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This article is about the specific type of noun classes. For uses of language associated with men and women, see Language and gender. For methods of minimizing the use of gendered forms, see Gender-neutral language. For other uses, see Gender (disambiguation).

In linguistics, grammatical gender is a specific form of noun-class system in which the division of noun classes forms an agreement system with another aspect of the language, such as adjectives, articles, or verbs. This system is used in approximately one quarter of the world's languages. In these languages, every noun inherently carries one value of the grammatical category called gender; the values present in a given language (of which there are usually two or three) are called the genders of that language. According to one definition: "Genders are classes of nouns reflected in the behaviour of associated words."

Common gender divisions include masculine and feminine; masculine, feminine and neuter; or animate and inanimate. In a few languages, the gender assignation of nouns is solely determined by their meaning or attributes, like biological sex, humanness, animacy. However, in most languages, this semantic division is only partially valid, and many nouns may belong to a gender category that contrasts with their meaning (e.g. the word "manliness" could be of feminine gender). In this case, the gender assignation can also be influenced by the morphology or phonology of the noun, or in some cases can be apparently arbitrary.

Grammatical gender manifests itself when words related to a noun like determiners, pronouns or adjectives change their form (inflection) according to the gender of noun they refer to (agreement). The parts of speech affected by gender agreement, the circumstances in which it occurs, and the way words are marked for gender vary cross-linguistically. Gender inflection may interact with other grammatical categories like number or case. In some languages the declension pattern followed by the noun itself may be dependent on its gender.

Grammatical gender is found in many Indo-European languages (including Spanish, German, Hindi and Russian, but not Persian, for example), Afro-Asiatic languages (which includes the Semitic and Berber languages, etc.), and in other language families such as Dravidian and Northeast Caucasian, as well as several Australian Aboriginal languages like Dyirbal, and Kalaw Lagaw Ya. Also, most Niger–Congo languages have extensive systems of noun classes, which can be grouped into several grammatical genders. On the other hand, grammatical gender is usually absent from the Altaic, Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan, Uralic and most Native American language families. Modern English is not considered to have grammatical gender, although Old English had it, and some remnants of a gender system exist, such as the distinct personal pronouns he, she, and it.


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