Foundations of nominal classifications: from semantics to phonology

2018. №6, 7-30

Nina R. Sumbatova
Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia;


In this paper, I discuss some difficult cases of description and interpretation of grammatical gender (nominal class). In typology, gender systems are often classified into those exclusively based on the meaning of the nouns (semantic gender) and those taking into account their formal, primarily morphological properties. Analyzing the gender system of Dargwa, I am trying to show that at least part of the gender systems that are usually viewed as semantic, are really based on the properties of the referent of the corresponding NP. I am also trying to figure out whether there are gender systems where the gender of a noun is unambiguously determined by its formal properties. In particular, I describe a very radical case of a gender system, the system of Landuma (Mel, Guinea), where the agreement rules seem to be based on the phonological structure of the controlling noun.

For citation:

Sumbatova N. R. Foundations of nominal classifications: from semantics to phonology. Voprosy Jazykoznanija. 2018. No. 6. Pp. 7–30. DOI: 10.31857/S0373658X0002018-8.


The research is supported by RSF grant No. 17-18-01184. I express my sincerest gratitude to the colleagues, who helped to find some gaps and correct some mistakes in this paper: P. M. Arkadiev, V. F. Vydrin, A. A. Kozlov, L. S. Kozlov, Denis Creissels, Yu. A. Lander as well as anonymous reviewers of “Voprosy Jazykoznanija”.