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Gender and classifiers: areal and genealogical perspectives

Workshop on Gender and classifiers: areal and genealogical perspectives, organized by Greville Corbett , Sebastian Fedden (Surrey Morphology Group), Edith Sjoerdsma and Gunter Senft (MPI for Psycholinguistics)

Following the highly successful dissemination workshop “Gender and classifiers: Cross-linguistic perspectives” on the typology of nominal classification systems in 2014, contributions to this workshop will look more closely at the areal and genealogical distribution of gender and classifiers in the languages of the world.

Certain types of classification system are typically associated with a language family or a linguistic area and we are interested in evidence which confirms or contradicts these tendencies.

Many Indo-European languages have a two-term or three-term gender system with a masculine-feminine distinction, where a subset of the nouns are allotted to their genders based on biological sex. In Africa the situation is different. While Afroasiatic languages (e.g. Arabic, Somali, Berber) have two-term gender systems build on a masculine-feminine contrast, in Niger-Congo languages (e.g. Swahili, Chichewa, Eegimaa) larger systems are prevalent including a gender for either humans or animates.

Southeast Asian languages (e.g. Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese) typically have numeral classifiers, which essentially specify counting units. The usual Australian gender system has four distinctions, one of them being a gender for vegetables. If Australian languages have classifiers, they tend to be noun classifiers rather than numeral classifiers. Many languages in the Amazon area (e.g. Miraña, Tucano, Tariana) have been reported to have complex nominal classification systems mid-way between gender and classifiers.

Contributions address the morphology, morphosyntax, syntax or semantics of nominal classification systems from an areal or a genealogical perspective. Of special interest will be languages, language families and areas in which gender and classifiers occur in combination.

Where and when:
Jan 26-27, 2015
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Greville Corbett, Sebastian Fedden, and Gunter Senft
Gunter Senft,

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