Miscellaneous items #005
Do Croatians assign gender to objects?
Male tables, and female houses?
Sometimes (always?) when I am learning Croatian, I think too much …..
In another post (All nouns have gender) I mused:
A philosophical thought: So far as I understand, Croatians don’t regard the object that we call a house as feminine, but its name, the noun kuća, is categorised as feminine. Someone might correct me?
The noun that is the name for “table” in Croatian, is stol – a masculine word. The question is: Do Croatians regard tables as masculine objects?
Intuitively, of course, it doesn’t seem sensible to think of a table as being masculine. Nor a house (kuća) as feminine.
Ten seconds of reflection provided a convincing logical argument that gender is not assigned to objects - only to the nouns that we use as names of the objects.
Let's consider when two different nouns are used to name the same object – like stolica and stolac. Stolica is a feminine noun, while stolac is a masculine noun. Does the gender of a chair change, depending on what we call it? Feminine if we refer to it as stolica, and masculine if we call it stolac!? Hardly!
Is an armchair male if we call it a naslonjač, but female if we call it a fotelja? Hardly!
And then there is the guy who lives next door. He is a muškarac (man), which is a masculine noun, as you might expect. But he is also a person (osoba, feminine noun).
If we say Ona osoba je moj susjed (That person is my neighbour) we don't think of him as feminine. – only the word we use to refer to him is feminine.
We might refer to our neighbour's son using the masculine noun dječak. But if we refer to him as a child (dijete, neuter noun), is he suddenly no longer masculine? Hardly!
The same, of course, applies to our neighbour's young daughter, who we might refer to as a girl (djevojčica, feminine noun) or a child (dijete, neuter noun).
After all of my philosophising and conjecture, I thought of another approach to clarify this issue. Sure enough, I found the answer I was looking for ……….
I asked a couple of Croatians if they thought that tables were males and houses females. Why didn't I think of that before? I hurriedly departed when I realised that they were ringing the men in white coats.
Perhaps it would be wise for me to cease learning Croatian? Life would be so much easier ......
[But much less enjoyable! Don't tell Mateja ...]
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