[DWJ] In which I satisfy the curious (I hope!)
colin at kindness.demon.co.uk
Sat Sep 23 04:56:36 EDT 2006
Katarina Hjärpe wrote:
>> I have a memory of reading somewhere that though standard Swedish is
>> like the rest of >Scandinavia in distinguishing only common and
>> neuter gender,s there are rural dialects which still >retain some
>> vestiges of masculine/feminine? and isn't -a a characteristic
>> feminine ending in these >dialects? (I'm talking of >common nouns,
>> not names).
>> Am I remembering right, or is this nonsense?
> I have absolutely no idea, but it sounds likely enough. Although, my
> inner anal-retentive gal feels forced to point out that Swedish *does*
> distinguish masculine and feminine, we just don't use them about items
> anymore. People and animals are still one or another for the most
> part. And some items can be referred to in masculine or feminine
> without anyone raising any eyebrows: the clock is often called "she",
> for example, even if "it" is even more common.
> So I have no problem believing that there are dialects where he and
> she are used about all kinds of inanimate objects, but I don't know it
> for certain.
I'm not talking about whether you use 'han' or 'hon' with them. I'm
talking about the difference between 'en' and 'ett', '-en' and '-et'.
Icelandic, for example, retains the three genders of Indo-European
(-inn, -in, -ið), and I think some Swedish dialects retain a three-way
distinction. (I don't think this is visible in the definite article:
it's still -en for both masculine and feminine. But I've a feeling that
there are adjectives that have a distinct feminine form in -a in some
I can't find a reference for this, however. All I can find on Wikipedia is
"Old Swedish formerly had masculine and feminine genders in place of
common; some old phrases and ceremonial uses preserve these archaic
forms." This might be what I'm thinking of, but I don't think so.
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