The Preconceptual Basis of Noun Class (Gender)




noun class, morphosyntactic features, attention, agency detection, sex discrimination


Noun class is widely seen as “standing out” from other morphosyntactic categories in having a basis in ontological beliefs, or a ‘semantic core’. The consequence of this view is that noun classes in natural languages frequently do not cohere semantically. Here I motivate an aspectual alternative according to which noun class is grounded in low-level cognitive processes including the detection of agency and sex-related cues (including shape/size) and ‘mode’ of attention. This suggests a way of bringing noun class more into line with the perspectivizing contribution of morphosyntactic features in general.


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