Gender in Dutch grammar


Gender in Dutch grammar

In the Dutch language, nouns have one of three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. The gender of a word determines the articles used with it and the pronouns referring to it. Sometimes masculine and feminine nouns are collectively called "de"-words, whereas neuter nouns are called "het"-words, in accordance with the definite article used with them. Traditionally, pronouns used for masculine nouns are "hij/hem/zijn", feminine "zij/haar", neuter "het/zijn". In some parts of the Netherlands, awareness of the distinction between masculine and feminine nouns is disappearing, producing a common gender, and using the masculine pronouns for feminine nouns has become quite common in speech and accepted in informal writing. In Belgium, the distinction is usually, but not always, maintained, with speakers and writers of West-Flemish descent using the common gender more than other Belgians. For a large number of words no clear division is determined, and dictionaries just indicate them as "de"-words. In the case of persons and animals of known sex the pronouns used are generally determined by the biological sex rather than by the grammatical gender of the word. There are exceptions here too: "de koe bij zijn horens vatten" and "Greta zijn hoed" in some West-Flemish dialects.

Although for most words gender can only be found by consulting a dictionary, the following rules can be used to determine the gender of many words:

Common Nouns ("De"-words)

Masculine nouns

There is a small number of words that form exceptions to the rules stated below, like "baker" (midwife).

*Words ending with:

:aar — leugen"aar" (liar):aard — dronk"aard" (drunkard):er — bakk"er" (baker) :erd — eng"erd" (creep)

*Independently used verb stems:

:"bloei" (blossom):"dank" (thanks):"groei" (growth):"schrik" (fear):"slaap" (sleep)

*Words referring to male entities::oom (uncle):dief (male thief):hengst (stallion)

However, diminutives such as "jongetje" (little boy) are neuter nouns.

Feminine nouns

There is a small number of words that form exceptions to the rules stated below, like: "dienst" (favour).

*Words ending with:

:heid — waar"heid" (truth):nis — ken"nis" (knowledge):schap — bood"schap" (message):de — lief"de" (love):te — diep"te" (depth):ij — voogd"ij" (custody):ing — wandel"ing" (hike):st — win"st" (profit):ster — verpleeg"ster" (nurse):in — god"in" (goddess)

*Words with non-native endings or elements:

:ie — filosof"ie" (philosophy) :iek — muz"iek" (music):ica — log"ica" (logic):theek — biblio"theek" (library) :teit — puber"teit" (puberty):tuur — na"tuur" (nature):suur — cen"suur" (censorship) :ade — tir"ade" (tirade) :ide — astero"ïde" (asteroid):ode — peri"ode" (period):ude — amplit"ude" (amplitude) :age — tuig"age" (rigging):ine — discipl"ine" (discipline):se — analy"se" (analysis):sis — cri"sis" (crisis):xis — synta"xis" (syntax):tis — bronchi"tis" (bronchitis)

There is a small number of words that form exceptions to the rules stated above, like "kanarie" (canary)

*Words referring to female entities:

:tante (aunt):dievegge (female thief):merrie (mare)

However, diminutives such as "meisje" (girl) are neuter nouns.

Neuter nouns ("Het"-words)

*Diminutive nouns (recognizable by "je, kje, pje, tje" or "etje" after the stem). Note this holds even when the referent is obviously male or female, e.g. "meisje" (girl):

:bloempje (little flower):lammetje (little lamb)

*Verb stems with the following prefixes:

:beberaad (consideration):gegedoe (fuss):ontontslag (discharge)

*Names of towns and countries:

:Brussel (Brussels):Nederland (the Netherlands)

*Words ending with -isme:

:Social"isme" (socialism):Vandal"isme" (vandalism)

*Latin loans in -um:

:muse"um" (museum):unic"um" (unique exception)

*Greek loans in -ma:

:thema (theme):panorama (scenic view)

ee also

* Grammatical gender
* Dutch language
* Dutch grammar

References

*Chapter 2 of van Berkum, J.J.A. (1996) "The psycholinguistics of grammatical gender: Studies in language comprehension and production, " [http://users.fmg.uva.nl/jvanberkum/vanberkum-dissertation-ch3.pdf "The linguistics of gender"] (PDF)
* [http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/geer016genu01_01/geer016genu01_01_0005.htm Evidence that the use of the common gender is older than often thought]


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