Word of the Day

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gender of breakfast in Polish and Czech

The genders of cognates tend to agree among native Slavic languages. Exceptions are words of foreign extraction that have a certain ending matching a gender and declension pattern in a given Slavic language, such as Czech tramvaj, adresa and banka, feminine, and Polish tramwaj, adres and bank, masculine, to name just a few. But there is one word of pure Slavic breed that has differing genders between Czech and Polish: the word for breakfast. Czech snídaně is feminine and Polish śniadanie is neuter. Czech snídaně is probably feminine to match other similar ending words like kolegyně (female colleague) and žákyně (female student). Polish śniadanie is neuter to match words ending in e, which are always neuter in Polish: serce (heart), morze (sea), and pole (field). Even though Czech words ending in e are mostly feminine, the cognates of serce, morze, and pole, srdce, moře, and pole, are neuter in Czech. I wonder what gender was śniadanie/snídaně in Proto-Slavic.

No comments: