LINGUIST List 15.1752

Wed Jun 9 2004

Diss: Historical Ling: Jobin: 'Gender Changes...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. bettina.jobin, Gender Changes Investigations into Gender and Animacy...

Message 1: Gender Changes Investigations into Gender and Animacy...

Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 06:52:57 -0400 (EDT)
From: bettina.jobin <>
Subject: Gender Changes Investigations into Gender and Animacy...

Institution: Stockholm University
Program: German department
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Bettina Jobin

Dissertation Title: Gender Changes - Investigations into Gender and
Animacy in Contemporary German by means of Person References and

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics, Morphology, Semantics,
Sociolinguistics, Syntax, Text/Corpus Linguistics, Typology,
Translation, History of Linguistics 

Subject Language: German, Standard (code: GER) Swedish (code: SWD)

Dissertation Director 1: Gunnar Magnusson
Dissertation Director 2: Hans-Olav Enger

Dissertation Abstract:

Genus im Wandel - Studien zu Genus und Animatizit´┐Żt anhand von
Personenbezeichnungen im heutigen Deutsch mit Kontrastierungen zum

Gender Changes:Contrastive Investigations into Gender and Animacy by
means of contemporary German and Swedish Person References and

This dissertation investigates the role of animacy in the development
of gender systems. It is based on theories of grammaticalization. A
model for the development of gender systems of the Indo-european type
is developed and it is argued that gender classifications begin as
semantic distinctions in the realm of animacy with flexible,
contextually based agreement between the gender-marking elements. This
is called contextual gender. In the course of time, these
classifications will spread down the animacy hierarchy, desemanticize
and the agreement relation turns into one of government where the so
called inherent gender of the noun governs the gender of agreeing
elemey"ts. This is called inherent gender. If the original semantic
classification is blurred too much, a new cycle of classification will
begin in the realm of animacy. For German and Swedish, two such
'life-cycles' are discerned, respectively.

The empirical starting point were diverging tendencies concerning
female person references in German and Swedish. Wheras in German, the
number of female-specific references, particularly female derivations
in -in, so called moved forms, is increasing, in Swedish the number of
derivations in -inna and -ska is decreasing.

In a corpus study of comparable newspaper texts it is demonstrated
that 95% of all NPs referring to women in German are
gender-specific. Although it is often argued that in Swedish gender is
neutralizised, still 64% of all NPs referring to women proved to be
gender-specific. The lack of moved forms in Swedish is partly
compensated by composition and attribution with gender-specific

The almost exclusive use of gender-specific forms in German is seen as
indicative of a grammaticalization process. It is shown that in
contrast to Swedish, where the female suffixes remain derivational,
the German development fulfils almost every requirement on a
grammaticalization process turning -in from a derivational into an
inflecional marker.

A study of pronouns agreeing with non-personal-agents in a parallel
corpus shows that other aspects than purely referential or formal ones
impinge on the choice of agreement forms. Furthermore
non-personal-agents are shown to be one way to spread a linguistic
innovation from animate to inanimate contexts via semantic thematic
roles of inanimates that share important features with animates

The last study uses different types of monolingual corpora in order to
investigate the agreement between female inanimate nouns and
predicative agent nouns which potentially can expose agreement by
female derivation. The results allow the formulation of the hypothesis
that agreement is more likely to occur with nouns for which a
metaphorical bridge to stereotypical conceptions of femininity can be
constructed and that frequent key colloquations contribute
significantly to the spread of the agreement pattern downwards the
animacy hierarchy.
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