Re: Help Systems & Gender Differences

Subject: Re: Help Systems & Gender Differences
From: Andreas Ramos <andreas -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 12:24:50 -0700

On Mon, 11 Apr 1994, Jim Grey wrote:
> Andreas Ramos looked, listened, and learned German:
> >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.

> 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.

Dear Jim,
the -ung is too easy. Of course that's always feminine, and everyone knew
that. Here are some REALLY hard ones:

Cola. as in coca-cola. Is it feminine or masculine? here's the really hard
part: is it feminine in a glass? what about in a can? Ask a german. The
answer will totally flip you out. Ask them what gender it is if you toss
it into the air!

Here's another one: jungle, as in Brazil. Ask a German if it is
masculine, feminine, or neuter. Linguists love this one.

It's much more difficult and subtle than one thinks.

> >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.

It' not in your head. Ships are feminine. Ask any sailor (and i don't
mean weekend sailors.)

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

I don't mean a German computer. I meant the one on your desk, like your
car, having a gender, or identity.

Andreas Ramos, M.A. Heidelberg Sacramento, California

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