Jenny Audring

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:

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Grammatical gender is a feature of nouns, reflected on elements that agree with them. In nouns, gender is an invariable lexical feature that may or may not be overtly marked. The determining criterion for gender is agreement, that is, “the behavior of associated words” (Hockett 1958, p. 231, cited under Foundational Works). Typical agreeing elements are articles, adjectives, verbs, and pronouns, but gender may also be reflected on more unusual targets, such as adverbs, adpositions, or complementizers. Grammatical gender is widespread in Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Kordofanian, and Khoisan as well as among the languages of New Guinea. Many language families of Asia and America, however, lack grammatical gender. In some linguistic traditions, the term “noun class” is used instead of “gender.” Gender systems differ in elaborateness and complexity. Some languages have two gender values, others up to twenty. Languages also differ in whether or not the semantics of the system has sex as a component—animate/inanimate and human/nonhuman are other common distinctions. Gender is of theoretical interest for typology, morphology, and syntax as well as for theories of the lexicon. It is a classic topic in historical linguistics, particularly in the Indo-Europeanist tradition. More recently, evidence from the processing of gender in production and comprehension is collected in experimental settings. Related topics, which figure only marginally in this article, are classifier systems, which are considered to be different from gender systems, and gender in relation to sociology and language planning (though see Edited Collections).

Article.  7046 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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