What underlies classification? Gender assignment in semantic core vocabulary

Project: Research


The project investigates gender and classifiers from a semantic and typological perspective, using evolutionary methods. The topic of linguistic gender and classifier systems is a perfect testbed for studying the co-evolution between lexicon, grammar and sociocultural aspects of language change. By means of the lexicon, gender and classifier languages map artifacts and concepts into a grammatical system. This classification of concepts depends on several competing factors, such as the sound shape of words, the morphology, the semantic properties as well as sociocultural aspects of their usage. When grammatical gender and classifier systems change, languages are forced to perform a partial or complete remapping of the lexicon. It is well known that this process can be both fast and pervasive, but it is also likely that general, ‘universal’ principles govern the remapping of words. However, many questions remained to be answered, and the fundamental research issue for the current project is gender assignment and evolution in semantic core vocabulary, such as body parts, words for the firmament and earth, sense perception words, or physical emotions. The project uses empirical lexical, grammatical and cultural data from a large number of gender and classifier families. The data and the research questions are systematically investigated by phylogenetic and phylogeographic methods, testing for co-evolutionary trends between lexicon, grammar, and culture.
Effective start/end date2020/01/012020/12/31