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80

CHAPTER IX.

INFLEXION OF NOUNS.-I. GENDER.

81. Nouns are inflected, that is to say, they undergo a change of form, to indicate Gender, Number, and Case. In English however these distinctions are often made without any inflexion.

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82. Sex is a natural distinction which we find existing in the sentient creatures around us; they are male or female. Gender is a grammatical distinction which we make in words, corresponding, in English, to the natural distinction in the sentient creatures. Words are masculine or feminine according as the objects to which they are applied are male or female. The names of the things around us which are without sex,—and such names form by far the largest portion of the nouns in our vocabulary, are said to be of neuter gender, i.e. of neither masculine nor feminine gender. Some nouns are used to denote objects of either sex, such as parent, sovereign painter, attendant. These nouns are said to be of common gender.

83. Comparing gender in English with gender as we see it in Latin or German, we note these points of difference.

1. In English, gender corresponds with sex.

Males are denoted by masculine nouns, females by feminine nouns, inanimate things by neuter nouns. In Latin or German, inanimate things are often denoted by masculine or feminine nouns. Mons the Latin for 'mountain' is masculine; res, 'a thing,' is feminine; animal, 'an animal,' is neuter. In German Löffel, 'a spoon,' is masculine; Gabel, a fork,' is feminine; Messer, a knife,' is neuter. French has no neuter; consequently all its nouns are of the masculine or of the feminine gender. Our method in Modern English is simpler and more rational.

To a very limited extent the correspondence of gender with sex in English is interfered with (1) by Personification, a figure of speech under which we refer to inanimate objects as if they were endowed with life and sex. Things associated with the idea of strength or destructiveness are treated as males, and their names are masculine: e.g. death, time, fear, war. Things associated with the idea of grace, or of fertility, are personified as females, and their names are feminine: e.g. moon, mercy, nature, earth. But very often we do not personify these objects at all: we use he or she to refer to them when we become melodramatic or rhetorical, but in our ordinary moments we employ the neuter pronoun it. Nor could it be considered a breach of grammatical propriety, if we spoke of a ship as it.

Again (2) we often disregard the sex when we are speaking of children and the lower animals, and use the pronoun it. So the distinction of masculine and feminine is of very narrow application in English.

2.

Another point of contrast between English and Latin or German is this. These languages possess inflexions marking gender in the adjectives: our adjectives have no inflexions of gender, number, or case. We say

good man, good woman, good thing. Hence for a foreigner learning English there are only two points requiring attention in reference to gender; one, to use the feminine form of a noun, where one exists, to denote a female; the other, to use he, she, it, his, her, its, correctly, according as the reference of these pronouns or adjectives is to a male, a female, or an inanimate object.

84.

Gender is the form of a noun or pronoun 6

W. E. G.

corresponding in English to the sex of the thing named.

We have in English three ways of making a distinction in language corresponding to the difference of sex in the objects themselves:

1. By Inflexion.

2. By Composition.

3. By using an entirely different word.

85. (1) Gender marked by Inflexion. The suffixes, ie. the terminations, or endings, of words indicating gender may be classified thus:

Of English origin {

Of Foreign origin

-ster, in spinster
-en, in vixen

-ess, Norman French, countess
-trix, Latin, testatrix

-ine, Greek, heroine; German, land-
gravine

-a, Italian or Spanish, signora, infanta

86.

Remarks on these forms.

The native English suffixes -ster and -en survive with their feminine force only in the words spinster and vixen. Spinster properly signifies a female spinner, but now means 'an unmarried woman.' In proper names, such as Webster and Brewster (feminines respectively of weaver and brewer) the form still exists, as it does in the words tapster, maltster, but the signification of the suffix has disappeared. In trickster, youngster, gamester, it is employed with an idea of depreciation or contempt. So completely has the original force of the ending been lost that to the feminine forms songster and seamster we have added the inflexion -ess, making songstress and seamstress, words which are open to the twofold objection that they are (a) double-feminines, (b) hybrids, i.e. they contain elements borrowed from different languages, the original words being of English origin and the suffix -ess coming from the French.

In vixen two things are to be noticed: (a) the appearance of fox in the form vox: to this day a Somersetshire labourer uses v in place of ƒ in many words; the Authorised Translation of the Bible preserves for

us the word wine-fat, which has now been ousted by the form wine-vat, belonging to the Southern dialect of English: (b) the modification of the root vowel from o to i: this is due to Umlaut. See p. 50.

Foreign endings.-The use of the suffix -ess, borrowed from the French -esse, is the only method of formation which is employed when we make a new feminine word at the present day: so, authoress, doctress. Occupations once reserved to men are now thrown open to women. If we wish to mark the female sex of the persons following these occupations, we must either use compounds and say lady-doctor, lady-lawyer, or manufacture inflected forms and say doctress, lawyeress.

This French suffix is freely added to nouns of English extraction, without any regard being paid to the fact that the resulting forms are hybrids: e.g. goddess, shepherdess.

Frequently, when this ending is attached to a word, there is an omission of a vowel or of a syllable: e.g. actress, empress, governess, negress, sorceress. Abbess abbotess. Duchess comes from the French duchesse. The feminine of marquis or marquess is marchioness. The root of this word occurs in marches, meaning 'boundaries' or 'confines': 'Lord of the Marches.' In mistress we have the feminine of master with the vowel weakened as in the pronunciation of Mr. From mistress we get the abbreviated form Miss.

The remaining suffixes do not exemplify English modes of formation of feminine nouns at all. The words which contain them are borrowed directly from foreign languages and therefore illustrate no process of English grammar.

87. (2) Gender marked by composition. When we make a new word by joining together two or more existing words, we call the process composition and the resulting word a compound. Thus he-goat, cocksparrow, maid-servant are compounds: each part of the words has a meaning by itself. Compare with these the word authoress, formed from author by adding -ess. Now -ess has a force only when added to another word; by itself it is without any meaning; it is a mere suffix, not a word. We call such a word as authoress a derivative.

The distinction marked by these two processes of Inflexion and Composition may be said to come under our definition of gender as 'the form of a word which corresponds to a difference of sex.' Authoress and he-goat are modifications of author and goat, marking a change in their meaning. The indication of gender by Inflexion is a genuine grammatical process, but we can bring the compound forms also within the

four corners of the definition. The remaining method is not a grammatical process: in such pairs of words as brother, sister; boy, girl; bull, cow, the difference of gender is marked, not by a modification in the form of one of the words, but by the use of words wholly unconnected with each other.

88. (3) Gender marked by the Use of Different Words. As examples of these correlatives, or pairs of words not grammatically connected, take the following in addition to those given above:-boar, sow; buck, doe; bullock or steer, heifer; colt, filly; drake, duck; earl, countess; drone, queen-bee; gaffer, gammer; gander, goose; hart, roe or hind; monk, nun; ram, ewe; sire, dam; wizard, witch; sloven, slut; bachelor, maid or spinster.

These words deserve notice:

Drake was once end-rake; the end was the significant part, meaning duck, as Ente does in German to-day, and the rake was a mere suffix, meaning 'lord' or 'male.' Thus two-thirds of the important part, the root, have been lost, and one-third, a single letter, has been kept, with the whole of the masculine ending. It is as if the word actress were decapitated and reduced to tress.

Lord is loaf-ward, 'bread-guardian': lady contains the same root loaf, and possibly meant originally 'loaf-kneader.'

Gaffer is a corruption of 'grandfather,' gammer of 'grandmother.' Sir=sire=senior; madam=mea domina, 'my lady.'

Wizard comes to us from the O. French guiscart, 'a very wise man,' not from the English witch, though both words have originally the same

root.

Woman wife+man, not 'wife of man,' but 'wife-person.'

89. It is evident that in almost all cases the feminine is formed from the masculine. In the following words this order is reversed:

=

Bridegroom, the masculine of bride, was originally brýd-guma, or 'bride's-man,' in German bräutigam. Guma meant 'a man' in Old English.

Gander comes from the same root as goose, the German for which is gans. The d has crept in between the n and the last syllable, as in tender and gender (Latin tener, gen-er-is).

Widower has been formed from widow.

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