WhenNovember 16, 2018 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
WhereSocial Science Research
Event Websitehttps://voices.uchicago.edu/morphologyandsyntax/
Contact InformationLinguistics Department
DescriptionThis meeting will be located in Landhal 009A: Cherry Meyer (UChicago)

The Link between Gender and Classifiers in Ojibwe (Algonquian)


I present ongoing research into the noun categorization systems of gender and classifiers in Ojibwe, an Algonquian language spoken in the Great Lakes region. Data are drawn from fieldwork with speakers in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, as well as dictionaries and grammars. While the classifier system is known, it has not received a typologically-informed treatment. In the first part of the talk, I describe the classifier system, which consists of both numeral and verbal classifiers, using the framework of Grinevald (2000). The gender system, on the other hand, is well-described, but a puzzle remains, which is dealt with in the second part of the talk. 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 (1), while most nouns denoting inanimates are INANIMATE (2). The puzzle is how to motivate assignment for a set of nouns denoting inanimates that are ANIMATE (3).


1. Animate Referent 2. Inanimate Referent 3. Inanimate Referent

ANIMATE Gender INANIMATE Gender ANIMATE Gender

a. inini ‘man’ a. waabigwan ‘flower’ a. mitig ‘tree’

b. ikwe ‘woman’ b. ozid ‘his/her foot’ b. zesab ‘nettle’

c. makwa ‘bear’ c. wiiyaas ‘meat’ c. asekaan ‘tanned hide’

d. animosh ‘dog’ d. nibaagab ‘bed’ d. miskomin ‘raspberry’

e. giigoonh ‘fish’ e. izaaga’igan ‘lake’ e. asin ‘a stone’


I propose an analysis of gender assignment in Ojibwe that draws on the semantics of the sortal classifiers to motivate these nouns.There are five sortal classifiers in Ojibwe. The gender assignment of nouns of the kind shown in (3) is motivated by their compatibility with the semantics of one of these sortal classifiers, as shown by pairings of the classifiers with nouns below (4).


4. a. /-aatig/ ‘long, narrow, rigid’, i.e. stick-like - mitig ‘tree’

b. /-aabiig/ ‘long, narrow, flexible’, i.e. string-like - zesab ‘nettle’

c. /-eg/ ‘long, wide, flexible’, i.e. sheet-like - asekaan ‘tanned hide’

d. /-minag/ ‘small, round’, i.e. berry-like - miskomin ‘raspberry’

e. /-aabik/ ‘mineral’, i.e. metal, stone, glass - asin ‘a stone’


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CategoriesConferences/Lectures, Workshops
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