Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Non-canonical gender systems

Grammatical gender is famously the most puzzling of the grammatical categories. We have a solid typology of gender systems, yet exciting and unexpected patterns keep turning up which defy easy classification and straightforward analysis. Some of these question, stretch or threaten to cross the outer boundaries of the category. These outer boundaries are a largely unexplored territory; yet they are essential for our understanding of gender as well as interesting in their own right.

Duration
2015  -   2017
Contact
Jenny Audring

In September 2015, Jenny Audring & Sebastian Fedden convened a workshop on “Non-canonical gender systems” during the 48th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE) at the University of Leiden. The papers presented at this workshop are now turned into a book with Oxford University Press. Editors are Sebastian Fedden, Jenny Audring and Greville Corbett.

Non-canonical gender systems

Grammatical gender is famously the most puzzling of the grammatical categories. We have a solid typology of gender systems, yet exciting and unexpected patterns keep turning up which defy easy classification and straightforward analysis. Some of these question, stretch or threaten to cross the outer boundaries of the category. These outer boundaries are a largely unexplored territory; yet they are essential for our understanding of gender as well as interesting in their own right.

Canonical Typology

A useful framework for this endeavour is provided by Canonical Typology, an approach developed over the last few years and successfully applied to a range of linguistic phenomena. In the Canonical Typological approach (Brown, Chumakina and Corbett 2013; Corbett 2012, 2015) we establish a linguistic phenomenon, for example a morphosyntactic feature like gender, in terms of a canonical ideal: the clearest instance of the phenomenon. The canonical ideal is defined as a clustering of properties that can be used to project the theoretical space, which is populated by real instances found in the languages of the world. The canonical ideal serves as the baseline from which we measure the actual examples we find.

The most central property of a canonical gender system is agreement. Indeed, most linguists regard it as a necessary condition for gender. Yet there are other properties which are expected rather than required, and individual languages can be more or less canonical with respect to any one of these properties. In the volume we explore the least canonical of the gender systems,  covering a wide range of typologically different languages from all over the world, from South America to Melanesia, from an Italo-Romance dialect of Central Italy to Mawng from Northern Australia.

  1. Introduction
  2. Sebastian Fedden (University of Sydney) & Greville G. Corbett (University of Surrey) & “New approaches to the typology of gender
  3. Tania Paciaroni & Michele Loporcaro (both University of Zurich) “Overt gender marking depending on syntactic context in Ripano
  4. Yvonne Agbetsoamedo & Francesca Di Garbo (both Stockholm University) “Gender and its interaction with number and evaluative morphology: Two case studies of Africa Non-canonical gender systems
  5. Ellen Contini-Morava & Eve Danziger (both University of Virginia) “Non-Canonical Gender in Mopan Maya
  6. Steffen Haurholm-Larsen (Bern University) “Gender marking recruited for number marking in Garifuna
  7. Françoise Rose (CNRS/Université Lyon2) “The interaction of indexical gender with grammatical gender
  8. Michael Franjieh (University of Newcastle) “Non-canonical gender in North Ambrym
  9. Bernhard Wälchli & Erik Svärd (both Stockholm University) “Gender in Nalca and enlarging the canon of synchronic (and diachronic) canonical gender properties
  10. Ruth Singer (University of Melbourne) “Questioning the basis of the classifier-gender distinction: evidence from Mawng