Sociolinguistic, comparative and historical perspectives on Scandinavian gender: With focus on Jamtlandic

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


The present thesis investigates gender assignment in Jamtlandic from a sociolinguistic and historical/comparative perspective. Jamtlandic is a language variety spoken in northwestern Sweden in the province of Jämtland. It maintains a three-gender system, in contrast to Standard Swedish, which has a two-gender system. Study 1 of the thesis looks at Jamtlandic gender assignment from a sociolinguistic perspective, investigating how linguistic and extralinguistic factors contribute to variation in the way speakers use grammatical gender. The material for this study is an experiment conducted with 50 participants using picture stimuli, along with a sociolinguistic questionnaire. Results from Study 1 indicate that while the three-gender system is still robust in Jamtlandic, it shows signs of influence from Standard Swedish. Speakers’ gender usage is influenced by both linguistic and sociological factors. In particular, the youngest speakers use a gender system that is very similar to Standard Swedish.
Study 2 focuses on establishing some salient gender assignment principles for Jamtlandic. The material for this study is a 1,029-item wordlist collected from fieldwork with Jamtlandic speakers. Drawing on past studies on gender assignment in Scandinavian, it proposes semantic, morphological, and phonological tendencies. Assignment tendencies are evaluated based on how well they cover the material, how well they fare when in competition with other tendencies, and the results of a multinomial logistic regression analysis. The results show that semantic, phonological, and morphological principles are all important for gender assignment. The strongest assignment tendencies are those based on plural patterns, as well as semantic tendencies related to the semantic core of biological sex. In addition, modern loanwords show an increased percentage of masculine gender, compared to the overall material.
Study 3 uses the wordlist collected for Study 2, and adds cognates and gender in Old Norse, Old Swedish, Norwegian, Nysvenska, and Elfdalian. This study compares gender assignment in these six three-gender Scandinavian varieties, looking primarily at instances in which cognate words are assigned different genders across languages. The results of Study 3 show that various factors (gender and declension in Old Norse, word frequency, loan status, and animacy) influence the likelihood of a lexeme to change gender. These changes can also be accompanied by lexemes acquiring certain characteristics that are indicative of a particular gender in the language (such as the addition of a word-final vowel or a derivational suffix).


  • Briana Van Epps
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • grammatical gender, Jamtlandic, Swedish dialects, dialectology, dialect loss, language variation and change, gender assignment, Scandinavian, gender variability, diachrony, Old Norse, Old Swedish, Swedish, Norwegian, Elfdalian
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Gerd Carling, Supervisor
  • Sapir, Yair, Assistant supervisor, External person
Award date2019 Jun 14
Place of PublicationLund, Sweden
  • Media-Tryck, Lund University, Sweden
Print ISBNs978-91-88899-38-5
Electronic ISBNs978-91-88899-39-2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jun 14
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2019-06-14 Time: 10:15 Place: SOL, hörsalen External reviewer Name: Hans-Olav Enger Title: professor Affiliation: Universitetet i Oslo ---

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