1

Recently, on the internet, I have heard people say that one should conjugate cartain adjectives that are closely related to french. For example, blond for males and blonde for females in the singular form. More recently I have heard someone say that cartain nouns should be declined for male and female, -I can't think of an example currently, but the declention would be where one would add an extra e and then make the second to last e have an acute.- Is this technically correct, or is it just using french grammar in english?

  • 1
    Nouns are genderless in English. And we don't use diacritics (which is what I take you meant by "make the second to last have an acute"), unless we're consciously employing a word we recognize as not English (some style guides require that we use italics when we do that). – Dan Bron Jul 31 '15 at 16:07
  • My own belief is that we should not look upon English as a discrete entity. It was not something that was handed down from heaven intact with unique rules of its own. It is a product of the Indo-European family of languages. So in any analysis of English we should always have regard to what happens in related languages, especially French from which Norman form much of English derives. So if opportunities arise to add elegance to our writing or speech I think we should always be ready to employ French forms - if they are clearly French by all means use italics. – WS2 Jul 31 '15 at 16:08
  • @WS2 "English ... was not something handed down from Heaven intact" is a strange position to take for a man who stumps for the term "Received English" and rails against people who use diagnose in a way which wasn't common in 1950s England... – Dan Bron Jul 31 '15 at 16:20
  • 1
    @WS2 I can't quite grasp that you can use the term "the history of the English language", and even say you respect it, and are therefore aware that it changes, and yet not accept that it changes. Here in the US there's a certain type of evangelical, fundamentalist Christian who denies the reality of evolution (they believe in a literal Adam & Eve). The weirdest part is they accept what they (erroneously) term microevolution, while simultaneously denying that small changes add up. Makes no sense at all. – Dan Bron Jul 31 '15 at 16:46
  • 2
    @DanBron What constitutes “not English” is a very vague notion, but to me, words like naïve, café, and fiancé(e) (which I’m guessing is probably the word the asker was talking about here) are quite English, even though I write them with diacritics. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 31 '15 at 19:18
3

Conjugation is for verbs. "Sex" (male and female) is a characteristic of living things. "Gender" (masculine and feminine), the association of words with one sex or the other (or neither) is a characteristic of words in some languages. Except for pronouns, English doesn't assign a gender to to words, i.e., the language doesn't have different forms for nouns and adjectives based on gender. Note that this is different from having separate words to describe the sex associated with the word, e.g., "waitress" for a woman who waits tables and "waiter" for a man.

Remember that Abraham Lincoln said in his third inaugural address on March 31, 1872, "You can't trust everything you read on the internet."

  • 4
    However, some loanwords like fiancé/fiancée are differentiated in the way Morella asks about. – Andrew Leach Jul 31 '15 at 17:02
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach I've never encountered the word fiance with one e. Here in the U.S. At least, both the prospective bride & groom call each other their fiancee (with two es). – Dan Bron Jul 31 '15 at 18:00
  • 3
    @DanBron Merriam-Webster disagrees (as does the American Heritage Dictionary). I have absolutely seen Americans use fiance/fiancé with one e when referring to male entities. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 31 '15 at 19:20
  • 1
    Certainly, the fiancé/fiancée distinction does exist in British English. And I'm not entirely sure they are different words when they mean "affianced partner". – Andrew Leach Jul 31 '15 at 19:28
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach Well, obviously they're not really different words—Dan’s description of common US practice conforms much better to the reality that they're both the same lexeme in speech. But in writing, the distinction is not one of regular suffixation (or suffix change, as the case may be) according to gender as it is in French, but simply one of having two differently spelt words, one of which refers to a man, the other to a woman. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 31 '15 at 21:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.