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Is the \'human being\' in your language \'he\', \'she\' or \'it\'? In mine - she.
Thread poster: Katia Soshynska

Katia Soshynska
Local time: 21:55
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Apr 19, 2003

The question of the world view reflected in a language has recently become very popular and thought-provoking. Following the traditions of Sapir-Whorf hypothesis some modern linguists believe that language we speak can contain some very valuable information of the stages of nation\'s history, social and cultural development.

My question is directed to those whose language has genders.

The concept of \'human being\', \'person\', somebody regardless of sex - either man or woman is of masculine gender in Russian (chelovek). In german - it\'s man, which derived from der Mann, masculine as well. In Ukrainian this concept is expressed by the word \'lyudyna\' - feminine gender.

The same pattern can be observed in reference to the concept \'child\'. It\'s masculine in Russian (rebyonok), neutral in German (das Kind) and feminine in Ukrainian (dytyna), although the choice of gender in my language doesn\'t wholly depend on the ending of noun.

Is the \'human being\', \'person\' or \'child\' in your language masculine, feminine or neutral?

I\'m very interested in your replies.


Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
English to French
+ ...
out of fashion Apr 20, 2003

I don\'t think ethymology proves anything as regards past societies.

That sort of dreamful amalgam was very much used by nationalist movements in the past.


xima  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
English to Catalan
+ ...
Gender in Catalan and Spanish Apr 20, 2003

Dear Kate,

both in Catalan and Spanish, the gender of the words you comment on are as follows:

English: The human being

Catalan: L\'ésser humà (masc.)

Spanish: El ser humano (masc.)

English: The person

Catalan: La persona (fem.)

Spanish: La persona (fem.)

In the case of the word \"child\", it varies depending on its meaning. If by \'child\' we mean son or daughter (Cat: fill/filla // fills/filles) (Sp. hijo/hija // hijos/hijas) the gender is used accordingly.

However, when child is used meaning \"very young human being\", there exists the word \"criatura\", the same in both languages, which is a feminine form.

Hope I helped a bit in your search.

Have a nice Easter.



ncfialho (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:55
German to Portuguese
+ ...
Portuguese... Apr 20, 2003

In portuguese it is \"o ser humano\" which is the human being but it is \" a pessoa\" which would be the person.





P.S. In german \"person\" would be \"die Person\"=feminin icon_smile.gif


Alison Schwitzgebel
Local time: 20:55
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Hang on a minute.... Apr 20, 2003

In German it\'s

Der Mensch - the human being (masc.)

but it\'s

Die Person - the person (feminine).

As far as children go, it\'s

Das Kind (neutral)

but then there\'s also

Der Säugling (infant, masc.)

Das Baby (baby, neutral)

Der Junge (boy, masc.)

Das Mädchen (girl, fem.)

Die Mädel (girl (dialect), fem.)

In English they\'re all just \"it\" unless you are aware of a specific gender (e.g. if you know it\'s a boy child) then you use he or she.




Steffen Pollex (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
English to German
+ ...
Leaving aside that I am not getting what you are trying to achieve Apr 20, 2003

In Kazakh(English, Russian and German already reviewed here):

human being=\"chelovek\" (masc.)and \"lichnost\" (fem.) = \"litso\" (neutr.) at once=Êiñi (either/or depending on gender).

Child= Bala (neutr., although seems like a female ending for a Russian).

It is then turned to \"Kyz-bala\" (girl-devochka) or \"Ul-bala\" (boy-Malchik).

So what??? And what are you about?


Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:55
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Albanian... Apr 21, 2003

I am not sure if this proves anything but this is how it goes in Albanian:

English -- Albanian -- Gender

Human being -- Qenie njerëzore -- Feminine

Person -- Person -- Masculine

Child -- Fëmijë -- Feminine


[ This Message was edited by: monika on 2003-04-21 03:25]


Paul Roige (X)
Local time: 20:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Spanish & Maori: Agreements or lack thereof Apr 21, 2003

A comment about SPANISH: \"el ser humano\" (human being) is apparently masculine, but I suspect the reason is that we have no neutral form, or both masc. and neutral have the same form. Also, \"ser humano\" (aside from gender connotations) requires the masculine article \"el\" for grammatical reasons. Perspective of the world has little to do with it: the word for \"(hu)mankind\" is \"la humanidad\", now apparently femenine, then all words ending in -idad can only accept the feminine \"la\" as the article. Likewise with \"la persona\". Likewise with the male sexual organ, I can think of at least two names for it that are feminine... Vice versa with the female sexual organ!!! How can we explain this? It\'s all grammatically driven.

In MAORI, no problem, only two main articles: te (masc. & fem. sing) and nga (masc. & sing. plur.). Human being is \"te tangata\", boy \"te tama\" and girl \"te kotiro\" but children \"nga tamariki\" (sing: te tamaiti). This language has no requirement for agreement between article and noun endings, no gender attached to nouns. Their conception of the world is quite different (ie. for Maori North is South) but their male/female divisions can also be deep, as in most societies. Then, this is not apparently reflected in their vocabulary at first sight.

Food for thought, hope it helps

Paul icon_smile.gif


Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:55
Finnish to English
Sex change Apr 21, 2003

In English there is little in the way of marking gender, except for he and she, which sometimes cause problems and then we have to make them \'they\'.

In Finnish there is no gender and one word - han- does for he or she, which causes immense translation problems because one has to trawl the Internet to find out the sex of anyone referred to, and if it is the person on reception at a hotel on a Tuesday night last November then you have had it.

It may be that the link between gender and sex is a loose one anyway. Perhaps it doesn\'t exist at all and gender is just a linguistic category. (I believe \'girl\' in German is neuter and \'arm\' in Italian changes gender in the plural!)



sabina moscatelli  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
Member (2004)
German to Italian
+ ...
italian Apr 21, 2003

The human being = l\'uomo o l\'essere umano(both mas.)

man = uomo (mas.)

woman = donna (fem.)

child = il bambino (mas.) and la bambina (fem.)


kbamert  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
French to German
+ ...
das menschliche Wesen Apr 21, 2003


In german - it\'s man, which derived from der Mann, masculine as well..

the human being = das menschliche Wesen (one out of serveral possible translations according to the context)

PS. man, frau (im Sprachgebrauch der Feministinnen) die sinn- und sachverwandten Wörter, Duden

cf. idg \"men[e]\" überlegen, denken. Dann wäre der \"Mensch\" als \"Denkender\" benannt worden (vgl. aind. mánu-h \"denkend, klug\")


Duden, das Herkunfswörterbuch

Kind regards,



DGK T-I  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:55
Georgian to English
+ ...
Russian & Georgian Apr 21, 2003

I don\'t believe any wider significance should be concluded from this, but....

In Georgian (like Finnish I gather!) there is no gender (and no separate word for he & she either - complications being saved for other elements of the language!).

In Russian,

person or human-being is masculine.

I have no expertise in Gaelic, but I have heard that the default gender is fem.

- in the spirit of what I hope is a harmless game....

Best wishes



GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sex and gender: not so closely linked Apr 21, 2003


On 2003-04-21 06:37, Jinko wrote:

It may be that the link between gender and sex is a loose one anyway. Perhaps it doesn\'t exist at all and gender is just a linguistic category.

There has definitely been research done on this topic; perhaps someone who is up on the linguistic research can point us to relevant articles. I do recall reading that sex and gender are less closely linked in languages that use gender as a grammatical marker than, for example, in English. It will seem strange to the English-speaker learning Spanish that it is possible to say \"la persona\" (f) (which would then take feminine adjective forms) even if the person referred to is a man. Equally, \"el ser humano\" (m) doesn\'t necessarily refer to a man.


yay (X)
Local time: 03:25
English to Korean
+ ...
Korean Apr 22, 2003

human being = Ilyu (neutr.)

person = Saram (neutr.)

boy = Sonyon (masc.)

girl = Sonyo (fem.)

baby = Ahgi (neutr.)

In Korean language, generally people use a neutral pronoun like \"that person\" when they are indicative of a person.


vladex  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
+ ...
polish Apr 23, 2003

Since you declare yourself as a Ukrainian and Russian translator, you probably already know Polish forms, but anyway:

cz³owiek (czlowiek) - a man (not necessary male, but a human being)- M

mê¿czyzna (mezczyzna) - a man/a male - as a separate word - F (!), but in flexion, adjectives and pronouns connected with it are M

kobieta - a woman - F

dziecko - a child - N

istota ludzka -a human being/creature - F

osoba - a person - F

ktoœ (ktos) - someone - M

In ancient Polish a male was M (m¹¿- maz) and in modern Polish it is F - does it mean anything in social context? icon_smile.gif

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