Gender variation and gender markedness in Russian nouns

2023. №2, 7-28

Varvara Magomedova
HSE University, Moscow, Russia;
Natalia Slioussar
HSE University, Moscow, Russia; Saint Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia;


In this paper, we analyze diff erent factors aff ecting gender assignment in Russian nouns. We conducted two studies combining experimental, dictionary, and corpus data (relying both on traditional corpora and on the web-as-a-corpus approach). The fi rst study is dedicated to gender assignment to expressive nouns in a situation when the gender of the base noun and the expressive suffix give contradictory cues. We demonstrated extensive gender variation in these cases and estimated the role of different factors affecting it. The gender of the base noun and the inflection associated with the expressive suffix appeared to be the most important. Animacy is also relevant (certain options are possible only for nouns denoting people) but statistically insignifi cant. The second study is on gender assignment to nouns that have a zero inflection in nominative singular and a palatalized, alveolo-palatal, or postalveolar stem-final consonant. In the previous studies, it was noted that the phonological properties of this consonant affect the gender distribution in these nouns. Our data confirmed this generalization and provided several new insights. We also demonstrated that native Russian speakers are sensitive to it. We discuss the implications of our results for different approaches in theoretical morphology and focus on gender markedness analyzing a special status of masculine gender.

For citation:

Magomedova V., Slioussar N. Gender variation and gender markedness in Russian nouns. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2023, 2: 7–28.


The work on this project was carried out within the Basic Research Program at the
HSE University, Russia.