YOU SAY FEMININE, I SAY MASCULINE...
February 25, 2008
Last week, Dalila Ayoun, of the Department of French and Italian here at the University of Arizona, gave a talk in our linguistics colloquium series in which she dropped a bombshell: native French speakers don't know the genders of French nouns!
OK, that's not quite right: it would be more appropriate to say that native French speakers don't agree on the genders of French nouns. They really don't agree. Fifty-six native French speakers, asked to assign the gender of 93 masculine words, uniformly agreed on only 17 of them. Asked to assign the gender of 50 feminine words, they uniformly agreed only 1 of them. Some of the words had been anecdotally identified as tricky cases, but others were plain old common nouns. READ MORE