Friday, January 25: Cherry Meyer (UChicago)

Please join us for a meeting of the Language Variation & Change Workshop, this Friday, January 25 at 3:30pm, in Rosenwald 301. A light reception will follow.

Motivating ‘exceptional’ animates in Ojibwe: the link between gender and classifiers
Cherry Meyer, UChicago

The Algonquian language of Ojibwe has both a gender system and a classifier system. The gender system has semantic, rather than formal, assignment of nouns to gender values. With two values of ANIMATE and INANIMATE, semantic assignment is rather straightforward. Nouns denoting humans and animals are ANIMATE, while most nouns denoting inanimates are INANIMATE. However, some nouns denoting inanimates are ANIMATE, e.g. asin ‘a stone’ or miskomin ‘raspberry’. I propose an analysis of gender assignment in Ojibwe that draws on the semantics of the sortal classifier system to motivate these apparently ‘exceptional’ nouns. I also discuss some complicating factors, such as the use of the gender values to effect a functional contrast.

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