Why do romance and German languages have the masculine and feminine for non-living things


Even Polish has genders too. I took both Polish and German and unfortunately don’t remember as much as I wish I did. I would love to get back to learning at least one fluently. I had a teacher who knew 7 languages. Why is a child an ‘it’?


Well, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese all include this because they are based on Latin, which also includes it. It has been largely dropped from English (a germanic language, for the most part), but you see it now and again. We refer to ships as she, and anyone or anything of unknown gender may be referred to as he. Like German we also see some things as being neuter, a feature not found in the Latin languages.

Some traditions die hard. I can’t say I really know its first origin or why it occured. Only that it has been passed down for centuries upon centuries.

I wouldn’t be so quick to throw out such old traditions–you know, we Catholics have a great number of things from Tradition that we highly value.


And German itself uses gender for inanimate objects too. 3 genders to boot!



How can I appreciate it if noone can explain the point of it. If it has logic,explain it. Asian languages have polite, honorific, etc. forms of verbs. That makes sense.

Don’t maje me out to be narrow-minded. You don’t know what I accept ort not. Are you another who judges others when you think they are being judgmental?

Also, you’\d hardly know we kept any old traditions and most will say, “Well, it’s tradition with a small 't”. Unless you’re a traditionalist, don’t talk about keeping ancient traditions you don’t like or get, like Latin liturgies or Gregorian chant at Mass.


There is alot in language that is not a priori logical. But we, as linguists, appreciate language as a thing of beauty as they are.
The feminine nouns in Spanish usually end in -a, -cion, -dad. Even working on a master’s in linguistics I can’t tell you “why”, other than it’s a quirk of the language, although perhaps there’s a phonological reason. Maybe it just flows better.
But anyways, if you’re ever speaking Italian, don’t call il Papa la papa!!


Also to Augustine. I never said other cultures must change for me. If you don’t know why your culture does something, it’ll go out the door–kind of like all class in most parishes. I don’t get Latin! Why not learn it? The Mass’s language has been dragged down by impurities in vernacular languages since. Why not learn Latin, Greek or whatever your rite practiced before the '60s? Why not learn why we had churches built the way they were and art the way it was? It’s our patrimony, but we flushed it down about the same way our nations have flushed its patrimony down the toilet to satisfy the lazy, communistic sense. It’s kind of interesting both cultures flushed down their patrimonies–the Catholic Church’s and secular Western civilization–the latter having come from the former. The latter was being communized about then. Of course, like the N.O. the devil can go as far as possible without heresy against infallible doctrine, but he can circumvent it through lazy people.


I think that this discussion became pointless.



Ok. Sorry everyone. I got off topic. Closer on topic is how, despite my dislike of genders, I do prefer Latin as Mass language instead of English. If we don’t know why a church needs a language (outdated other dialects of ones used in other rites accepted), we’ll toss them out and accept convenience instead. America is having problems because it forgot why certain laws and such were originally there and we’ve forgotten basic knowledge of our nation. Thus, we’ll go blind and fall into disrepair, possibly for good (except for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church), whose dogmas Satan has circumvented by leadership making Masses people-focused instead of the Mass looking like a priest leading us to the cross to reflect upon Christ’s sacrifice. Pride was actually the cause of that, I think, not laziness. As language holds keys to the culture, so has much been forgotten with the disuse of liturgical Latin at Mass and at Catholic schools. We have followed the world in forgetting our patrimony.
I’m not saying we should toss out genders, I just don’t see the logic, outside of a pre-Christian animism, for genders for non-living things, except to be cute or practical (I don’t know which describes a ship being called a woman). Maybe it should be known as Europe and other developed nations are headed for a big collapse due to ignorance about their culture.

The Church is also a worldwide culture, not a subculture of the prevailing secular culture, but with ancient variations it allowed in wiser times, and needs a central language and all its borders–not just dogma, or Satan can just play games with leaders’ minds with his pipe and then lead people out, regardless of the Church’s infallibility. Language, culture, borders–Michael Savage’s mantra applies to us. Don’t meddle with the languages–just know why they are as they are. Teach that in schools as well as Latin in any school, not just Catholic, as many languages use it. You don’t have to like them to accept them, but you’ll lose your heritage if you toss them out because “It’s a dead language and I want to pray as I talk” (as the dictionaries dumb down English by accepting all popular words and prepositions get places at the end of sentences, things I’ll say unconsciously, I really don’t want to pray as I speak)–not in group or formal praying like Mass or a benediction. It could get that way as drums have entered some parishes to be “relevant”. Prayers you’d read in a pre-60s Catholic book, maybe, but that’s not what we see in books today or how we speak.


If you have a problem with calling nouns ‘masculine’ and 'feminine", it might be easier to think of them as noun classes rather than noun genders.

I’m not a linguist, but I’ve taken a few courses in the subject and it seems to me that when a language has 2 or 3 noun classes it is natural to think of them as masculine, feminine, and neuter because we are used to having our world ordered that way. Did it occur to you that perhaps the structure of the language developed noun classes first and then when people tried to describe their language they ended up calling these classes ‘masculine’, ‘feminine’ etc.?

While it’s true that sometimes the ‘gender’ of a noun is based on semantics, sometimes the decision is based on phonetics. For example, all nouns in Ukrainian that end in ‘a’ or ‘ja’ are feminine, all nouns ending in ‘e’ or ‘o’ are neuter, and all nouns ending in a consonant are masculine. When the language borrows a word it’s ‘gender’ is determined by how it’s spelled.

I’m not sure how the system works for languages with more than 3 noun classes (like Swahili).

Just my :twocents:


You are right that forgetting the Church’s foundation principles can bring her (pun intended :p) whole edifice down. However, I’m not sure that Latin is part of it. As important as Latin is to the Church, it’s not one of her foundation principles.

If the American Constitution were written in Latin would it fail to make America what it is (or was meant to be)? Granted, if this hypothetical text were abused in poor translations, then evidently the American would be distorted. And I think that this is what is happening to the Church, the distortion of her foundation principles by misguided interpreters.

I myself prefer to say some prayers either in my mother tongue or in Latin because their English translation is abysmal (e.g., Anima Christi), and many parts of the Mass in the vernacular suffered similar end. However, this last point is finally being addressed and the Mass in English will again be closer to the universal Mass.



The Canticle of the Creatures was actually written by our holy father Francis the year before he died (circa 1225). It was a Lauda (nothing to do with Lauds in the Liturgy of the Hours). A Lauda was an Italian hymn of praise. Francis wrote several of them to be used at mass in place of Gregorian chant, because he did not want the priests who became brothers to use Gregorian chant, because it was very difficult to learn and he wanted all the Brothers to participate in the Liturgy as equals. They still recite the Liturgy of the Hours to this day and do not use Gregorian Chant, they use plainsong or plain chant. They also use classical music such as you see the Poor Clare Nuns use. In addition, he wanted the friars to use instruments at mass. Gregorian chant is usually acapella.

The words to the Canticle of the Creatures do not come from paganism. They come from scripture, Daniel 3:57-88. In Daniel the author makes use of anthropomorphism for the creatures. Francis uses this anthropomorphic tool in Italian. Italian being a Latin language has masculine and feminine nouns and adjectives. The Canticle of the Creatures is believed to be the first Italian poem ever written. Today it is sung as the hymn All Creatures of Our God and King and a more modern version called the Canticle of Brother Sun.

The use of the masculine and feminine are part of the Latin language. The Latin language does not have a neuter. It has nothing to do with paganism. It has to do with language structure. Nouns and adjectives in Latin and Greek are conjugated according to families with masculine and feminine endings. Latin and Greek were not the only languages that had no neuter. Quichua, spoken in the Americas for 12,000 years and older than Latin or Greek also uses only masculine and feminine families of words. Today there are more than 25 million Quichua speakers in the Americas.

As to dropping “the nonsense” you’ll have to change the third largest language group in the world, the Spanish speaking group.

Each language has its own artistic devices, why change them?

JR :slight_smile:


As someone who has studied many a language, one thing I’ve learned is that the best answer to any question involving a seemingly pointless aspect of a language is this: just because. It just is. Language develops over many long years and sometimes things develop that make absolutely no sense to us, but had their purpose to the original speakers of the language.You can’t just arbitrarily decide to change a way a language is spoken. It’s unrealistic. Rather, you can, but chances are people would just ignore the new rules. Besides “gender” of inanimate objects doesn’t really indicate gender in the same way that “male” and “female” indicate gender for humans. All masculine and feminine are in grammar is a way of indicating which words have which articles or endings.


I thought Latin had words ending in um, us and a (plurals being a, i, and ae, respectively).

I know Latin wasn’t the first language of the Church, but we had future saints ensuring common sense Catholicism was used in translating from Aramaic, to Greek to Latin. Besides, there were rites still using that (or something very close, referring to hearing of Syro-Chaldaic being as close to the Lord’s Aramaic as we have) after the central language became.

I do understand that praying in your own language feels more meaningful, but the Jews probably prayed on their own in Aramaic and used Hebrew for synagogue praying. I don’t know if that, like the unremovable Bibles not being moved, was due to a lack of a printing press in those days, though. I think, though, like the children praying from the Torah at 13, our kids could learn Latin by a secular teacher, nun or priest–that is, unless they’re of another rite. The Latin Rite is the biggest and it would be unifying for all Latin Rite Catholics, anyway, to know it. It would be deeper than holding hands at the “Our Father”. The Church is free for all, so why should Church Latin have this stigma of elitism? I just read about Vivaldi teaching orphans the violin so well, the pope had to stop rich families from dropping their kids off at the place–well, same thing. If you start 'em with Church Latin, Greek, or Aramaic at the same time as the common language or dialect, it would be just as meaningful, I’d think.

I just think I heard on EWTN radio how the word, “slave” was softened to “servant” in America to bring up bad memories in America. If true, this sentimentalism is not a good thing. It should be explained instead. It should be said we should choose to be slaves of another (so long as the other doesn’t ask something inherently evil of us) and offer ourselves as slaves of God to be as humbling as the woman who compared herself as a dog eating scraps from its master’s table, even though we are required to make good with gifts God gives us and still see ourselves as loved children of God at the same time. A couple orders call themselves “The Slaves of…”–but I digress.

I’m just saying that English, in America, at least, is getting dumbed down in dictionaries with slang abound. When people want to pray as they speak, are they going to start thinking as ignorantly as they are speaking? It’s fine for the uneducated to pray how they talk, but middle-class suburban people and I think even the non-nouveau-riche wealthy, use slang-ridden English as well in casual talk (trying EFL for the first time, I realize how much proper American English I’ve forgotten while bemoaning textbooks making kids learn how we use grammar incorrectly). Should we start forming Church vernacular around that? What if educated English starts sounding out of touch with the masses (no pun intended)?

I think if you commonize the Mass too much, you’ll empower the closet communists the TLM kept in their place by not making it a stage show defrocked in the Puritanical cultural revolution after V2, for the ignorant (who, as I said, could be educated about it instead). The same could be said of the architecture of new museums, capitol buildings and banks in cities, depriving us of appreciating what’s inside (what if dumbed-down language was used in those places because noone talks like that anymore?). I think, for the sake of society and imagination, we may need to turn back the clock at least to the way vernacular was written before V2, if not going back to Latin, as the official Church language, or a well-done hybrid, like EWTN’s.

It can be done. We need it. We need to be appreciative of our Church’s and nation’s heritage and language, art, and architecture can do that, not primarily serving as eye candy, when its made to give glory to God (which says something powerful, even to the one who says the money should go to the poor) and not to the masses, but as instructive symbols.

Well, I’m sure there are snobs who’ll think I’m ignorant for a badly written essay (though it’s really a train of thought spaced out by a tired man, one possibly dumbed down more by hearing educated people say or write in books, “It is him” and end sentences in prepositions, as a post-production). Sorry if I have contributed to it, but I think the collapse of a civilization is in progress and some clerics have attached most churches on that runaway train, practically, but not essentially, speaking–about the Catholic Church, that is.

As for St. Francis. I forgot about plain chant and that would be just as good. Did St. Francis advocate complicated instruments and/or orchestras at Mass? They probably played simple melodies on simple instruments. Classical music is beautiful, but Mass music was not entertainment for the churchgoers–it was just extremely pleasant and moving.


Chairs do have legs and feet.:stuck_out_tongue: some shaped like a lions claw. I would say they were all very imaginative in those days.:smiley:


I think that you’re onto something: much like in Corinth, our morals decayed which led to lax Church leaders which in turn led to problems in worship, be it in the Liturgy or in how God is praised through art and architecture.

However, I really think that you’re focusing on correcting the symptoms in worship ignoring its true cause: the Church leaders have stopped teaching how we ought to behave in a moral way as Christians. And IMHO the root cause of the falling mores is the failure of teaching boldly that contraception is a grave sin. I’d even go as far as suggest that the future of the Church hinges on this issue alone. For secularism, the Church’s archenemy, is nothing but a rationalization of fornication.

We’ll get there, perhpas not in my lifetime, but we will. Not so much solely by our efforts, but mostly by the work of the Holy Spirit, who was promised to remain with the Church forever.



Catholicism isn’t going anywhere, but cradle Catholics have. I do admit, people do come into the Church, so I may be looking too much at the negative and the others who are not as zealous may have taken the Faith for granted. I think playing with the Mass was the problem. Even in S. Korea, where head scarves and 3X breast-beating haven’t gone out of style, the priest might share a ha-ha with the people during the liturgy (one time I even saw a celebration for a priest’s 25th anniversary of being a priest, including kids dancing to a modern pop song before the Mass was over. Although I’m grateful for the Filipinos (young ones, as I was told it’s not like that in the Philippines, where maybe the older ones still run it) initiating English Masses around the country, they can make Mass singing into pop songs. This is in a region of the world where radical thinking is not a big thing, unlike in the West.

The Mass is like the Twilight Zone where the guy who does obsessive compulsive rituals keep the Earth functioning. Messing with the Mass renews original sin. Out of some idea of pastoral prudence, bishops have not dealt with this problem that must be dealt with as of the 70s, but at least now, since Pope John Paul 2 put conservative bishops in power. Mass tampering in unacceptable any day. You don’t just allow Latin Masses and promote benedictions. You have to have zero tolerance for even irregularities (except if someone immediately needs last rites or there’s a disaster in progress). Maybe the Pope John Paul 2nd generation can complain some more when things, unnecessary according to the liturgy, happen in Mass.
but I digress from the topic

The babel caused by the use of the vernacular doesn’t help and some, I think, even questioned keeping the other rites Pope St. Pius the 5th kept. Maybe, like in the days of the Tower of Babel, the speedy Latin Masses that happened caused the Church to suffer, though what happened afterwards wasn’t much better.


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