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Quelle horreur! French Speakers Can't Agree on Genders of French Nouns

Ooh la la! Dalila Ayoun, a professor in French Linguistic, found that native French speakers can't agree on the genders of French nouns:

Fifty-six native French speakers, asked to assign the gender of 93 masculine words, uniformly agreed on only 17 of them. Asked to assign the gender of 50 feminine words, they uniformly agreed only 1 of them. Some of the words had been anecdotally identified as tricky cases, but others were plain old common nouns.

Link (Photo: Cyril Plapied [Flickr]) - via Gadling


i bet spanish speakers with french as a second language would be better able to identify the gender of those french nouns than the french themselves.
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No I don't think so Ty. I'm French and after reading the article (which is the first thing to do Ty) the Alex's article is a subjective appreciation of the original article. "Agree" in this article means that 100% of the speakers know the right gender of the noun. If "only" 97.6% answered the correct gender this article tells that "speakers don't agree on the gender".

Furthermore, the main goal of this article is to compare Adults vocabulary and Teenagers vocabulary, which only means that an older person knows better his native language than a younger one... I bet I could have found this between a 2 years child and a 5 years child too ...

But I think that this article is a kind of consolation for english speakers as the genders are a difficult part of french language to learn.
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Miss Celania:
Once you speak French you don't really compute things as "feminin" or "masculin". It does not have a real meaning.
Speedo, unfortunately, is masculine.
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I agree with Sylvain, the test is a bit strange : if only one person makes a mistake, the conclusion will be "they all disagree on this word", which is not a really objective vision.

It's true that on some words (I'm french too) which are not often used, we sometimes don't know. But I think it's the same for other languages which are using gender (spanish for example). For 99,9% of words, there is no problem at all ;)

Jeffrey > Yes, "De l'horreur!" means quite nothing ^^ "Quelle horreur !" is much better.
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Nothing about "speedo" is masculine.
I've had the same problem with gender taking Latin and Spanish. Latin is the worst because there's also the "Neuter" gender, which leans towards being masculine, but isn't really.
Maybe that's what speedo is...
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Inanimate objects need genders so when we're using them as sex toys, we don't accidentally use the wrong ones.
Those French think of everything. Imagine not knowing what gender your ass burger was...
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C'est n'importe quoi, c'est des mots très facile a identifier, je crois pas que ça soit une étude sérieuse, même que d'après une normale cdf, c'est n'importe quoi! Tout le monde est capable de réponde avec un équart type de +- 2 maximum.
- Clouthhh
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If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I can suggest an inexpensive app
that I've recently made; it helps you 'internalize' the 'rules' of identifying the gender of 95% of french nouns.

www.reflexarium.com

Regards,
Sean
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