Grammatical Gender - Gender Inflection

Gender Inflection

In many languages, gender is marked quite explicitly, and in different ways.

"I love you" in Arabic:
said to a male – uħibbuka (أُحِبُّكَ)
said to a female – uħibbuki (أُحِبُّكِ)
" very grateful" in Portuguese:
said by a male – muito obrigado
said by a female – muito obrigada

The switch from one gender to the other is typically achieved by inflecting appropriate words, the object suffix of the verb uħibbu-ka/ki in the Arabic example (gender is not marked in the first person, in Arabic), and the suffix in the past participle (or adjective) obrigado - obrigada in the Portuguese example (literally this means "much obliged".

In Spanish, most masculine nouns and their modifiers end with the suffix -o or with a consonant, while the suffix -a is characteristic of feminine nouns and their modifiers (though there are many exceptions). Thus, niño means “boy", and niña means “girl". This paradigm can be exploited for making new words: from the masculine nouns abogado "lawyer", diputado "member of parliament" and doctor "doctor", it was straightforward to make the feminine equivalents abogada, diputada, and doctora.

Sometimes, gender is expressed in more subtle ways. In Welsh, gender marking is mostly lost, however, it has the peculiar feature of initial mutation, where the first consonant of a word changes into another in certain conditions. Gender is one of the factors that can cause mutation (soft mutation). For instance, the word merch "girl" changes into ferch after the definite article. This only occurs with feminine singular nouns: mab "son" remains unchanged. Adjectives are affected by gender in a similar way.

Default After definite article With adjective
Masculine singular mab "son" y mab "the son" y mab mawr "the big son"
Feminine singular merch "girl" y ferch "the girl" y ferch fawr "the big girl"

Read more about this topic:  Grammatical Gender

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