What underlies linguistic classification?
Gender and classifiers in Indo-European and Arawakan languages
This is a project funded by Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council) for the period 2020-2022 (VR 2019-02967).
Project leader: Gerd Carling
Internal and external researchers: Sandra Cronhamn, Olof Lundgren, David Gert, Harald Hammarström (Uppsala University), Phillipp Rönchen (Uppsala University), Sunny Pydugadu (Pavia University), Silvia Luraghi (Pavia University)
The project aims to investigate gender and classifier assignment, stability, and change from a cross-linguistic, historical, and cultural evolutionary perspective. The project is large-scale, involving lexical and grammatical typology, with data from around 400 languages of the Indo-European (Eurasia) and Arawakan (South America) families, which both have a rich variation in different gender and classifier systems.
The project aims to answer the following research questions:
1) From a general (‘universal’, system-independent, cross-linguistic) perspective, can semantic factors (other than biological sex) play a significant role in gender and classifier assignment for languages with formal systems? Which of these factors are most strongly predictive of gender and classifier assignment?
2) When gender and classifier systems change (expand or collapse), are changes predictable in a certain direction, and does this depend on semantic or formal criteria? Are some types of systems more stable than others?
3) In case of system stability between language states (e.g., keeping gender and classifier systems intact), why do lexemes change their gender or classifier status? Which factors (semantic properties, specific genders, etc) lead to gender/classifier instability? Can changes in gender/classifier be connected to changing assignment rules?
4) What is the correlation between gender/classifiers and general frequency and universal marking hierarchies?
5) What is the correlation between gender/classifier assignment and patterns of cultural classification or usage, manifested in, e.g., kinship systems, subsistence or cultural functionality and affordance?