Grammatical gender of loanwords

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Δημήτρης, Aug 3, 2009.

  1. Δημήτρης

    Δημήτρης Senior Member

    Κύπρος - Cyprus
    Cypriot Greek
    If your language has a grammatical gender, how to do you deal with loanwords?
    All of them M./Fm./N. or they get the same gender as the native equivalent word?
  2. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    London, UK
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    In Arabic, it follows general Arabic rules.
  3. phosphore Senior Member

    In Serbian too. I cannot think of any loanword in Serbian whose gender was determined by its gender in original language. They all follow our declension and accent patterns as well, except for some newer adjectives and some foreign female names.
  4. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    In German we tend to use

    a) the gender of the original language
    eine Allee - une allée (fr.)
    die Paella - la paella (sp.)

    b) the gender of the German equivalent

    die Boullion= die Brühe - but: "le boullion" (fr.)
    der Computer = der Rechner

    Note: der/ein=male, die/eine=female, das/ein=neuter

    The only problem is with English loanwords. There are often 2 or even all 3 German genders possible, e.g. "die Cola", "das Cola"
  5. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    IMHO the IE a-stem feminine loanwords are usually feminine in all IE languages. I wonder if there is an exception?

    For example philosophia is feminine in all IE languages AFAIK.

    It is true to some extent for the Latin feminines ending with -io, -tas:

    revolutio: revolutión, rivoluzione, revoluce, revolucja, ...
    universitas: université, universita, Univesität, ... (but in Russian it is masculine: universitet)

    Also the Latin and Greek neuter loanwords in -um, -ium, -on, -ion, -ma often preserve the original gender:

    album (pl. alba), museum (musea), kriterium (kriteria), dilemma (dilemmata) are neuter nouns in Czech as well as in German.

    Finally the numerous loanwords in -or are usually masculines (accumulator, sensor, ...).
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2009
  6. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Yes. Latin nouns in -tas are always feminine (as, curiously, are most abstracts in Latin, regardless of declension), and usually those in -io too, but a centurion (centurio, -onis) might take exception.
  7. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    Curiously the abstract nouns derived from the adjectives are mostly feminines in Czech (generally in the Slavic languages). Maybe it is a common feature of the IE languages.

    However amor, terror, horror, etc. (-or ending) are masculine in Latin. Similarly in Czech where strach (= fear) is masculine but it is not derived from an adjective.

    Thus it is quite natural that Czech mostly preserves the original gender of the loanwords from Latin (generally Romance), Greek and German (to some extent). English is another story. The English loanwords are mostly masculines in Czech (film, parking, notebook, sport, goal, forehand, match, ..........). Coca-Cola as a typical a-stem is feminine. The nouns denoting persons have, of course, the natural gender (lord-masc., lady-fem., baby-neuter,...). Strangely, star is feminine like the Czech equivalent hvězda (filmová star/hvězda).
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
  8. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    In Hebrew, words which end with "a" are regarded as feminine, otherwise it's usually masculine. English words which end with "tion" are loaned to Hebrew with the suffix "tsia" and a suffix "y" (biology, psychology, democracy) turn into "ya" (biologya, psikhologya, democratya), so these all are feminine.
  9. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    In Tagalog there is no gender in words but the gender of the loan words are retained.
  10. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    In think that in French, it depends. I'll only talk about "recent" loan words here! (I won't talk about words like "zéro, algèbre,..." which really sound French to us right now).
    Recognizable words will keep the grammatical gender of the language.

    Ex : la paëlla, la pizza
    Even to French people, it looks feminine and it stays feminine.

    It's more of a problem with names of pasta. They can be either masculine or feminine, I think there is no real consensus on this:
    spaghetti (nm or nf)
    lasagne (nf)


    There must be examples of us using the wrong gender.

    As for loan words from English, we tend to use it in the masculine form:
    hub (nm)
    jogging (nm)
    football (nm)

    I can't think of any word in the feminine form right now though I'm sure it exists. It will be so if it looks like a feminine French word we have.

    Sorry for not having more precise examples :(
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
  11. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    La common law.Probably because it looks similar to loi.
  12. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    It's variable in Portuguese. I would say the default, if the word has a completely unfamiliar structure, is to use the masculine. This appears to be the most common situation. But if the language of origin is well-known enough, so that the original gender is known, it may keep the original gender. If the word ends with -a it may be reinterpreted as feminine, because this is a typical feminine ending in Portuguese. Or if the word can somehow be semantically connected to a Portuguese word, it may get the same gender as that Portuguese word. There are also a few classes of words where the feminine appears to be preferred for no clear reason. For example, drive (< English disk drive) and other computer-related words are treated as feminine by many people, although this isn't entirely consistent: you do hear it as a masculine also.
  13. Dymn

    Dymn Senior Member

    Some rules of thumb for the gender of modern loanwords in (European) Spanish:
    • Words refering to people take the gender of the given person. For example, samurai is m, geisha is f, or hacker is m or f depending on the gender of the person.
    • Words which come from other Romance languages preserve the original gender (élite f, from French; piano m, from Italian; paella f, from Catalan), with some exceptions (gofre m, from Fr. gaufre f).
    • Words which come from other languages families (especially English) almost always take the masculine gender (fútbol, blog, chat, hobby, email, mitin (meeting, from English; sushi, sudoku, from Japanese...).
    • Borrowings which resemble existing words in Spanish usually take the gender of it: Bundesliga (liga f) is feminine, newsletter (letra f) vacillates.
    • Sometimes the current borrowings are abbreviations, like web, which is either masculine or feminine because it can mean both "website" (sitio web) or "webpage" (página web).
    • Words like Gestapo are associated to a more general word (policía f), and take its gender (feminine here). Selfie is sometimes feminine because I guess people associate it with foto f.
    • Words ending in -a vacillate (masc: vodka, manga, pijama, burka, karma; fem: katana, sauna, sharia, ikastola). Some seem to be simply random, but others may have some logic behind: manga (cómic m), katana (espada f "sword"), ikastola "Basque-speaking school" (escuela f).
    • Acronyms usually take the gender of the most important word: Unesco, OTAN (organización f), sida (síndrome m), PSOE (partido m), CIA (agencia f).
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  14. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Likewise for MoGr
    Likewise for MoGr with some exceptions e.g «πιάνο» [piˈano] or [ˈpç͡ano] (pronunciation depends on the region) < Ιt. piano (masc.), which is neuter in Greek, while «ελίτ» [eˈlit] < Fr. élite (fem.), remains feminine.
    In Greek these words are mostly neuter and uninflected e.g. «το μπλογκ» [to ˈblog] (neut. nom. sing.) --> the blog, «του μπλογκ» [tu blog] (neut. gen. sing.) --> of-the blog.
    Likewise for MoGr, these words are treated as inflected, patterned after existing, inherited, similar-sounding Greek words e.g. «η Μπουντεσλίγκα» [ i bundesˈliga] (fem. nom. sing.) --> the Bundesliga, «της Μπουντεσλίγκας» [tis bundesˈligas] (fem. gen. sing.) --> of-the Bundesliga, patterned after the inflection of the fem. Gr. nouns «λύσσα» [ˈlisa] or «λίγδα» [ˈliɣða] (that's the grammar rule, but unfortunately in reality one ofter hears (especially by "respected" anchormen/-women) on TV solecisms of the kind «η Ευρωλίγκα» [i evroˈliga] (fem. nom. sing.) --> the Euroleague, «της Ευρωλίγκα» [tis evroˈliga] (fem. gen. sing.) --> of-the Euroleague, treating the word as if Greek is an uninflected language).
    The same happens in MoGr.
    «Γκεστάπο» [ɟeˈstapo] is feminine in Greek too, because "Police" = «Αστυνομία» [astinoˈmi.a] is also feminine. The same for «σέλφι» [ˈselfi] = «η σέλφι» [i ˈselfi] (fem.), associated with «η φωτογραφία» [i fotoɣraˈfi.a] (fem.) --> the (fem. def. artcl.) photograph.
    Words ending in «-α», or «-η» are 99,9% feminine in MoGr. e.g. «η Σαρία» [i saˈɾi.a] (fem.) --> (the) Sharia, «η σάουνα» [i ˈsa.una] (fem.) --> (the) sauna.
    «Κατάνα» [kaˈtana] on the other hand, although grammatically resembles a feminine noun, I've seen it written a neuter one.
    In this case I'd guess the writer took is as a stranded adjective, which modified the implied, generic MoGr word for "sword" = neuter «σπαθί» [spaˈθi] < Byz. Gr. neuter diminutive «σπαθίον» spathíon < Classical fem. «σπάθη» spắtʰē possibly related to Proto-Germanic *spadǭ > Ger. Spaden, Eng. spade and from a possible PIE root *sph₂-dʰ(h₁)- blade, spade.
    Thus, «το σπαθί Κατάνα» [to spaˈθi kaˈtana] --> the (neut. def. artcl.) Katana sword > «το Κατάνα» [to kaˈtana] (neut.) --> the (neut. def. artcl.) Katana (sword is implied).
    These words in MoGr are taken as stranded adjectives, thus «Ουνέσκο» [uˈnesko] --> Unesco is feminine, «η Ουνέσκο» [i uˈnesko] because the feminine noun «οργάνωση» [orˈɣanosi] (fem.) --> organization, is implied, «ΝΑΤΟ» [ˈnato] is neuter, «το ΝΑΤΟ» because the neuter noun «σύμφωνο» [ˈsimfono] --> treaty, accord is implied etc.

    NOTE: Bravo @Dymn a very thorough post.
  15. Dymn

    Dymn Senior Member

    Thanks :)
  16. Red Arrow

    Red Arrow Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    All new words in Dutch are masculine except when there is a proper reason not to.

    For example:
    de selfie (masculine)
    de iPad (masculine)
    de iPhone (masculine)
    de applicatie (feminine because of the suffix -tie)
    de app (feminine or masculine)
    het trumpisme (neuter because of the suffix -isme)
    het keyboard (neuter because board and 'bord' are cognates, and 'bord' is neuter)
  17. kepulauan Senior Member

    In Icelandic it tends to start as neuter, unchanged with a hyphen before the inflection, or with a slightly localized version of neuter. Then it migrates to a more localized version in any of m/f/n before being replaced by a neologism. Any stage can be skipped, often very quickly.

    iPad-ið (n) -> ipadið (n) -> ipadinn (m) -> something else
    e-mail-ið (n) -> emailið (n) -> something else
    selfie-ið (n) -> selfí-ið (n) -> selfíið (n) - selfíinn (m) -> something else
    paella-ið (n) -> pellað (n) -> paellan (f)
  18. ilocas2 Banned

    As for Serbian and Croatian, I'll quote a part of a post by user Duya from a thread in subforum Other Slavic languages:

    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017

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