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Czech noun gender

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hribecek
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 Message 1 of 14
22 October 2012 at 10:19pm | IP Logged 
I've started to focus on repairing all of the little defects in my Czech and one of them is gender.

I know all of the regular rules and probably 98% of noun genders, but I still have a problem sometimes with nouns ending in 'e' and feminine nouns ending in a consonant.

For example I know that - postel, řeč, smrt, sůl, zeď, kost and many more are feminine but I still seem to face a word where I´m unsure every day. For example most recently with - zlost, sršen and even déšť .

With the ´e´ ending, I know a lot of neuter words and I know that for example ´soudce´ is masculine. The rest of the time I just assume it´s feminine. However I still sometimes stumble when I´m not sure. Recent mistakes have been with words like ´mince´ and I even stumbled over ´neděle´ the other day.

Does anybody know of a comprehensive list of these nouns? I've looked but I can't find one.
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Splog
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 Message 2 of 14
22 October 2012 at 11:00pm | IP Logged 
I just searched for such lists and also failed to find them.

One problem I see is that most books only give you, say, the most common 12 patterns of noun declension. When we then come across nouns that don't fit into these patterns we see them as exceptions.

There are actually 58 patterns of noun declension which cover all nouns. I have certainly not mastered them all, but slowly learning these patterns helps you sweep up the "exceptions". The 58 patterns are listed in Fronek's Czech-English/English-Czech dictionary (the one with the white cover with a red stripe across it).

I also saw a dictionary at Charles university which listed words not by their first letter, but by their last latter, which could help. Alas, I have forgotten the name of it.

Sorry I can't help further.
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Chung
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 Message 3 of 14
22 October 2012 at 11:43pm | IP Logged 
When I studied Czech I never got such a list from my textbooks or my teacher. It just seemed that we were expected to pick it up by trial and error after having become familiar with the basic tendency of words ending in -ce or palatalized/soft consonants indicating "soft" feminine nouns.

I managed to reduce somewhat the frustration caused by these phenomena* by thinking about the cognate in Polish or Slovak (if I knew it of course!). For example, I could guess confidently that words like sršen and zlost are feminine because their cognates in Slovak and Polish respectively are sršeň and złość (nouns in singular ending in "softened" or palatalized consonants tend to be feminine). Of course there are the "easy" ones like ulice and duše which correspond to stereotyped Slavonic feminine nouns as retained by BCMS/SC and Slovak ulica and duša. You may want to try to use your knowledge of BCMS/SC, Polish and Slovak carefully when confronted with these kinds of nouns in Czech.

*it's that Czech umlaut / přehláska's fault in that a lot of back vowels (a and u of old changed to e and i respectively which made a lot of the old feminine nouns/adjectives look like neuter ones (e.g. naša > naše, duša > duše) - damned unfortunate process for acquisition in my view). The mess with final consonants in feminine nouns looks like the result of some tendency where Bohemians and Moravians somehow stopped pronouncing many of these final consonantal sounds as soft like most Slavs further north and east (it reminds me of a Czech friend's comments that she liked the sound of Slovak more than Czech's because the former was "softer").
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Majka
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 Message 4 of 14
23 October 2012 at 12:44am | IP Logged 
Unfortunately, I cannot help you much.
Few of lesser known rules of thumb mentions Lída Holá in her notes. Look for the table in the middle of the text.

the mentioned zlost falls under "-ost" - often feminine with abstract meaning: radost, starost, zodpovědnost, trpělivost

You all have my sympathies - the Czech gender is very unpredictable in some cases.

For example:
sršeň: is either masculine or feminine, both variants are possible
kníže: masculine in singular, neutrum in plural
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hribecek
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 Message 5 of 14
23 October 2012 at 8:00pm | IP Logged 
Thank you all for your comments and efforts to find something. I've decided to just go for it and do the work that apparently hasn't been done before. So I've started going through my dictionary and listing all the so-called exceptions. I'll write them here maybe when I finish; I've already learned/relearned that "akné" and "alibi" have only 1 form and that "alej" (avenue) is feminine and I haven't finished "a" yet!

@Splog - Thanks for the dictionary recommendation, I know the one and I believe that we have one at my school, should help me remember the exceptions better.

@Chung - My Polish and BCMS/SC are far too weak to help me but Slovak might come in handy when I'm struggling. I'd never thought about that being the reason why some words ending in hard consonants are feminine, makes sense.

@Majka - Thanks for the useful reference. Do you know of any other words that can be both masculine and feminine like "sršeń"?
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Chung
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 Message 6 of 14
23 October 2012 at 9:16pm | IP Logged 
No problem. I admit though that this kind of linguistic trivia about changes in pronunciation became relevant to me because of my burning desire while studying Czech to figure out why there was such a noticeable inflectional distinction between "hard" and "soft" unlike in Slovak spoken next door. As someone who studied Slovak and Polish before Czech, I didn't see the rationale in Czech to enforce such a big morphological distinction.
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Majka
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 Message 7 of 14
23 October 2012 at 9:25pm | IP Logged 
Some words can be either masculine or feminine, depending on context:

průvodčí - conductor - masculine (he) or feminine (she)
choť - spouse - masculine (he) or feminine (she)
you may also see:
nešika - klutz, butter-finger - masculine (he) or feminine (she)
similar nekňuba (dimwit), popleta (birdbrain), padavka (weakling), všetečka (meddler)

rukojmí (hostage) is an exception - this can be either masculine or feminine (he or she), or neutrum (they, without any indication of gender)

Then, there is a special group, where you expect that in Czech there would be a masculine and a feminine form, according to natural gender. But for some words, only a masculine word exist and is used for both genders.
These are for example sirotek (orphan), chudák (poor man, wretch), lenoch (slouch, couch potato).

Another group are words ending in consonant. This is the case of the mentioned sršeň. Other words with 2 genders (masculine and feminine) are kyčel (hip), píštěl (fistula), hřídel (spindel, shaft). Some others have the same 2 genders, but feminine is prefered - smeč (smash), prestiž (prestige, status), trnož (foot-rail, pedestal), příčel (cross-bar).)
Loan-words (smeč and prestiž as well) ending with an consonant start usually with both genders (masculine and feminine). Other similar words are esej, image - with slight preference to feminine gender. Displej (display) and sprej (spray) started the same, both ended masculine.

The last group are words, where a masculine and a feminine form exist for the exact same concept. For example potato - masculine form is brambor, feminine form is brambora. Kohlrabi (stem cabbage) - m. kedluben, f. kedlubna. Rosemary can be m. rozmarýn or f. rozmarýna. Line (row) can be m. řádek or f. řádka.

Edited by Majka on 23 October 2012 at 9:35pm

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hribecek
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 5196 days ago

1243 posts - 1458 votes 
Speaks: English*, Czech, Spanish
Studies: Italian, Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, Toki Pona, Russian

 
 Message 8 of 14
23 October 2012 at 9:53pm | IP Logged 
Majka wrote:
Some words can be either masculine or feminine, depending on context:

průvodčí - conductor - masculine (he) or feminine (she)
choť - spouse - masculine (he) or feminine (she)
you may also see:
nešika - klutz, butter-finger - masculine (he) or feminine (she)
similar nekňuba (dimwit), popleta (birdbrain), padavka (weakling), všetečka (meddler)

rukojmí (hostage) is an exception - this can be either masculine or feminine (he or she), or neutrum (they, without any indication of gender)

Then, there is a special group, where you expect that in Czech there would be a masculine and a feminine form, according to natural gender. But for some words, only a masculine word exist and is used for both genders.
These are for example sirotek (orphan), chudák (poor man, wretch), lenoch (slouch, couch potato).

Another group are words ending in consonant. This is the case of the mentioned sršeň. Other words with 2 genders (masculine and feminine) are kyčel (hip), píštěl (fistula), hřídel (spindel, shaft). Some others have the same 2 genders, but feminine is prefered - smeč (smash), prestiž (prestige, status), trnož (foot-rail, pedestal), příčel (cross-bar).)
Loan-words (smeč and prestiž as well) ending with an consonant start usually with both genders (masculine and feminine). Other similar words are esej, image - with slight preference to feminine gender. Displej (display) and sprej (spray) started the same, both ended masculine.

The last group are words, where a masculine and a feminine form exist for the exact same concept. For example potato - masculine form is brambor, feminine form is brambora. Kohlrabi (stem cabbage) - m. kedluben, f. kedlubna. Rosemary can be m. rozmarýn or f. rozmarýna. Line (row) can be m. řádek or f. řádka.
Wow, so much useful information there, thanks a lot.

Some useful new slang words there too. I´d never heard of "nekňuba" or "všetečka" before.


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