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Cycle BCL - Michele Loporcaro

Mass/count and grammatical gender in Romance

Jeudi 1 décembre 2016, 10h-12h, salle 213

Mass/count and grammatical gender in Romance

par Michele Loporcaro, Professeur à l’Université de Zurich.

The mass/count distinction intersects with the analysis of the gender systems in several interesting ways. Across Romance, two varieties/dialect areas have attracted most interest in this respect, viz. Central-Southern Italo-Romance and Asturian (Northern Ibero-Romance). Both kinds of systems feature a set of agreement targets called traditionally ‘neuter’, as exemplified in (1) with the dialect of Macerata (Central Marche) – where the ‘neuter’ definite article form lo contrasts with M lu and F la – and in (2) with the bable of Lena (Central Asturian), where the ‘neuter’ form of the adjective (fri-o) contrasts with M fri-u and F fri-a :

(1)

 

gender

countness

det

N

Adj

Maceratese

 

a.

f

count

la

ma

ggrɔss-a

‘def.f.sg big hand’

 

 

b.

n

mass

lo

pa

ggross-o

‘def.f.sg big (loaf of) bread’

 

 

c.

m

count

lu

ka

ggross-u

‘def.m.sg big dog’

 

 

(2)

 

gender

countness

det

N

Adj

Central Asturian (Lena)

 

a.

f

count

la

casa

fri-a

‘def.f.sg cold house’

 

 

b.

 

mass

 

tsiche

fri-o

‘def.f.sg cold milk’

 

 

c.

m

mass

el

café

fri-o

‘def.m.sg cold coffee’

 

 

d.

 

count

 

pie

fri-u

‘def.m.sg cold foot’

 

 

While the two types of systems are often dealt with as though they were instances of ‘similar’ phenomena (e.g. in the typological survey of mass/countness by Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2004 : 1069), there are obvious differences, the most striking one being the fact that, in Asturian, masshood cuts across the gender contrast seen in (2) on the definite article, while in Central-Southern Italo-Romance all nouns assigned to the neuter (and thus selecting the article form lo in Maceratese in (1b)) are mass.

In this talk, I shall argue that the way in which mass/countness impacts on the gender system is radically different in the two kinds of systems. In particular, I shall show that in both the neuter is a value of the category gender (contra, e.g., Ledgeway 2009 : 150 ; 2012 : 105 ; Maiden 2011 : 170-2 for Central-Southern Italy and Corbett 2000 : 124-6 for Asturian), but in Asturian this is just one of two concurrent gender features (cf. Fedden and Corbett 2016 for a recent typology of such systems). Central-Southern Italo-Romance, on the other hand, shows a more conservative unitary gender system, inherited from Latin, where the neuter, as exemplified in (1b), is a morphosyntactic feature value, rather than a purely semantic subdivision of the masculine gender, as argued by the authors mentioned above (and by several others). Crucial evidence to demonstrate this comes from morphosyntactic change (in particular, the rise of dedicated forms of the indefinite article, which would be hardly expected to occur with nouns which are defined as [–count], since apart from ‘universal sorter/packager’ effects – cf. e.g. Pelletier 1975 : 456, 2012 : 14 ; Bunt 1985 : 11, Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2004 : 1065, etc. – mass nouns do not occur with indefinite articles cross-linguistically) as well as from a recent neurolinguistic study on one dialect of this area, whose preliminary results I am going to address.

References
Bunt, Harry C. (1985). Mass terms and model-theoretic semantics. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Corbett, Greville G. (2000). Number. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Fedden, Sebastian, and Corbett, Greville G. (2016). Gender and classifiers as concurrent systems : a first typology. Ms. University of Sidney/Surrey Morphology Group. Submitted to Glossa.
Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria (2004). Mass and collection. In Geert Booji, Christian Lehmann, and Joachim Mugdan (eds), Morphology : A Handbook on Inflection and Word Formation, vol. 2. Berlin : Walter de Gruyter, 1016–31.
Ledgeway, Adam (2009). Grammatica diacronica del napoletano. Tübingen : Niemeyer.
Ledgeway, Adam (2012). From Latin to Romance. Morphosyntactic typology and change. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Maiden, Martin (2011). Morphological persistence. In Maiden et al. (2011 : 155–215, 699–706).
Maiden, Martin, Smith, John Charles, and Ledgeway, Adam (eds) (2011). The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages, vol. 1 : Structures, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Massam, Diane (ed.) (2012). Count and Mass Across Languages. Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Pelletier, Francis J. (1975). Non-singular reference : Some preliminaries. Philosophia 5 : 451–65.
Pelletier, Francis J. (2012). Lexical nouns are neither mass nor count, but they are both mass and count. In Massam (2012 : 9–26).

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