Dialogue

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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What does it mean for a noun to have a "common gender"?
Atie: And why is gender important in Dutch?
Michael: At DutchPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Karen Lee is at a flower shop with her friend, Bertha Becker. She is hoping to buy some flowers and speaks to the clerk, Jose Jansen. Karen says,
"A red rose and a yellow tulip."
Karen Lee: Een rode roos en een gele tulp.
Dialogue
Karen Lee: Een rode roos en een gele tulp.
Josรฉ Jansen: Alleen een roos en een tulp?
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Karen Lee: Een rode roos en een gele tulp.
Michael: "A red rose and a yellow tulip."
Josรฉ Jansen: Alleen een roos en een tulp?
Michael: "Only a rose and a tulip?"

Lesson focus

Michael: In the conversation, Karen Lee describes the flowers she is looking for:
Atie: Een rode roos en een gele tulp.
Michael: "A red rose and a yellow tulip." The clerk, Jose, then asks,
Atie: Alleen een roos en een tulp?
Michael: "Only a rose and a tulip?"
Michael: You may have noticed that the same Dutch article is used for "a tulip,"
Atie: een tulp,
Michael: and "a rose,"
Atie: een roos.
Michael: In Dutch, the articles used, reflect the gender of the nouns, which, in this case, is what is known as the "common gender."
Michael: Determining the gender of a noun is not only important for knowing what article to use, but is also critical when assigning a pronoun to that noun. As you'll soon learn, the ways in which nouns are gendered in Dutch varies from region to region and has also shifted over time.
Michael: Traditionally, Dutch uses three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Today, although less frequent, neuter nouns are used in all Dutch-speaking regions, the distinction between masculine and feminine nouns has become less clear-cut. This is mostly due to masculine and feminine nouns sharing the same adjective inflections, articles, and demonstrative pronouns. The most obvious differences between feminine and masculine nouns are their corresponding personal pronouns. The personal pronoun
Atie: hij
Michael: is used for masculine nouns, and the personal pronoun
Atie: zij
Michael: is used for feminine nouns.
Michael: In modern times, the use of an all-encompassing "common gender" is now prevalent in the northern and central regions of the Netherlands, where distinctions between masculine and feminine nouns have largely disappeared. Rather than having to deal with different inflections and pronouns, all common gender nouns utilize the same forms, which are those traditionally used for masculine nouns.
Michael: The pronouns
Atie: hij
Michael: and
Atie: zij
Michael: only come into play when there is an intrinsic gender associated with the pronoun, like a male and female person. Conversely, inanimate objects, by default, now take the masculine pronoun
Atie: hij
Michael: as the common gender form.
Michael: As for the definite article, common nouns use the article
Atie: de,
Michael: whereas neuter nouns, on the other hand, use the article
Atie: het.
Michael: It is important to note, however, that in Belgium, as well as in the southern regions of the Netherlands, the distinction between the three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) is still largely maintained. In turn, this means that the common gender form is not often used in those areas.
Michael: When referring to people and animals, Dutch speakers usually classify them based on their biological sex rather than their grammatical gender for determining the appropriate corresponding pronoun.
Michael: Although, traditionally, masculine nouns include words like
Atie: oom, directeur, politicus, and handelaar,
Michael: "uncle," "director," "politician," and "merchant,"
Michael: nowadays, when it comes to professions in particular, these nouns can be treated as gender-neutral and are treated as masculine or feminine based on the gender of the subject.
Michael: Feminine nouns, include words such as:
Atie: tante, liefde, vriendschap, waarheid, and opleiding,
Michael: "aunt," "love," "friendship," "truth," and "education."
Michael: And lastly, neuter nouns include words like
Atie: gezicht, gebergte, and gesteente,
Michael: "face," "mountain," and "rock."
Michael: As you may have noticed, all three of these neuter words start with
Atie: ge-.
Michael: Nouns that start with this prefix are usually neuter nouns.
Michael: In more recent years, many languages have developed gender-neutral pronouns, such as the singular form "they" in English, to account for non-binary gendered people or cases where the gender of an individual is unknown. In Dutch, similar non-gendered referentials include
Atie: degene,
Michael: meaning "the one," and
Atie: diegene,
Michael: meaning "that one."
Michael: In closing, while the use of common gendered nouns varies amongst Dutch-speaking regions, it's important to learn the role that grammatical gender plays in the Dutch language today.
Practice Section
Michael: Let's review the sample conversation: Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud, and then listen carefully as the native speaker models the correct answer. Repeat after her, with the focus on your pronunciation. Are you ready?
How do you say, "A red rose and a yellow tulip."
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Atie: Een rode roos en een gele tulp.
Michael: Did you get it right? Listen again and repeat. Remember to focus on your pronunciation.
Atie: Een rode roos en een gele tulp.
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Atie: Een rode roos en een gele tulp.
Michael: Let's move on to the second sentence. How do you say, "Only a rose and a tulip?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Atie: Alleen een roos en een tulp?
Michael: Did you get it right this time? Listen again and repeat.
Atie: Alleen een roos en een tulp?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Atie: Alleen een roos en een tulp?
Cultural Insight/Expansion (Optional)
Michael: Almost all the diminutive forms of nouns in the Dutch language are neuter, even if the original nouns were masculine or feminine. Diminutive nouns can be recognized from the suffixes
Atie: -je, -tje, -etje or -pje.
Michael: As an example, a neuter diminutive form of "the rose," or
Atie: de roos,
Michael: is
Atie: het roosje.

Outro

Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Atie: Doei!
Michael: See you soon!

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