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In language, a grammatical category contrasting distinctions of sex or animateness. Gender marking may be natural, with linguistic markers of gender corresponding to real-world gender, or purely grammatical, with markers of gender in part semantically based and in part semantically arbitrary. In languages with grammatical gender, nouns are partitioned into sets. Membership of a noun in a set may be expressed by its form and/or by the forms of other parts of speech controlled by the noun. Closely related to gender systems in language are class systems, as in Bantu languages, in which the number of sets into which nouns are partitioned is much larger, with distinct categories for things such as plants, animals, and tools, though, as with nouns in Romance and Germanic languages, assignment of most nouns to classes is semantically arbitrary.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on gender, visit Britannica.com.