Pronominal Gender Languages
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Languages can mark grammatical gender on different linguistic elements:
nouns, articles, adjectives, verbs, pronouns, as well as on more exotic
sites. Some languages may have gender agreement on several of these
elements, others may mark it on one element only. I am looking for
languages that mark gender ONLY ON PERSONAL PRONOUNS. This is the case in
the Niger-Congo language Defaka, for example. This language has a gender
system that is reflected only in the forms of the pronoun (Jenewari 1983:
103-106, Corbett 1991: 12, 169). One pronoun is used for female humans,
another for male humans and a third for all other referents. Of course,
English is another example of such a system.
I would be grateful for pointers to other languages that function this way.
I would like to know which genders these languages have, what the
gender-marked pronouns look like and for which words or which referents
they are used. Some languages with more extensive gender marking have
genders conditioned by the phonology or morphology of the noun. Thus, in
addition to some semantic rules, the East Cushitic language Afar assigns
feminine gender to all nouns whose citation form ends in an accented vowel
and masculine gender to all others (Parker & Hayward 1985: 225, Corbett
1991: 51). Other languages may assign gender on the basis of declension
class; this has been claimed, among others, for Russian (Corbett 1991 and
elsewhere). It would be interesting to see if PRONOMINAL gender could be
conditioned in this way. A hypothetical example would be a language that
uses the masculine pronoun for all nouns ending in a consonant and the
feminine pronoun for all nouns ending in a vowel.
So far, I am aware of the following languages with pronominal gender:
Yazgulyam (Iranian, IE)
Chalcatongo Mixtec (Oto–Maguean)
Khmu (Austro–Asiatic, Mon–Khmer)
Diyari (Australian, Pama-Nyungan)
Some of these languages have complicating properties. It would be ideal to
know for the candidate language:
- Are the pronouns free forms, bound forms (clitics or affixes)? If they
are affixes, where do they attach to?
- Do the pronouns show resemblance to classifying nouns (such as 'man',
'woman', 'animal', ...)?
- Can the pronouns be used in attributive position (e.g. as determiners or
possessives) and then agree with the noun to which they are attributed?
- Is there any residual agreement on other types of word (e.g. on the verb
meaning 'to be' or any other element that may have retained agreement
markers from an earlier stage in the history of the language)?
It would also be useful to know if the language used to have a more
extensive gender system in its history or if, on the contrary, it is just
developing a gender agreement system.
I will post a summary.
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
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