the Cat) or generic neuter (the victim , the horse) .

Personal designations

When it comes to personal names, gender usually corresponds to sex. A small number of words deviate from this rule. Most of them are diminutive , metaphor-derived expressions or words that express that people do not behave according to their gender role.

Occasionally, such words are also found in other languages, for example under the derogatory terms for effeminate homosexuals (Italian: la checca ; French: la tante , la tapette ).

Gender and sex in personal designations
grammatical masculine grammatical feminine grammatical neuter
biologically male the hagestolz
the man
the guy
the eminence
the holiness
the man person
the cowardly
the guy
the man
biologically feminine the backfish
the blue stocking
the soprano
the tomboy
the vamp
the doctor
the woman
the nun
the miss
the woman
the brat
the girl
the woman
biological sex undetermined doctor
the person
the hostage
the figure
the majesty
the person
the orphan
the beast
the genius
the child
the living creature
the member
the ward
the beast

Animal names

There are only a few generic feminines for personal names (the person , the hostage , the orphan) , for animal names there are such and generic neutrals more frequently. There are flowing transitions between nouns that are generic for both genders and those that can specifically stand for only one gender.

generic the bear
specific the bear the she-bear
generic the cat
specific the Hangover the cat
the queen
generic the deer
specific the roebuck the deer
the doe

On the other hand, there are also generics that do not refer to a specific biological sex, but only to one species as a whole. Large animals and carnivores are more often assigned to the masculine, the most important grazing animals to the neuter, most insects and numerous, predominantly small birds to the feminine.

generic the human being
specific the man ( ahd. quena )
the woman
the woman
♂ / ♀
generic the eagle
the seal
the whale
the frog
specific the male
/ female
♂ / ♀
generic the fly
the spider
the snake
the toad
specific the male
/ female
generic the horse
specific the stallion the mare

In some cases, gender and sex are decoupled from each other in Animata,

  • because the female's exact gender is grammatically masculine, or that of the male is grammatically feminine:
Asymmetry 1
generic the fish
specific the milkman the Rogner
Asymmetry 2
generic the bee
specific the drone the queen
the worker
  • or because the conspicuous representatives of a grammatically female species are the males:
Asymmetry 3
generic the Nightingale
specific the nightingale
- sings -
the female
does not sing
partial asymmetry 3
generic the Blackbird
specific the blackbird
(the blackbird)
- sings -
the female blackbird
(the blackbird hen)

- does not sing -

Social meaning of gender

Not to be confused with the asymmetry in the last-mentioned gender designations in the animal kingdom is the asymmetry that results from the gender form of role designations: the student is about the same time the general designation for both sexes, but also the special form for male students. The student , on the other hand, clearly only refers to women.

This asymmetry is heavily criticized in feminist linguistics because men are preferred and women are made invisible, but this interpretation is controversial. The so-called gender - equitable language tries to break up this asymmetry.

Gender of objects with no natural gender

Most of the nouns in German do not show a generalizable connection between the meaning ( semantics ) of the word and its gender. However, certain rules can be empirically established for some groups of terms:

  • In nouns derived from adjectives with the suffix -heit and -keit the derivative operator (here -heit ) determines a certain gender (here feminine) for the derivative product and at the same time puts it in a certain category of meaning (here: abstract of a property).
  • The derivative operator also defines the gender of verbs, sometimes with a few exceptions:
    • Feminine are the verb derivatives on -e ( search → search ), on -d (hunting, mowing) and -t ( embers , seam ), on -ft ( arrival ) and -st ( load ), on -ung and on -ei . Of the exceptions, autumn and the horning can be explained by the fact that all seasons and month names are masculine, and the sage by the fact that most herbs are named masculine.
    • Derivatives without a suffix are predominantly masculine ( walking → the walk , curse → the curse , etc.). Things that are being prepared, such as the bath and the grave , appear as neutras . The wall is an exception . Escape is only superficially an exception: flee → -t → escape → flee .
    • The possibility of different genera is partly used to distinguish between the terms: the band and the band , the covenant and the covenant .
    • Verb derivatives on -nis are never masculine. Whether they are feminine or neutral in individual cases does not follow any fixed rule. There is, however, a tendency: if the word denotes a state that has arisen through the action on the verb object ( die… nis = die… theit , e.g. authority , concern , concern ), then they are mostly feminine; on the other hand , if the current action is in the foreground ( das… nis = das… en , e.g. funeral , confession , result ) or if both interpretations are possible (e.g. event , requirement , understanding ), they are more neutral. Newer formations are usually neutral.
  • All days of the week, months and seasons are masculine today. Wednesday (e) was originally feminine like week
  • Neutra are all languages: The Shona ( Chishona ) is the language of the Shona ( Mashona ) .
  • All ship names (the Kaiser Wilhelm) are feminine .
  • All car brands are masculine (the Opel, the BMW) , probably in the sense of the car , but not all types of cars (the duck) , motorcycle brands are feminine (the BMW) , maybe in the sense of the machine , bike brands are neuter (the Opel , the Gazelle ) , in the sense of the wheel . Similarly, in French car brands are female (la Citroën) in the sense of la voiture .

Hypotheses on the relationship between the language resources gender and number

A semantic connection between the gender category and the number category is assumed. This assumption is based on the observation of the linguist Joseph H. Greenberg , according to which the category gender only exists in languages ​​with the category number. The reverse does not apply: languages ​​with a number do not have to have a gender (cf., for example, Turkish ). The feminine of German would therefore be a category for collective plurality (such as German fraternity ), as assumed for the Indo-European languages by the German linguist Karl Brugmann at the end of the 19th century .

Attempts to explain deviations from gender and sex

In the early days of German grammar writing - the Renaissance and Baroque periods - gender and sex were mixed. The gender of the personal designations was directly linked to their gender meaning, so that, for example, Justus Georg Schottelius understood masculine personal designations as “names of men”. At the time of the Enlightenment , thinkers such as Johann Christoph Gottsched and Johann Christoph Adelung conceived gender as a category related to sex (and all stereotypical ideas about it) that reflected central characteristics of men and women. The generic masculine will not be discussed at this time, except to some extent in the case of indefinite pronouns , e.g. B. Adelung regarded as gender neutral. The 18th and 19th centuries were marked by the tendency, which began with Jacob Grimm , to link grammatical gender with biological gender. So Grimm allowed all ideas of characteristics, behaviors and peculiarities that were linked to the image of man and woman to flow into his conception of the genera: “The masculinum seems to be the earlier, larger, firmer, brittle, faster, active, mobile, procreative; the feminine the later, smaller, softer, quieter, suffering, receiving (...) These characteristics agree with those set up in the natural gender (...). The masculine (grammatical) gender was postulated by Grimm as well as previously by Adelung, analogous to the biological male gender, as different and of higher value. Accordingly, for Grimm, “the hand” was feminine because it was smaller, more passive and more receptive than “the foot”. In his view, passivity, small size and feminine on the one hand and activity, size and masculine on the other belong together. Grimm found a similar sex-based explanation for many other nouns. He saw the masculine as the "liveliest, strongest and most original" of all gender categories and was the first to mention the possibility of using masculine personal names in relation to women. However, Grimm only ascribes a gender-neutral meaning to the neuter. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, it was still predominantly assumed that the gender of personal names results from the sex of the person designated. At that time there were u. a. by Wilhelm Wilmann the first explicit descriptions of the phenomenon of the generic masculine.

From the 1960s onwards, two radically different views arose on the relationship between gender and the treatment of the generic masculine in linguistics :

According to the first view, there is a congruence between sex and gender in personal designations. When referring to kinship relationships, they are consistently adhered to ( the father but the mother ), and languages ​​differentiate between animata (animate, key question: who? ) And inanimata (inanimate, key question: what? ), On the one hand, and between male and female on the other. These two separations would be expressed in the three number of genera. In order to understand deviations from the congruence, a high degree of abstraction is required. These deviations and not compliance with congruence would have to be justified.

According to the second view, gender and sex have nothing to do with each other in languages ​​like German: If a table is “male”, then part of it, namely the table leg, cannot actually be “neuter”. In fact, the assignment of genera to words is random and arbitrary, as is the gender assignment in cutlery: the spoon, the fork, the knife . Also, not all dogs (generic masculine) are male and not all cats (generic feminine) are female. “Things” are horses (generic neuter) at best for lawyers and economists. Even with living beings, there are chaotic relationships when assigning generic terms to genera. Consequently, there is nothing to be said against it if people are also referred to with a word that deviates from their sex.

The grammar dictionary of 1966 (p. 137, § 1255) sees the origin of the enjoyment system as semantically motivated, i.e. H. related to sex. From its third edition in 1973 (p. 150, § 321), however, the grammar dictionary strictly denies a connection between gender and sex.

Pleasure systems

No gender

About half of all languages ​​have no gender.

Examples of Indo-European languages without gender are:

Non-Indo-European languages ​​without gender are for example:

Pronominal sex, but not noun genus

Some languages ​​do not know noun genus (anymore), but have (still) a pronominal genus. The personal pronoun of the 3rd person Sg. Often depends on the sex , sometimes also other.

Examples of Germanic languages without nouns are:

Most planned languages ​​also have no gender category. There are also languages, such as Hindi-Urdu or Punjabi, in which the nouns differ according to genera, but the pronouns do not.

Differentiation between masculine and feminine

Most modern Romance languages do without the neuter, so only have the two genera masculine and feminine. There are remnants of the neuter in Spanish for substantiated adjectives , such as lo malo , the evil. In Italian only individual irregular after today's grammar plural formations with the suffix -a left, about mille (thousand) → due mila (two thousand, with the female form of dui / due , two, dui obsolete).

Many Indo-Iranian languages

  • Hindi Urdu . However, the largest Indo-Iranian language has no pronominal genus. So there are the same pronouns for he , she , and es . This is in contrast to English, which does not know a noun form, but distinguishes between he , she , and es in the third person singular pronouns .
  • Punjabi . As in Hindi-Urdu, the Punjabi pronoun does not distinguish between he , she and es in the 3rd person singular .
  • Romanes
  • Kashmiri
  • Northern Kurdish (In contrast, Central Kurdish and Southern Kurdish have no gender)
  • Pashto
  • Baluchi

Today's Baltic languages

The Celtic languages

A single Slavic language under Italian influence

Other Indo-European languages :

Semitic languages :

and also all other Afro-Asian languages , such as:

Differentiation between utrum and neuter

In mainland Scandinavian languages

and in

The Utrum arose from the earlier masculine and feminine, so it also contains a lot of inanimate things.

Distinction between masculine and non-masculine

Some of the Dravidian languages ​​of India only differentiate between masculine and non-masculine; a feminine is missing. These are mainly the Dravida languages ​​of the central group ( Kui , Kuwi , Kolami , Parji , Ollari and Gadaba ), as well as some from the south-central group ( Gondi and Konda ). All of these languages ​​are languages ​​of Indian adivasis with no written tradition. Gondi has three million speakers.

The case of Telugu , the largest Dravida language with 81 million speakers (2011) and the official language of two Indian federal states, is even more special : Here there is only masculine and non-masculine in the singular, but in the plural, however, utens and neuter. There are feminine pronouns in Telugu, but they are treated in the singular just like neuter.

Distinction between masculine, feminine and neuter

Of the Germanic languages, the following have preserved the three Indo-European genera:

Of the Romance languages:

  • Romanian (The neuter has coincided with the masculine in the singular, with the feminine in the plural. There are a few such cases in Italian .)
  • Aromatic

The Slavic languages ​​with the exception of Molislav, including:

Other Indo-European languages ​​like:

Non-Indo-European languages ​​such as:

  • most of the Dravidian languages ​​of South India, such as B. Tamil , Kannada and Malayalam . The gender here corresponds to the natural gender. In the plural, masculine and feminine coincide. The verb forms also reflect the gender of the subject.

See also


  • Karl Brugmann : The nature and origin of the noun genders in the Indo-European languages . A lecture delivered on the occasion of the sesquicentennial celebration of Princeton University. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1897.
  • Jochen A. Bär : Genus and Sexus. Observations on the linguistic category “gender” . In: Karin M. Eichhof-Cyrus (ed.): Adam, Eva and the language. Contributions to gender research (=  topic German ). tape 5 . Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 978-3-411-04211-1 .
  • Greville G. Corbett: Gender . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York 1991, ISBN 0-521-32939-6 .
  • Peter Eisenberg : Outline of the German grammar . 4th edition. tape 1 - The word . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02425-1 .
  • Peter Eisenberg: Outline of the German grammar . 3. Edition. tape 2 - The sentence . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2006, ISBN 978-3-476-02161-8 .
  • Joseph H. Greenberg: Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements . In: Joseph Greenberg (Ed.): Universals of language . MIT Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts), London 1963, pp. 73-113 .
  • Klaus-Michael Köpcke : Investigations into the pleasure system of the German contemporary language. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1982.
  • Gisela Klann-Delius : Language and Gender . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-476-10349-8 .
  • Elisabeth Leiss: Genus and Sexus. Critical comments on the sexualization of grammar . In: Linguistic Reports . No. 152 , 1994, pp. 281-300 .
  • Elisabeth Leiss: Philosophy of Language . 2nd Edition. de Gruyter, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-11-020547-3 .
  • Luise F. Pusch : All people become sisters. Feminist language criticism . 5th edition. Edition Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1990, ISBN 3-518-11565-0 .
  • Gisela Schoenthal : Impulses from feminist linguistics for the language system and use of language . In: Werner Besch, Anne Betten, Oskar Reichmann, Stefan Sonderegger (eds.): History of language. Handbook on the history of the German language and its research . de Gruyter, Berlin 2000, p. 2064 f .

Web links

Wiktionary: Gender  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Individual languages ​​(except German)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Greville G. Corbett: Number of Genders . In: Martin Haspelmath, Matthew S. Dryer, David Gil, Bernard Comrie (Eds.): The World Atlas of Language Structures . Max Planck Digital Library, Munich 2008, chap. 30 ( WALS Online ).
  2. The presentation follows Heinrich Simon : Textbook of the modern Hebrew language. 9th, unchanged edition. Verlag Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1988, ISBN 3-324-00100-5 , pp. 85-86. It applies to modern Hebrew. In Biblical Hebrew next to which are state-constructus forms schloschet and schlosch also used in other contexts.
  3. Internetová jazyková příručka. 2004, accessed February 10, 2019 .
  4. ^ Langenscheidt's pocket dictionary, Czech, 10th edition. 1993, ISBN 3-468-11360-9 , p. 551 ff.
  5. The teaching of the grammarian Dionysios (Dionysios Thrax, Tékhne grammatiké - German) . In: De Tékhne Grammatiké van Dionysius Thrax: De oudste spraakkunst in het Westen. Pierre Swiggers - Alfons Wouters: Inleiding; Griekse tekst met Nederlandse vertaling en noten; Duitse vertaling (by Wilfried Kürschner); terminological apparaat en bibliografie (= Orbis Linguarum, 2). Peeters, Löwen / Paris 1998, ISBN 90-6831-992-2 , p. 60
  6. ^ Elke Montanari : Childish multilingualism - Determination and gender . Waxmann, Münster 2010, ISBN 978-3-8309-2300-8 , pp. 161-184 . Contains an overview of the term gender in occidental grammars from antiquity to the present.
  7. epicene. Retrieved May 5, 2017 .
  8. Dictionnaires Larousse: epicene. Éditions Larousse , accessed May 5, 2017 (French).
  9. These two forms תַעַזְבֶנּוּ and תַעַזְבֶהָ can be found in the Hebrew Bible in Deut 14:27 and Prov 4,6
  10. A. Walde, JB Hofmann: Latin etymological dictionary. Volume 2. 3rd revised edition. Winter, Heidelberg 1938, p. 845.
  11. Sebastian Kürschner: Declination class change: A diachron-contrastive study on the development of plural allomorphism in German, Dutch, Swedish and Danish . de Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-020501-5 , p. 58 .
  12. ^ Frank Starke: Investigation of the stem formation of the cuneiform Luwian noun . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1990, ISBN 3-447-02879-3 , p. 26 .
  13. la tapette. In: Reverso Dizionario. Retrieved July 19, 2018 .
  14. The Old High German female equivalent of man was quena (cf. English queen ). Weib / wif may originally have meant "womb". Originally, woman is not the female counterpart to man , but to Fro ("Lord"), cf. Kluge, Etymological Dictionary of the German Language, 24th edition. 2002, ISBN 3-11-017473-1 .
  15. (Schoenthal2000: 2064), (Pusch1990)
  16. Critique of Criticism: "... the gender of nouns has been sexualized, although gender has nothing to do with sex." In: Elisabeth Leiss: Sprachphilosophie . Walter de Gruyter, 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-021700-1 , p. 71 (Google Books)
  17. Duden Sprachwissen (online): nouns in -nis .
  18. ^ Lemma Wednesday in Grimm's Dictionary, Online .
  19. a b c d e f g Ursula Doleschal: The generic masculine in German . A historical walk through German grammar writing from the Renaissance to the Postmodern. In: Linguistics online . tape 11 , no. 2 , 2002, p. 39–70 , doi : 10.13092 / lo.11.915 ( [accessed on April 13, 2020]).
  20. a b c d Lisa Irmen and Vera Steiger: On the history of the generic masculine: Linguistic, philosophical and psychological aspects in historical discourse . In: Zeitschrift für Germanistische Linguistik , 33, No. 2–3, 2006, pp. 212–235. doi: 10.1515 / zfgl.33.2-3.212 .
  21. ^ Gisela Klann-Delius : Language and Gender . Metzler, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-476-10349-8 , pp. 24, 26, 29 f.
  22. ^ Jacob Grimm : German grammar. Third part . Dieterich, Gütersloh 1890, pp. 309, 357.
  23. a b Elisabeth Leiss: Genus and Sexus. Critical comments on the sexualization of grammar . In: Linguistic Reports , 152, 1994, pp. 281-300.
  24. ^ Peter Eisenberg : Outline of the German grammar. The sentence. Volume 2, 2nd edition. Metzler, Stuttgart 2004, p. 153 f.
  25. Hadumod Bußmann : The gender, the grammar and - man: gender difference in linguistics . In: Hadumod Bussmann and Renate Hof (ed.): Genus: To the gender difference in cultural studies . Alfred Kröner, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-520-49201-6 , pp. 114-160. Quote
  26. Bettina Jobin: Genus im Wandel . Dissertation, Stockholm 2004, see
  27. ^ Kurdish language I. History , Ludwig Paul, Encyclopædia Iranica: "A distinction of gender exists in Kurdish likewise only in the N dialects, and only in two forms"
  28. Bhadiraju Krishnamurti: The Dravidian Languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003, pp. 207-210.
  29. ^ Krishnamurti & Gwynn, A Grammar of modern Telugu, Delhi: Oxford, 1985, p. 56.