Thursday, November 17, 2011

language challenges

One of the difficult bits of learning Catalan, well I imagine any language with gendered nouns, is not only remembering them, which is hard enough, but sometimes they don't seem to make sense.

Eggs for instance are masculine in Catalan.  I cannot think of anything that is more profoundly feminine than an egg, but there it is.

I got a good laugh today, and so did my co-workers, because the word for an arm is masculine, but I cannot get myself to call it, 'el meu braç' that would be a masculine article, el, followed by a masculine possessive adjective, meu, followed by an arm.

Let me tell you, I am a woman, so it seems to me that my arm would be female too.  In fact it is, right down to the DNA....and it isn't a 17" pipe for that matter either.  Distinctly female looking but masculine it is.

Maybe I should take up weights again and I'll get my head around the idea.


Beth said...

Your dilemma reminds me of learning French – so much had to be sheer memory because it made no sense to me. Why un citron and un pamplemousse when so many other fruits begin with une?
And why la guerre??!!

thecatalanway said...

Yes I wonder where and when genders were assigned? Who decided? and why?? I always remember someone telling me that problems are always male - it helped me recall that problema is masculine and not feminine as it seems.

Anonymous said...

Well, in French, what you carry in your ovaries is not called "eggs", there's a different word from that. Also, some cultures easily compare eggs with testicles, which I definitely would put in the masculine category.
But it's actually even more difficult when your native language has genders "built-in" and you have to learn another language where the genders are different...

oreneta said...

Beth, a certain amount of learning any language is brute memorisation, sadly there's no getting around it.

Kate, I have the same line around problems...helps with that one anyway.

ElP....Interesting about the ovaries....Spanish and Catalan both use eggs as a euphamism for testicles, so that may be why....odd though. Catalan and Spanish also don't agree on whether things should be masculine of feminine, so I am also learning two genders for everything, one for each language. Fortunately, it's not the kind of error that stops understanding....just makes the native speaker twitch a bit.

kate said...

We'd probably have to ask the Romans about some of it to get some insight (though of course in different Romance languages there may be different genders for the same noun.)

I posted a link to an article awhile back (at least i think I did) to an article about whether the linguistic gender of the name of an object affected speakers´attribution of qualities to that object. Can't remember the final verdict-- there certainly was some anecdotal evidenc in favor-- but it was interesting.

Helen said...

I have always thought it was daft. Why assign gender to things which are inanimate? Just say 'it' or local equivalent.