Re: Help Systems & Gender Differences

Subject: Re: Help Systems & Gender Differences
From: Jim Grey <jwg -at- ACD4 -dot- ACD -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 09:57:21 -0500

Andreas Ramos looked, listened, and learned German:
>It doesn't seem to me to be so arbitrary. When I was learning German, it
>would amaze the non-Europeans that every German has "memorized" the
>genders of words (masculine or feminine)(and neuter). Much later, as I
>became intuitively fluent in it, a foreigner would ask me a gender for a
>word which I'd never heard, and I could tell what gender it should be.
>Children did this too; I'd ask them the gender of words which they'd
>certainly never heard (technical words, etc.), and they knew the genders.
>There are some deep grammar rules at work here.

I got good enough at German that I guessed genders fairly well. (I'm rusty
now.) (Of course, there's always "when in doubt, mumble", or the catch-all
"article" "d'"). German *does* have a few general gender guidelines for a few
kinds of words, such as words ending in "ung" are feminine. So, ask a kid
what gender a Bedienungsanleitung (service instructions) would be, of course
they'll say, "die" (feminine). But I can't figure out how people "know"
genders of unfamiliar words which fall outside these guidelines, so I have
to label it intuition. I'm reluctant to call it grammar.

>Once, with an American family, the parents told me that English had no
>genders. I asked their daughter, a ten year old, if their car was a boy
>or a girl. She quickly said "oh, she's a girl."

Right away, I write this off to imagination. My car is a man, his name is
Oscar the Dentmobile, he's not unattractive but is a little rough around the
edges, but is stronghearted and reliable. All in my head.

>What gender is your computer?
Isn't it "die Computer"? It's been too many years since my Technical
Translation certificate.

jim grey
jim grey |beebeebumbleandthestingersmottthehoopleraycharlessingers
jwg -at- acd4 -dot- acd -dot- com |lonniemackandtwangin'eddiehere'smyringwe'regoingsteadyta
jimgrey -at- delphi -dot- com|GO/M d p+ c++(-) l u+ e- m*@ s+/ n+ h f++ g- w+@ t+ r- y+(*)
|ACD, Terre Haute, IN -- The Silicon Cornfield

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