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  1. #31
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    JaimeB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Sneaky facts about grammatical gender:

    In Romance languages, the moon is feminine, and the sun is maculine, because they were in Latin:

    Latin: luna (fem.), sol (masc.)
    French: la lune, le soleil;
    Spanish: la luna, el sol;
    Italian: la luna, il sole;
    Portuguese, a lua, o sol.

    But look at German:

    Der Mond, "the moon," is masculine, while die Sonne, "the sun," is feminine.

    This should count as proof that grammatical gender is arbitrary, at least as far as meaning goes. But as to word form, most common German nouns that end in -e (like Sonne) are feminine, while those that end in a consonant (like Mond) are often masculine or neuter. (German has three genders, like the classical Indo-European languages such as ancient Greek and Latin. That makes German fifty percent more fun to learn than French or Spanish.) Anyway, it suggests that the word-form theorists are right about the principal determinant of grammatical gender.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 27th November 2007 at 02:54 AM.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  2. #32

    Default Re: Tips about French

    I'd say in this case the gender of the nouns follows the sex of the gods of those heavenly bodies. In most Indo-European derived cultures the sun god is masculine.

    It may be that the way divinities attach to objects in pre-Christian societies determines the gender of the nouns. So whether the god of the hearth is male of female determines what the gender of that noun is.

    I think this is a very interesting subject.
    There are people to whom the truth of language does not matter — they are known as liars.

  3. #33

    narcus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    On (grammatical) gender of things:
    I will never forgive myself for not following the advice of tutors to always learn vocabulary together with the gender by silently saying la lune and le soleil, instead of just lune, soleil, montagne, etc. In the case of all 'romanic' (you say Latin) languages, if I do not know the noun's gender, I try to remember its Latin origin. That seems to always bring good results. I was actually quite puzzled when you mentioned that it does not always work, Jaime. I still try finding examples, too.

    English nouns and gender:
    Aren't there surprising she-words, like ship, and automobile? I am also uncertain about your (home) countries USA, Canada, Britain, Australia, etc. - is it she or it(they) ? France and Switzerland are neuter in English (?) but not in romanic languages: la France, la Suisse, Svizzera, and - against any general rule - die Schweiz in German also ! England, Deutschland are 'it' in our view, because 'land' is 'it'.

    German nouns and gender:
    I certainly feel empathy for everybody who hasn't been born into that language. Only Russian must be more of a hardship ! I can only confirm: there is absolutely no logic behind gender with our language. What should be neuter, in most cases is not! Take the body, for example: masculine. The soul is feminine, and it really does not matter whose body or soul you are talking about. The sun-moon principle? Der Mann - die Hose (trousers = fem). Der Mann die Socke (one of two socks). If you believe you understood the principle - forget it! His shirt is neuter (das Hemd), and the trouser belt is masculine! Nail, bolt, plug - these must be masculine, you think, and you are correct, but only by chance! The screw is not, only the driver is! New times need new terms, and in our days that means electronics! A lot of words are the same all over the world, or at least very similar. It was to be hoped that anything within this world would be ruled to be neuter in Germany - but no! The computer is a man in Germany: der Computer, der Mac (Amiga even was!). The typeboard is feminine: die Tastaur, and so is the mouse, die Maus ! Screen, printer, scanner, copier -all are masculine. Nothing is neuter? Yes, - das Programm ! So, you might think, would be hard- and software. Oh no, feminine, naturally! My advice: use the plural form for all objects, and you have more than a 50% chance that you say it correctly....

    Back to French: la toilette:the devil in me had suggested that jokingly.But while I was sound asleep you guys have really discussed its origin, double, and more meanings as well - great job, thank you Jaime !
    - Venus, etc... a la toilette,(link) or faisant sa toilette , has been a classical subject in the fine arts [pictures]. These illustrate another aspect of toilette, going from washing to cosmetics, to getting dressed. Depending on context, the grande toilette of a woman can even mean a ball robe.
    toilette=wash cloth. Both are still in existence in some places, like older hotels & always in hospitals. To be able to tell one from the other is particularly important if they are not for personal use only. So they are sometimes embroidered with smart letters . F could guide you to 'face' and A too, weel, you know what. There are endless jokes about somebody (guest, new maid in the old days) misinterpreting these letters.
    eau de toilette: Believe it, or not, in the beginning it was nothing but a jar holding (scented ?) water and a big bowl to use it in. At times before water pipes and drainage, there was no bathroom with tub and toilet in apartments. A house may have had one on the ground floor and there was a bucket instead of the toilet. Many homes only had a toilet in the yard (no water there). Water closets as everybody knows them now were an innovation around 1870 where I lived. They have usually been located outside your apartment, often between floors, and they were shared by several tenants. They had a regular lock and key. From all the Guerlains we know only Eau Imperiale was available then, and Yardley's lavender cologne. According to a newer tendency in the French perfume industry (Chanel for example) ED Cologne and ED toilette may have the same concentration in the future.That will permit to classify the waters from/in the style of Cologne as what they have always been: a true eau de toilette. Get the locic?
    Last edited by narcus; 27th November 2007 at 10:16 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  4. #34

    Default Re: Tips about French

    This is a really interesting thread.

    As a german native-speaker I like to second Narcus that I'm glad I didn't have to "learn" this language. The (seemingly) total lack of logic in this language must be a real pain for those who wish to learn it.
    By the way, I spend a lot of time in Switzerland and the language situation there is very interesting. Most of you might know that four different languages are spoken there (in different areas). But also, in the german speaking area, the written language has very little in common with the spoken language. So, If I visit Switzerland, I might be able to read the local newspapers but I have my difficulties in understanding the Swiss when they talk to me...

  5. #35
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    JaimeB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips about French

    Narcus,

    Yes, ships and cars are often referred to as she in English, but this is a case of personification, a figure of speech, a trope. Nouns in English don't have grammatical gender, and pronouns do only in referring to particular persons (or, as above, personifications).

    German Hose and Socke end in -e, as do the English borrowings "software" and "hardware," so they "sound" or "look" feminine to German ears and eyes, I would guess. It's true that the plural articles in German are the same for all genders. Scandinavian languages (the North Germanic family) have a "common" gender as well as a neuter, the masculine and feminine having fallen together; the common gender has a postposed article in -en, the neuter in -et. (Grimm's Law: the "t" corresponds to German "s.") Perhaps the German plural system is a parallel development to this, but not carried as far. I don't know enough Germanic philology to say any of this for sure, just some ideas. Romance philology was one of my fields in grad school. And in English, we do say "Romance" languages for the Latin-derived ones.

    About the eau de toilette question, I do remember an unusual custom I saw in Spain as a young man. On the day before the feast of St. John the Baptist, people would gather herbs and wildflowers and put them in a basin of water overnight. On the feast day itself, people would wash their faces in the now-scented water from the big bowl. I guess this is like the original eau de toilette you're talking about. On the same day in the evening, I saw what I was told was a surviving pagan custom of young men jumping over large bonfires in the streets.

    ================

    Timothy,

    I could never deal with the ein-words and der-words in German, or the strong and weak forms of adjectives. They still drive me crazy if I try to speak German today. Fortunately for the Germans, I don't know enough of the language to get very far!

    I know about Schwietzer Tütsch. Years ago, a friend of mine who was studying German got a year abroad at the University of Munich. He learned some Bayrisch pretty well; you know, the "Grüss Gott" and the Oktoberfest stuff like "Agaudi muos sei!" Then he went on a trip to Switzerland and was completely at a loss to understand most of what he heard for the first few days. Eventually, he got some of the sound correspondences, and was able to understand more; but the particular Swiss German vocabulary items still stumped him.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 28th November 2007 at 12:42 AM.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

    My Wardrobe
    My Reviews

    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

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