Author Topic: Gender of English nouns  (Read 267 times)

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Offline KooShi

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on: December 16, 2018, 19:04
Once I was reading a book about tobacco; the author referred to it as "a queen of plants".
It was quite surprising for me though I knew that the same notions do not necessarily have the same gender in different languages.

No matter what, why tobacco is not referred to as a king of plants?
Is it "a queen" because "tobacco" is feminin?
Is it "a queen" because "plant" is feminin?

Are there any dictionaries of English that indicate a gender (I checked Oxford and Longman)?
If no, is there any common rule helping to determine a gender?

Appreciate your help.

Offline klauss

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Reply #1 on: February 10, 2019, 21:07
Certain nonhuman things are referred to with the pronoun she (her, hers), particularly countries and ships, and sometimes other vehicles or machines. See Gender in English § Ships. That usage is considered an optional figure of speech; it is also in decline, and advised against by most journalistic style guides.[50]
(wiki/en) Grammatical_gender#English

Online Hellerick

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Reply #2 on: February 11, 2019, 08:37
And this semantic inanimate gender is unrelated to the original grammatic gender of the same words in Old English.
The words like 'England' and 'ship' originally were grammatically 'it', but later became semantically 'she'.

Online Бенни

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Reply #3 on: February 11, 2019, 09:28
Maybe ships became feminine due to Latin/Old French influence (navis/nef)?

Offline NikolaoDen

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Reply #4 on: February 11, 2019, 14:33
It's very interesting question.

Once  I was reading American Life and Institutions by D. K. Stevenson. In that book I noticed one example of it. The United States before the Civil War was reffered as they and had the same verbs used: are, have, do ~~~ But after it the United States as a word become singular and could be replaced by pronoun it with the singular verb-forms as is, has, does etc.

In one guide-book I found that the countries can be replaced by pronouns she (England, Russia, Spain, France), it (the USA, the USSR) or they (the Netherlands and pre-Civil-War USA). So, may be that is the key?
Знаю эсперанто, но уже не эсперантистъ.
«Богъ создалъ человѣка бородатымъ» - Патр. Адріанъ.
«Напримѣръ, если вы замѣтили летящій вамъ въ лобъ кирпичъ - это точно къ непріятностямъ.» - Lodur.
«Fidelitas termino dierum temtatur»

Online Hellerick

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Reply #5 on: February 12, 2019, 19:41
Politically motivated grammar? Interesting.
BTW, in Dutch the short name of the country is "Nederland" (singular) and the long name is "Koninkrijk der Nederlanden" (plural).
Also "Nederlanden" is used as an older name for what is known as Benelux now.
It seems the name also got 'singularized' at some point.

Offline NikolaoDen

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Reply #6 on: February 13, 2019, 01:54
Speaking on the United States grammar category I meant, of cource, that the people in their speeches and in papers before the Civil War used it as plural term, and after it as singular.
(Just thought, that it could be red as: the pre-Civil-War USA is described in plural, and the modern state in singular.)
Знаю эсперанто, но уже не эсперантистъ.
«Богъ создалъ человѣка бородатымъ» - Патр. Адріанъ.
«Напримѣръ, если вы замѣтили летящій вамъ въ лобъ кирпичъ - это точно къ непріятностямъ.» - Lodur.
«Fidelitas termino dierum temtatur»

 

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