A functional theory of gender paradigms

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Standard

A functional theory of gender paradigms. / Dye, Melody; Milin, Petar; Futrell, Richard; Ramscar, Michael.

Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses. ed. / Ferenc Kiefer; James Blevins; Huba Bartos. Leiden : Brill, 2017. p. 121-140.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Harvard

Dye, M, Milin, P, Futrell, R & Ramscar, M 2017, A functional theory of gender paradigms. in F Kiefer, J Blevins & H Bartos (eds), Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses. Brill, Leiden, pp. 121-140. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004342934

APA

Dye, M., Milin, P., Futrell, R., & Ramscar, M. (2017). A functional theory of gender paradigms. In F. Kiefer, J. Blevins, & H. Bartos (Eds.), Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses (pp. 121-140). Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004342934

Vancouver

Dye M, Milin P, Futrell R, Ramscar M. A functional theory of gender paradigms. In Kiefer F, Blevins J, Bartos H, editors, Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses. Leiden: Brill. 2017. p. 121-140 https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004342934

Author

Dye, Melody ; Milin, Petar ; Futrell, Richard ; Ramscar, Michael. / A functional theory of gender paradigms. Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses. editor / Ferenc Kiefer ; James Blevins ; Huba Bartos. Leiden : Brill, 2017. pp. 121-140

Bibtex

@inbook{52762b02904245e89e8c6129ebca2500,
title = "A functional theory of gender paradigms",
abstract = "A central goal of typological research is to characterize linguistic features in terms of their functional role in a language. One longstanding puzzle for typologists concerns why certain languages employ grammatical gender, which assigns nouns to distinct classes. From a taxonomic perspective, gender specification can appear arbitrary, with little obvious correspondence between semantics and noun class. Gender has thus long been viewed as a useless ornament with no apparent rhyme or reason. However, there is an accumulating body of evidence that native speakers use determiners to guide lexical access. Here, we investigate whether an information theoretic perspective might shed some light on the communicative function of noun classification in German. We hypothesize that the system works to efficiently smooth information over discourse, making nouns both more predictable — and more equally predictable — in context. In line with these predictions, a large-scale corpus analysis reveals that German gender markers systematically reduce nominal entropy, facilitating the use of a more diverse (and more informative) set of nouns. Moreover, the structure of the gender system mirrors that of other subsystems of language, in that it provides systematic support for lower frequency forms. Thus, it is only from a taxonomic standpoint that gender's purpose can appear opaque: Our findings indicate that German gender classes conform to a tight 'discriminative' logic, employing a structure system of semantic clusters and contracts to facilitate lexical processing.",
author = "Melody Dye and Petar Milin and Richard Futrell and Michael Ramscar",
year = "2017",
doi = "https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004342934",
language = "English",
isbn = "978-90-04-34291-0",
pages = "121--140",
editor = "Ferenc Kiefer and James Blevins and Huba Bartos",
booktitle = "Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses",
publisher = "Brill",
address = "Netherlands",

}

RIS

TY - CHAP

T1 - A functional theory of gender paradigms

AU - Dye, Melody

AU - Milin, Petar

AU - Futrell, Richard

AU - Ramscar, Michael

PY - 2017

Y1 - 2017

N2 - A central goal of typological research is to characterize linguistic features in terms of their functional role in a language. One longstanding puzzle for typologists concerns why certain languages employ grammatical gender, which assigns nouns to distinct classes. From a taxonomic perspective, gender specification can appear arbitrary, with little obvious correspondence between semantics and noun class. Gender has thus long been viewed as a useless ornament with no apparent rhyme or reason. However, there is an accumulating body of evidence that native speakers use determiners to guide lexical access. Here, we investigate whether an information theoretic perspective might shed some light on the communicative function of noun classification in German. We hypothesize that the system works to efficiently smooth information over discourse, making nouns both more predictable — and more equally predictable — in context. In line with these predictions, a large-scale corpus analysis reveals that German gender markers systematically reduce nominal entropy, facilitating the use of a more diverse (and more informative) set of nouns. Moreover, the structure of the gender system mirrors that of other subsystems of language, in that it provides systematic support for lower frequency forms. Thus, it is only from a taxonomic standpoint that gender's purpose can appear opaque: Our findings indicate that German gender classes conform to a tight 'discriminative' logic, employing a structure system of semantic clusters and contracts to facilitate lexical processing.

AB - A central goal of typological research is to characterize linguistic features in terms of their functional role in a language. One longstanding puzzle for typologists concerns why certain languages employ grammatical gender, which assigns nouns to distinct classes. From a taxonomic perspective, gender specification can appear arbitrary, with little obvious correspondence between semantics and noun class. Gender has thus long been viewed as a useless ornament with no apparent rhyme or reason. However, there is an accumulating body of evidence that native speakers use determiners to guide lexical access. Here, we investigate whether an information theoretic perspective might shed some light on the communicative function of noun classification in German. We hypothesize that the system works to efficiently smooth information over discourse, making nouns both more predictable — and more equally predictable — in context. In line with these predictions, a large-scale corpus analysis reveals that German gender markers systematically reduce nominal entropy, facilitating the use of a more diverse (and more informative) set of nouns. Moreover, the structure of the gender system mirrors that of other subsystems of language, in that it provides systematic support for lower frequency forms. Thus, it is only from a taxonomic standpoint that gender's purpose can appear opaque: Our findings indicate that German gender classes conform to a tight 'discriminative' logic, employing a structure system of semantic clusters and contracts to facilitate lexical processing.

U2 - https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004342934

DO - https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004342934

M3 - Chapter (peer-reviewed)

SN - 978-90-04-34291-0

SP - 121

EP - 140

BT - Perspectives on Morphological Organization: Data and Analyses

A2 - Kiefer, Ferenc

A2 - Blevins, James

A2 - Bartos, Huba

PB - Brill

CY - Leiden

ER -