When a new noun enters the German language, who decides what gender, linguistically, it will be?

For instance, someone decided "die U-Bahn" should be feminine, and "der Computer" should be masculine. Who does that sort of thing, and how do they decide?

6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    There's not a certain group or individual who decides (as there is in, for example, France). Often the "decision" is based on existing words--nouns that end in "-chen" are neuter, so any new "-chen" word will be neuter. Most native speakers have a feeling that nouns that end with -e should be feminine (with certain glaring exceptions like "Junge" [boy]),

    so new nouns ending in "-e" usually end up feminine. There's supposedly an often-broken "rule" that foreign words that make their way into German should be neuter, but most Germans I know say die Cola, although I believe it can also be das Cola. But why the heck is it die Couch??? As for "-er" words, the preponderance of words ending in "-er" in German is masculine, especially for those where "-er" has the same meaning as in English: "that/who which performs an certain action," so it's natural for native speakers to treat words like "Computer" as masculine

    Many years ago, I took a survey for someone's PhD dissertation which investigated whether there is a "native" understanding of gender in English. I recall that most people thought salt was feminine and pepper masculine--they are neuter and masculine in German--and that knife, fork, and spoon were masculine, masculine, and feminine--they are neuter, feminine, and masculine in German.

    Interestingly enough, while sun is feminine and moon is masculine in German, the genders are reversed in French.

    A good question--I wish I had a good (concise) answer!

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Usually no one decides except what people somehow intutively feel is right. This is a very interesting topic and one that serious linguistic research is from time to time done on, without I believe a conclusive answer yet as to how people do this. For example, it is easy to see that the neuter (!) gender of Girl or rather of compounds ending in -girl, since Girl by itself is probably not used, are based on the neuter gender of Ma"dchen, but I don't think any linguistic theory would have predicted this in advance. In case there is any doubt, the editors of authoritative dictionaries such as Duden decide what they like, and at least sometimes prevail.

  • 1 decade ago

    U-Bahn is feminine because it's a "Bahn" compound, and "Bahn" is always feminine. Compounds and anything with a clear-cut ending are the easy ones.

    Computer I don't know. I was thinking most borrowed words are neutral, but...what a hard language! Are -er words always masculine? Der Fernseher...

  • 1 decade ago

    What's so easy in the english language,

    'the' defines just about everything.

    In german, there is -der- masculin, die-feminin,


    Why the cup-die Tasse is feminin, escapes me.

    It's obvious that I am not a linguist.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Thats a really good Question! I always have lots of problems with learning Artikel in German! Thats confusing but i think if the new word has "e" at the end must be feminin!

  • 1 decade ago

    You can find the answer on www.hifipeople.com , if it has been removed from there then you should check www.namastebharat.com . I hope you will get your answer there.

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