The linguistics of gender

Van Berkum, J. J. A. (1996). The linguistics of gender. In The psycholinguistics of grammatical gender: Studies in language comprehension and production (pp. 14-44). Nijmegen University Press.
This chapter explores grammatical gender as a linguistic phenomenon. First, I define gender in terms of agreement, and look at the parts of speech that can take gender agreement. Because it relates to assumptions underlying much psycholinguistic gender research, I also examine the reasons why gender systems are thought to emerge, change, and disappear. Then, I describe the gender system of Dutch. The frequent confusion about the number of genders in Dutch will be resolved by looking at the history of the system, and the role of pronominal reference therein. In addition, I report on three lexical- statistical analyses of the distribution of genders in the language. After having dealt with Dutch, I look at whether the genders of Dutch and other languages are more or less randomly assigned, or whether there is some system to it. In contrast to what many people think, regularities do indeed exist. Native speakers could in principle exploit such regularities to compute rather than memorize gender, at least in part. Although this should be taken into account as a possibility, I will also argue that it is by no means a necessary implication.
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