On the Gender of the Word Coffee in the History of the Russian Language

2020. № 4, 54-64


The article reveals the details of a topical issue in a culture of Russian speech — whether it’s acceptable to use a noun кофе as neuter. In 1937 linguist Sergei Obnorsky in response to the question from Moscow Coffee Factory
wrote that a masculine noun кофий preceded its form кофе, w hether masculine or neuter, and was used widely for a long time. However, our research based on the corpus linguistics study shows that the nouns кофе and кофий appeared in the Russian language simultaneously. From the end of the 17th century to the 1940s, neuter and masculine variations existed in the language as synonymous. The fi rst regulatory recommendations to use the
word кофе in masculine were given only in the Dictionary of the Russian Language Compiled by the Second Division of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, the corresponding issue of which was compiled in 1914, and printed
in 1926, after the revolution. Apparently, this is precisely why the word кофе continued to be actively used in neuter gender in emigrant literature even after 1926. Since the middle of the 20th century, the word кофе scarcely has
been used in neuter gender. The choice of the masculine gender as a norm was obviously infl uenced by the relatively higher frequency of using it in masculine gender. However, we cannot be entirely sure, that in most of the uses in the written speech the word coffee was in masculine, because in the majority of the texts the gender of the noun кофе cannot be unambiguously determined.

For citation:

Kuznetsova I. E. On the Gender of the Word Coffee in the History of the Russian Language. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2020. No. 4. Pp. 54–64. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170010735-7.