Gender agreement in Mawng

How the discourse functions of a gender system can approach those of a classifier system

Author: Singer, Ruth

Source: Studies in Language, Volume 34, Number 2, 2010 , pp. 382-416(35)

Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company


The two main types of nominal classification systems in Australian languages — classifiers and genders — are usually easy to distinguish both formally and functionally. However, in the Australian language Mawng, gender agreement carries much of the burden of reference, varies depending on how an entity is construed, and contributes elements of compositional meaning to discourse, with properties usually associated with classifiers rather than genders. The way that semantically-based genders are used in Mawng suggests that we need to add how classification is used to our typologies of nominal classification systems; existing typologies consider mainly morphosyntactic and semantic properties.