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Genders and ClassifiersA Cross-Linguistic Typology$
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Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald and Elena I. Mihas

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198842019

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198842019.001.0001

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A view from the North

A view from the North

Genders and classifiers in Arawak languages of north-west Amazonia

(p.103) 4 A view from the North
Genders and Classifiers

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the issue of coexistence of noun categorization devices within one language. Genders and other noun categorization devices—be they numeral classifiers, or other classifiers—are generally thought of as being relatively independent from one another. Co-existing and overlapping systems of genders and classifiers are cross-linguistically uncommon. The chapter shows that this is a feature of some Arawak languages from north-west Amazonia, two genders—feminine and non-feminine—are obligatorily marked on verbs and nouns, and demonstratives and other modifiers within a noun phrase. Classifiers used on number words, and in a variety of other contexts, categorize the noun in terms of its physical properties, and distinguish gender. Gender is thus integrated within the system of classifiers. Gender markers may co-occur with classifiers in one word. The chapter concludes that gender distinctions and gender markers are uniform across the Arawak language family, and can be reconstructed for the proto-language. The chapter proposes that classifiers may have developed separately in each subgroup within the family.

Keywords:   Arawak language, classifier, gender, number word, feminine, non-feminine

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