Saturday, November 28, 2015

Androgynous Declinations and Cross-Dressing Nouns

In many foreign languages, nouns have genders. But in Lithuanian, there are various categories of noun endings within each gender, all with their own declinations. Masculine nouns can end in -as, -us, -is, etc. Feminine nouns can end in -a, -ė, -is, etc. With six common endings x 12 common declensions (6 singular cases and 6 plural cases), there are 72 common endings I have to know. This actually wouldn't be too bad if there weren't so many other weird endings and exceptions.

For instance, you may have noticed above that the -is ending is both feminine and masculine. Actually, there are three possible declensions for -is nouns and no good way to know which is which just by looking at the word. I haven't even mentioned the peculiar nouns that do their own thing; there are just as many "special nouns" with unique, androgynous declinations as there are normal nouns.

Then there are the transvestite nouns. Nouns that are actually one gender, but dress up as the other gender. For example, the word for a male colleague (kolega) ends in -a, which is a feminine ending, and so it declines as a feminine noun. But it is, in fact, a masculine noun and therefore requires an adjective in the masculine form.

When it comes to gender-bending people, I'm of the "live and let live" mindset. But when it comes to grammar rules, masculine nouns should behave masculinely and feminine nouns should behave femininely. I'm old-fashioned that way.


Mom said...

Don't they speak English in Lithuania?

Katy Smith said...

Hello! My name is Katy, and I am currently a student at Georgetown University planning to become a Foreign Service Officer. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. What is the hardest part of your job? What is the most rewarding part? Is it difficult to learn so many languages? Thank you so much, and my email is if you would prefer to contact me that way.

Unknown said...

Hello! My name is Melissa and I have recently graduated college and am looking at pursuing a career with the Foreign Service. I would love to be able to talk with you about some of the questions that I have. If you have time, please email me at
Thank you!