Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by gkelly, Aug 30, 2010.
Interesting NY Times article:
The stuff about geographic language is really cool. There's always new ways for the human mind to surprise me.
I have nothing much of value to add, besides that my native Chinese-speaking mother had a really hard time trying to comprehend the work of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Satire isn't used much in Chinese culture, or at least it isn't mainstream, so in reading their books, she's had to stop herself every sentence or so to remind herself that they're joking.
Like Anita, I thought the stuff about geographic language to be awesome. I asked my mom what she thought about the idea that masculinity and femininity wrt inanimate objects makes different people think differently about them (the example of "bridge" in teh article) and she seemed to think that was silly. Though bridge is a masculine word in Arabic, she didn't think that bridges are considered to have gendered characteristics - they just take you from point A to point B.
It is a fascinating read esp for those of us trying to learn new languages...
It absolutely does, IMO. I took a linguistic anthropology class and this was the primary focus of our studies.
Thank you for the link. It was a fascinating read!
I always wondered whether native Romantic/Slavic/Germanic language speakers associate inanimate objects or even animals with gender characteristics. For me, "la barbe" is only feminine because it ends with "e"
PML @ Mark Twain calling the German gender system perverse. I'm still not over about the fact that Madchen has a neutral article Das
All singular German words ending in -chen take das. But yes, it's odd. Even the variant for "girl" Mädel, takes das.
Didn't know there was a rule about that. Our German teacher told us we had to learn articles by heart as they didn't have any rule based on gender.
Shame on your prof, then, because there are a slew of noun endings that always take the masculine/feminine/neuter article. And sometimes the prefix determines the article.
Absolutely. Language is often the architecture one uses to organize thoughts when looking for solutions to problems.
Not really. Well, maybe some do, but not many. I've never really noticed that before I came to the States and I heard people referring to their cars and some other things as "she" and talking about and to them as if they were talking to women. Seemed weird to me. To me, grammatical gender is just a linguistic concept. I don't associate any gender characteristics with nouns of either gender.
I had to learn the articles by heart too and my German teachers were German nationals as the school was in the NL. I wonder if they knew the rules themselves as native speakers. Sometimes, I guess when it's your first language you don't know always necessarily know the rules unless you specifically study your own language.
That seems so odd. I can't think of any words ending in -heit, -keit, -ung, -in that aren't feminine, for example. Or words ending in -or, -us, -ling that aren't masculine. Und so weiter, usw. I wonder why they wouldn't teach those rules to aspiring teachers of German?
I'm German but what I found disturbing about our gender system that there doesn't seem to be rule plus to me it's funny here in Germany we call moon/sun DER Mond, DIE Sonne ... in French it's the opposite ... LA lune, LE soleil ...
I find it interesting that Germans don't think there are rules for definite articles. That just seems so un-German to me. French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish have similar rules - I.e., certain noun endings require one gender or another. Italian's a bit different with their neuter article; the beginning of the word usually determines whether it's masculine or neuter.
Had German many moons ago, so could be wrong, but what about Der Zeitung- newspaper?
Nope, Die Zeitung! (although it'll come out as 'der' in the genitive, if I remember correctly.)
You weird Germans. Everyone knows the moon is a girl and the sun is a boy! Duh!
Very interesting article; thanks for posting it.
Based on some topics in GSD and The Skip, I'm thinking speakers of one particular language have no concept of sarcasm.
I do think we English speakers "think" sarcastically more than some others. (Well, at least I know I do.) It's very natural to me, and I've always figured it's just a part of my culture. (Or maybe I'm just rationalizing to put the blame elsewhere... )
Japanese nouns have no gender or articles.
So is there something in the structure of the English language itself that encourages sarcasm? Or is it just that the language allows it and other aspects of some English-speaking cultures encourage it?
Oh, no, but there are many many rules aboud word endings that define der/die/das.
I'm not native English and I too found it interesting that although the language does not know the gender article differences like the German, the English does have some gender attributions to certain words. Like ships that are referred as a "she". To me, ship is an object, and for a foreigner it is very hard to notice such deep-rooting connotations. I've been learning German for two decades now and I was never bothered by the gender of the words.
ITA. While in college, one of my linguistic professors told us about a certain movement in the German linguistics where female professors fight to make the language less masculine by enforcing female forms for some general nouns. The German has a word called "man" which is a neutral word to seak generally about something (similar to the English "one"). Unfortunately "man" is similar to the article "Mann" wich means "male person" in English. These feministic linguists believe that it is discriminative towards female language speakers and that the general form of "frau" (die Frau = female person) should be introduced into the language when speaking generally about women. It's been a while since I left college so I don't know whether this theory has progressed/developed since then or not, but I have found it BS, to be honest.
Thanks a lot for posting the article!
I found the whole part about the "compass in the mind" quite fascinating.
I think it's cultural than anything else. You have to read sarcasm in someone's tone of voice, which is why it's a learned thing over the internet. Which is also why FSU has a reputation for being when I think it's very friendly around here.
My understanding is that people who speak languages with genders don't think about genders at all. The fact a chair is masculine and when a desk is feminine is makes no difference. It's actually the English speakers who call a beloved car or yacht a "she" that stand out the most.
And I know Chinese has no genders and does not distinguish beween she and he and it (all three pronouns sound the same). I talked to a Chinese speaking friend only this weekend and he told me that he was trying to find out whether a girl he liked had a boyfriend. That girl told him that she went to Boston with her friend and yada yada yada. But there was no telling that her friend was a he and she, and it frustrated my friend no end.
Yeah my mom still mixes up he and she sometimes.
Gkelly, fascinating article! Thanks.
The space/geographical part of the article was really interesting. I can't imagine having an accurate internal compass, I get lost in my own town .
Having taken some linguistic courses myself, I was hoping the article would go further into color and the associations different cultures have with color. For instance in one culture white might mean purity and innocence. In another it might mean danger or death due to freezing snow. We think of colors as warm or cool, depending on how much yellow/orange/red or how much blue/green/violet they have. Then can have a psychological impact on how we feel. A great deal of thought is put into choosing colors for institutions like hospitals.
Italian is so confusing with articles. sometimes it is the last letter of the noun, sometimes it is the first letter of the noun. Then you have certain words that begin with a vowel, like uomo (man) and the article is simply L'. Not really fem. or masc. I had 7 years of Spanish and understand the fem/masc artcles, but Italian is . Of course I am learning Italian with Rosettastone and that is a confusing program. Plus, I have no "teacher" to ask why, when, how.
The neutral article is determined by words beginning with:
There is no neutral article in Italian. In the examples given by Nomad "lo" is used if the words are masculine, if they are femminine it's used "la". For example "lo zaino" (the backpack) but "la zebra" (the animal), "lo schizofrenico" (the person suffering from it) but "la schizofrenia" (the disease).
Using the "lo" instead of "il" is just a matter of easing the pronunciatian, as Italians don't like too many consonants at one place, which would be the case if the usual masculine article "il" is used. And for words that begin with a vowel, the "o" is left out and it remains just "l'", again because it's easier to say it that way. I actually think that Italian system of genders is pretty easy - everything that finishes in o is masculine, everything that finishes in a is femminine. In plural o becomes i and a becomes e. Then you have the words finishing in e and there is no rule about them, but there aren't that many of them anyway. What I find is puzzeling is how it is possible that there are words that are one gender in singular but the other gender in plural. For example "il mano" (the hand) but "le mani (the hands), "l'uovo" (the egg) but "le uova" (the eggs)