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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter (A) November 7, 2019

Hatt or si? Neuter and feminine gender assignment in reference to female persons in Luxembourgish

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Abstract

In Luxembourgish, feminine as well as neuter gender can be assigned to female persons. Here, female first names are morphologically treated as neuter and therefore trigger neuter gender on their targets (e.g. definite article, personal pronoun). Last names referring to women, however, are feminine and take feminine targets respectively. While the use of neuter and feminine in prototypical and invariable reference contexts are well-known, morphological conflicts often arise regarding more complex name types (e.g. female first name + last name) leading to different degrees of variation between both genders. Building especially upon previous findings by Döhmer (2016), the present contribution offers a first extensive empirical analysis on the use of neuter and feminine personal pronouns considering different female referents as well as familiarity, the referent’s and the speaker’s, as decisive (socio-pragmatical) factors for gender assignment. The results are based on elicited data retrieved from an online survey and audio recordings collected by means of the Luxembourgish language app Schnëssen and allow a quantification of the phenomenon going beyond previous contributions and descriptions in reference grammars. The apparent-time analysis, carried out in order to identify potential tendencies in language change, suggests a preference for neuter pronominalization for younger speakers of Luxembourgish in variable reference contexts.

Abbreviations

1, 2, 3

first, second, third person

art

article

f/f/F

feminine

m/m/M

masculine

n/n/N

neuter

pl

plural

poss

possessive

pron

pronoun

ptcp

participle

sg

singular

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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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