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Diachronic development of gender in city names in Spanish

Javier Caro Reina EMAIL logo and Jessica Nowak

Abstract

This paper examines the gender assignment rules that apply to city names in the history of Spanish, relying for the first time on extensive corpus-based material. The empirical data show that gender assignment changed from a referential principle that consistently assigned city names to the feminine (due to the feminine basic level noun for ‘city’) to a phonologically driven assignment rule, with city names ending in -a generally being assigned to the feminine (e.g. Barcelona) and those ending in -o or -C to the masculine (e.g. Toledo, Madrid). However, the overall picture is much more complicated than previously suggested in the literature since there is still a high degree of gender variation in Modern Spanish. The use of the feminine is still possible in city names ending in -o or -C. Interestingly, the change from referential to phonological gender assignment occurs first within the NP (mainly with quantifiers such as tod- o/-a ‘all-m/-f’). It is in this morphosyntactic context that city names with final -a most commonly shift from the feminine to the masculine gender. This case of “evasive gender” will be discussed from a typological perspective.

Abbreviations

def

definite

f

feminine

indef

indefinite

inf

infinitive

m

masculine

n

neuter

prs

present tense

sg

singular

Corpus

Davies, Mark. 2002. Corpus del español. 100 million word corpus of Spanish (1200s–1900s). Online available at http://www.corpusdelespanol.org (last accessed 9 November 2018).

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Published Online: 2019-11-07
Published in Print: 2019-11-26

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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