Why are there word that exist in two versions where one version is male and the other is female. One example would be "Spalte". Spalte ist usually female. "die Spalte". But you can also say "der Spalt". Why does this happen and how does this work?
There are some words that don't have an unique gender. This may be caused by different reasons:
- different gender in technical language
das Virus (technical) der/das Virus (colloquial)
- regional differences in the used gender:
das Radio - (general)
der Radio - (more in southern germany)
It also sometimes happens, that words that look identical have a different meaning when used in a different gender:
das Moment - (momentum for example in physics)
der Moment - (moment as a short period of time)
also: Heide, Mangel, Laster, Tor, Verdienst, See, Kristall, Junge, ...
I have been looking this up in different books about German language and couldn't find a satisfying answer. Also I can't think of an explanation that is obvious for me as a native speaker aside from the regional differences.
you are thinking in a wrong way. die Spalte is not the same as der Spalt. These are two different words. The word die Spalte describes a crack in a rock e.g., but the word der Spalt describes the space that results of die Spalte.