Why is gender so complex? Some typological considerations

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Nichols , J 2019 , Why is gender so complex? Some typological considerations . in F Di Garbo , B Olsson & B Wälchli (eds) , Grammatical gender and linguistic complexity : Volume I: General issues and specific studies . Studies in Diversity Linguistics , no. 26 , Language Sciences Press , Berlin , pp. 63-92 . https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3462760

Title: Why is gender so complex? Some typological considerations
Author: Nichols, Johanna
Editor: Di Garbo, Francesca; Olsson, Bruno; Wälchli, Bernhard
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty Common Matters
Publisher: Language Sciences Press
Date: 2019-10-25
Language: eng
Number of pages: 30
Belongs to series: Grammatical gender and linguistic complexity Volume I: General issues and specific studies
Belongs to series: Studies in Diversity Linguistics
ISBN: 978-3-96110-179-5
978-3-96110-178-8
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/319510
Abstract: A cross-linguistic survey shows that languages with gender can have very high levels of morphological complexity, especially where gender is coexponential with case as in many Indo-European languages. If languages with gender are complex overall, apart from their gender, then gender can be regarded as an epiphenomenon of overall language complexity that tends to arise only as an incidental complication in already complex morphological systems. I test and falsify that hypothesis; apart from the gender paradigms themselves, gender languages are no more complex than others. The same is shown for the other main classificatory categories of nouns, numeral classifiers and possessive classes. Person, the other important indexation category, proves to be less complex, and I propose that the reason for this is that person, but not gender, is referential, allowing hierarchical patterning to emerge as a decomplexifying mechanism.
Subject: 6121 Languages
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