What underlies linguistic classification? Gender and classifiers in Indo-European and Arawakan languages

Project: Research


The project aims to investigate gender and classifier assignment, stability, and change from a cross-linguistic,
historical, cultural and evolutionary perspective. The project is large-scale, involving lexical and grammatical
typology, with empirical 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 will test
several predictions of principles, most importantly whether gender/classifier assignment, from a general
perspective, is mainly impacted by semantic, morphological, phonological or cultural factors. C ross-linguistic,
'universal' implications of frequency, marking hierarchies, and semantic property and class, and cultural
functionality play an important role in the hypotheses concerning how gender/classifier systems are shaped.
Further, the project will investigate whether these assignment predictors play a role when gender/classifier
systems expand or collapse, and if the general principles of assignment are vital to gender evolution. Finally,
gender evolution will be contrasted to general cultural evolutionary principles, defined by, e.g., changes in
subsistence and kinship system. To test predictions and hypotheses, the empirical data will be analysed by
statistical, evolutionary, and geographic models.
Effective start/end date2020/01/012022/12/31