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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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Limiting gender

Limiting gender

Chapter:
(p.93) 5 Limiting gender
Source:
Gender and Noun Classification
Author(s):

Christopher Hammerly

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198828105.003.0005

Grammatical gender features, which are seen as having both a semantic and arbitrary form, have been argued to embody the interpretable-uninterpretable distinction: semantic gender is interpretable, and arbitrary gender is uninterpretable (Kramer 2014, 2015). Using French as a case study, Chapter 5 argues that all gender features (even those which have been seen as arbitrary) are necessarily interpretable at the LF interface. Even if a feature does not contribute compositionally to the meaning of a structure, it must be visible to provide the context for interpretation. This leads to an argument for the abandonment of the interpretable-uninterpretable distinction in the representation of features. Instead, the analysis contends that the mechanism of interpretation is responsible for differences in the semantic contribution of features: both heads and sub-structures can be taken as input to the interpretive mechanism. The interpretation of heads leads to compositional meaning, and the interpretation of sub-structures to non-compositional meaning. The system has the consequence of simplifying restrictions on gender specification such that they are solely linked to the availability of a semantic interpretation, rather than to a combination of phonological and semantic licensing conditions.

Keywords:   interpretability, gender, feature specification, French, licensing conditions, features, Distributed Morphology, compositionality

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