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Academic Paper

Title: The Semantics of the Dutch Gender System
Author: Margot Kraaikamp
Institution: University of Amsterdam
Linguistic Field: Semantics
Subject Language: Dutch
Abstract: In this paper, it is argued that, although Dutch gender assignment is not systematically organized along semantic lines in the lexicon, the gender system has a semantic basis. This semantic basis involves a distinction between masculine/common gender associated with a high degree of individuation on the one hand, and neuter gender associated with a low degree of individuation, on the other hand. This is in line with Audring (2006, 2009), who found that Dutch pronouns often show semantic agreement along these lines. It is shown that the same semantic distinction between the genders can also be found in the nominal domain. It surfaces particularly in cases where lexically stored gender does not play a role. The semantic distinction arguably goes back to Proto-Indo-European. It is argued that, since nominal gender has become an invariable, lexically stored feature of nouns, the semantic basis of nominal gender assignment has become disrupted. This causes a con-flict between lexical and semantic gender agreement in pronouns. It is suggested that the surfacing of semantic agreement in this conflict is connected with a reduced marking of lexical gender on adnominal elements.


This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 24, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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