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Gender. Maarten Mous. Semantic aspects of gender. Male / Female Agentives (but) Male / Female singulatives of animals/people. Not semantically based. examples of “wrong” gender m/f in multiple reference various values for gender for similar concepts (e.g. gourds). Semantic effects. size

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Maarten Mous

Semantic aspects of gender

Semantic aspects of gender

  • Male / Female Agentives (but)

  • Male / Female singulatives of animals/people

Not semantically based

Not semantically based

  • examples of “wrong” gender

  • m/f in multiple reference

  • various values for gender for similar concepts (e.g. gourds)

Semantic effects

Semantic effects

  • size

  • endearment / pejoration

  • significance

Meaning of shift to feminine

Meaning of shift to feminine

  • diminutive

  • endearment / pejoration

  • insignificant

Meaning of shift to feminine1

Meaning of shift to feminine

Similar functions in neighbouring Omotic, Semitic of Ethiopia, including Amharic.

Example of western oromo clamons 1992 69

Example of Western OromoClamons (1992: 69)

  • asmall number of lexically specified words have invariant gender (m) or (f);

  • the rest of the words are variable in gender;

  • if the referent is sexed, its sex will determine its gender;

Example of western oromo

Example of Western Oromo

  • if the referent is not sexed, unmarked gender is partly determined by the quality of the final vowel:

  • nouns ending in non-low vowels are (f), those ending in low vowels or consonant are (m)

  • but the other gender may be used expressively;

  • anumber of the nouns in the remaining category have an unmarked gender that is not predictable on the basis of formal properties and have to be lexically specified

  • still these too may shift in gender for expressive purposes.

The meaning of p

The meaning of (p)

  • In some languages all (p) nouns are m.r.; all m.r. nouns are (p). Or (p) is semantically predictable: Agaw, Dullay.

  • Oromo verb agreement of m.r. nouns is (p) or (f); (f) for collective

  • Option of semantic agreement of (p) on the verb for (m/f) nouns in some languages (Alagwa, partly Somali)

  • (p) agreement on the verb for the resolution of gender conflict in coordinated subject noun phrase

The meaning of p underived p nouns alagwa

The meaning of (p):Underived (p) nouns (Alagwa)

  • Plural words daaqaay (p) ‘children’ tikay (p) ‘women, wives’ yawa (p) ‘cattle’ aaraa (p) ‘goats’ baaluu (p) ‘days’

  • Liquids and collectives ilba (p) ‘milk’ mintsartú (p) ‘fresh (of milk)’ ma'ay (p) ‘water’ qubu (p) ‘hair’

  • Time xwa'i (p) ‘evening’ amasi (p) ‘night’ aansí (p) ‘former times’ piray (p) ‘night till dawn’ matlatlee (p) ‘morning’

  • Geographical concepts tsiindo (p) ‘west’ aluu (p) ‘behind’ pahaa (p) ‘valley’ rawa (p) ‘top, sky’ tsee/aa (p) ‘savanna, grassland’

The meaning of p underived p nouns alagwa1

The meaning of (p):Underived (p) nouns (Alagwa)

The rest:

  • fayee (p) ‘marriage settlement, bride price’

  • kwa/u (p) ‘house of many poles (?)’

  • neetla (p) ‘devil’

  • tse/era (p) ‘healed wound’

  • umpumáy (p) ‘small-pox’

Bantu noun class system

Bantu noun class system


Main characteristics

Main characteristics

pervasive agreement


singular / plural pairing

few roots in multiple classes

class membership is reconstructable

Semantic aspects

Semantic aspects

semantic agreement with human/animate

derivation within the noun class system

association in form / meaning

Semantic aspects derivation

Semantic aspects: derivation

Shift to class n for diminutive, to class m for augmentative

Shift to class 14 for abstract concepts

Other semantic distribution: land/language/people; fruit/tree

Positioning into class r for verbal noun

Shift to (empty) class 16,17,18 for concepts of location

Shift to other class for plural

Semantic aspects what remains

Semantic aspects: what remains

Characterisation of tendencies:

long/thin in 11

tree like things in 7

liquids in 6

round in 5

These are reminiscent of functions of numeral classifiers.

Synchronic value difficult to determine.

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