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Academic Paper

Title: The Marking of Gender Agreement Using Derivational Affixes in German and Dutch
Author: Alan K. Scott
Institution: University of Nottingham
Linguistic Field: Morphology; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: German
Abstract: The German derivational suffix -in primarily marks female sex on nouns that denote people. This paper investigates the attachment of the suffix to masculine noun bases that refer back to feminine nouns denoting inanimate referents in the same construction, seemingly as a means of making the gender of the two nouns match. The same phenomenon is also observed in Dutch despite the absence of a masculine/feminine distinction in the standard language. It is argued that the gender matching observed is a form of agreement. Using the evidence of corpus data and other attestations, it is concluded here that, because the inanimate referents of the subject nouns in the constructions involved all appear close to animate referents on animacy hierarchies (that is, they fall just outside the suffix's usual sphere of use), the gender agreement performed by -in (and its Dutch counterparts) is an extension of the suffix's prototypical derivational role, but resembles inflection in some respects and may indicate that the suffix is undergoing grammaticalization.


This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 21, Issue 1.

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