why does french have masculine and feminine
French is Latin mispronounced by proto-Germans. Both Latin and German have three
: masculine, feminine and neutral. Both languages are part of the and derive their gender system from the same root. Given this history, it isn't surprising that proto-French started out with these three genders. Over time, like most Romance language, French largely lost the neuter gender (now present only in a few pronouns, e. g. ceci or цa ). The origin of grammatical gender is not fully known. The current theory on is that there were originally two genders, animate (for people and personifications) and inanimate (for objects and abstract concepts), and the animate gender split into feminine and masculine. Many Indo-European languages, in particular most modern Romance languages, saw a merger of masculine and neuter.
Although the feminine/masculine distinction in grammatical gender is likely to have arisen from biological gender (feminine to talk about women, masculine to talk about men), the language has evolved considerably since then. Nowadays, in French (like in most other languages with feminine and masculine genders), masculine and feminine usually match biological gender when applied to people or animals, but carries no implication when applied to other nouns: it's just an arbitrary grammatical feature. has a list of languages by type of grammatical gender. Most languages are based on a masculine/feminine, animate/inanimate or a variation thereon (common/neuter, rational/non-rational, Б). However there are languages with noun categories based on other considerations (some linguists use the term rather than gender in this case). has several maps of languages by gender types:,.
Most languages that have feminine/masculine genders are of the formal type, i. e. the grammatical categories are to a large extent arbitrary when not refering to a person. When a new word is added to the French language, either for a new concept (for example, the internet) or as a borrowing from another language, how do they decide whether it should be masculine or feminine? Given that they can't decide whether a thing is masculine or femine when the word is French (le visage and la figure both meaning 'the face') there is no hope! If the word is untranslated into French, then is is always masculine.
For example, Le camping, le weekend, Le Notes for example, a few years ago they protested against government ministers issuing guidelines that feminine forms should be used to refer to the professional titles, ranks etc. of women. German has a well-defined hierarchy of rules which can be used to predict the gender of a word. Meaning is not the first of these rules, which is what can give rise to apparent anomalies such as 'wife' and 'brassiere' being masculine. In Germany, language reform is handled by a government commission with German, Austrian and Swiss representatives, but I don't know if its brief extends to gender ascription. In 1996 it began reforming German spelling, which was last ruled on by the Staatliche Orthographie-Konferenz in 1901.
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