Diminutives and Gender Suffix Question

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LidaN
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Diminutives and Gender Suffix Question

Post by LidaN » Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:38 am

Hi, everyone!

I've been studying Dutch for a while now. I have the basics down pat, but the subtleties give me a lot of trouble. One of my friends, who is a native speaker, uses the language in a very interesting way that leaves me scratching my head sometimes. I have a few quick questions:

1.) She always uses the diminutive when referring to women's clothing (e.g. rokje, topje, legginkje). But when I search google for legginkje, most of the hits refer to baby's clothing. Is it common to use the diminutive for women's clothing? And can legginkje be used instead of legging without bringing babies to mind?

2.) She avoids using gender neutral language. For example, she'll say cheerleadster instead of cheerleader, when speaking of a female cheerleader. In English, if someone were to use the word "cheerleaderess," it would sound sarcastic or ironic. Can cheerleadster have a positive or neutral tone in Dutch?

Thanks for your help!

andreengels
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Re: Diminutives and Gender Suffix Question

Post by andreengels » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:56 am

LidaN wrote: 1.) She always uses the diminutive when referring to women's clothing (e.g. rokje, topje, legginkje). But when I search google for legginkje, most of the hits refer to baby's clothing. Is it common to use the diminutive for women's clothing? And can legginkje be used instead of legging without bringing babies to mind?
It's not unusual, I think, although I would not recommend it for all woman's clothing. The diminutive in my feeling only fits (apart from young children's clothing as you mention) with clothing which is either casual or sexy, not with formal clothing. So a woman might wear a 'jurkje' in her free time (just a simple dress) or when going to a pub (perhaps one that is a bit shorter), but one should call a 'jurk' what she wears to her work or to a wedding. Also, one cannot use the diminutive with the word 'broek', because een 'broekje' is an onderbroek (panties), not a broek (trousers).

I'm not sure about your other question, so I'll leave that to someone else to answer.

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Quetzal
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Re: Diminutives and Gender Suffix Question

Post by Quetzal » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:09 pm

To make a small addition to Andre's reply, "topje" is a word that is pretty much only used in the diminutive, at least in that meaning. Of course, since it's informal clothing per definition, that doesn't necessarily disprove Andre's point about when one uses diminutives.

As for the other thing, "cheerleadster" is strange to me not so much because of the gender thing, but because of the using Dutch suffixes (or infixes as the case may be) in a recent English loanword. But as a general thing, Dutch simply does that more, I think. There are a few professions where we don't do it, like "dokter", but for most we do. Although there are some women who will insist on being addressed as e.g. "directeur" rather than "directrice", because they feel the male word should serve as a gender-neutral term and the female version has the wrong associations. (Most people will think of the headmistress/female principal of a school when they hear "directrice", while "directeur" is associated both with headmasters/principals and with board members etc. in a big company.)

An interesting case is "leerkracht", which at least in Flanders is used pretty much all the time instead of the more intuitive "leraar" and "lerares". It's a funny word when you stop and think about it, but somehow it has become the norm, what with being gender-neutral.

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