Reminder - Workshop Non-canonical gender systems

Sebastian Fedden s.fedden at SURREY.AC.UK
Mon Oct 6 16:01:46 UTC 2014

Reminder - Non-canonical gender systems

Gender is famously "the most puzzling of the grammatical categories" (Corbett 1991: 1), yet gender systems across the world's languages share a number of characteristics.  Some of these are definitional. For example, since gender is defined as a morphosyntactic feature, the presence of agreement is a necessary condition - the gender of a noun must be marked on at least one element other than the noun itself.

Other properties, by contrast, are expected rather than required. Canonically, a gender system conforms to the following expectations:

-        any noun belongs to at least one gender

-        each noun only belongs to exactly one gender

-        the number of genders in a language is small and finite

-        the gender system has a semantic core, typically based on the conceptual features sex, humanness or animacy

-        gender is marked on more than one lexical category

-        gender is marked in more than one syntactic domain

-        markers that express gender are morphologically bound

-        given the same noun, all gender markers are consistent across target categories and utterances.

For this workshop, we are looking for gender systems that are non-canonical in that they violate one or more of these expectations. This could, for example, include systems with unusually numerous or highly variable genders, or with exceptionally sparse agreement systems. In particular, we are looking for languages in which gender appears to shade into other feature systems, like number or classifier systems, or strategies of diminuation and augmentation. Examples are the system of Miraña (Seifart 2005), which is intermediate between a gender and a classifier system and the diminutive/gender markers in Walman (Brown & Dryer 2008). Abstracts addressing such phenomena are particularly welcome.

We invite presentations elucidating data from individual languages and discussing the analytical and theoretical difficulties. The scientific aim of the workshop is to chart the outer limits of a fascinating phenomenon and its place within the family of grammatical features.

Selected abstracts will be submitted as part of a workshop proposal to the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE), to be held at the '48th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE 2015)' in Leiden, 2-5 September 2015.

Keynote speaker will be Professor Greville G. Corbett (University of Surrey).

The convenors of the workshop are Jenny Audring (University of Amsterdam) and Sebastian Fedden (University of Surrey).

People wishing to present a paper at the workshop are invited to submit a one-page anonymous abstract in electronic form (pdf or Word document) to Sebastian Fedden at the following address:

s.fedden AT

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 17 October 2014

Dr Sebastian Fedden
Surrey Morphology Group
School of English and Languages
University of Surrey
Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH
United Kingdom
Personal website<>

AHRC Project: Combining Gender and Classifiers in Natural Language (grant AH/K003194/1)<>
AHRC/ESF(EuroBabel) Project: Alor-Pantar languages: origins and theoretical impact (grant AH/H500251/1)<>

Just out (open access):
Fedden, Sebastian and Dunstan P. Brown. 2014. Participant marking: corpus study and video elicitation<>. In M. Klamer (ed.), Alor-Pantar languages: History and typology. Studies in Diversity - Linguistics 3, Berlin: Language Science Press.

A Grammar of Mian. Winner of the 2013 ALT Gabelentz Award. Available through all good bookshops, or direct from De Gruyter Mouton<>.

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