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One Word, Two Genders

Categorization and Agreement in Dutch Double Gender Nouns


Chiara Semplicini

Dutch is a peculiar language in that certain nouns have more than one gender. This first academic study of double gender nouns (DGNs) in the Dutch language investigates this anomaly. First assigned a lexicological classification, the DGNs are then analysed contextually by means of a corpus study. DGNs are shown to be part of a generalized restructuring of Dutch gender as a whole. No longer a fringe phenomenon in the Dutch gender system, this study shows them to be catalysts in the transition towards a (more) semantic system, a process that is much more advanced than commonly assumed.
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Chapter 1: Gender between Nominal Classification and Agreement


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Gender between Nominal Classification and Agreement

1.1 Introducing gender: Some basic terminology and questions to be answered

Since Hockett’s famous definition, gender has been described as a classificatory property of nouns ‘reflected in the behaviour of associated words’ (1958: 231). This definition captures the multifaceted nature of the category: on the one hand, as a class-feature, gender is a fixed property of nouns, stored in the lexicon and assigned by means of language-specific rules, i.e. assignment rules (Corbett 1991); on the other hand, it is a morphosyntactic property, similar to case and number, which ensures discourse coherence through agreement.

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