Lexicon Valley

Why Do Languages Have Gender?

Lots of languages divide words into categories, like male and female. How does that happen?

Illustration depicting a female with a microphone

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Episode Notes

English is something of an outlier among Proto-Indo-European languages, which tend to divide their nouns into at least two or three categories or “genders”—male humans, female humans, animals, flat things, long things, and fiery things, to name several. Some languages around the world have dozens of such categories, and they often seem maddeningly arbitrary. John McWhorter explains how these quirky systems evolve.

Podcast production by Mike Vuolo.

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About the Show

If you’ve ever had curious thoughts and questions about the ways we speak, read, and write, Lexicon Valley is the show for you. Hosted by linguist John McWhorter.

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