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Gender and Noun Classification$
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Éric Mathieu, Myriam Dali, and Gita Zareikar

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198828105

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198828105.001.0001

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Partitioning the nominal domain

Partitioning the nominal domain

The convergence of morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics

Chapter:
(p.17) 2 Partitioning the nominal domain
Source:
Gender and Noun Classification
Author(s):

Rose-Marie Déchaine

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198828105.003.0002

Class qua gender is a mechanism for introducing a partition, i.e. noun classes, into the nominal domain. Treating class/gender as a partition function—a function that exhaustively and non-intersectively assigns all members of a set to a subset—provides insight into the range of variation attested in natural languages relative to the realization of class/gender. This set-theoretic analysis is embedded in a model of interface syntax that allows a given feature’s modus and locus of association to vary. Specifically, the locus of association of class/gender varies such that it can associate with any position in the nominal spine—including Root, n, Number, and D—with concomitant differences in morphology, syntax, and semantics. Also, the modus of association of class/gender can vary, such that it can associate with the nominal spine as a feature of a functional category, e.g. DCLASS, NumberCLASS, nCLASS, ROOTCLASS, or as an independent F-category in the nominal spine. In the latter case, it hosts a distinct F-head (Class), which can be positioned anywhere in the nominal spine. The model is assessed relative to two data sets: (i) the animacy-based gender partition of Plains Cree (central Algonquian): (ii) the classificatory gender (traditionally described as a noun-class system) of Shona (southern Bantu).

Keywords:   gender, class, number, roots, variation, noun classification, Plains Cree, Shona, Algonquian, nominal spine

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