Michele Loporcaro

Zurich/The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University
Talk Title: 
Mass/count and grammatical gender in Romance
Event Type: 
Fall 2017
Friday, October 27, 2017, 3:30 pm
SAC 305
Cross-linguistically, the count/mass distinction can intersect grammatical gender in different ways: the talk will exemplify this, capitalizing on two case studies from Romance, based on my forthcoming book (Loporcaro 2018). In the first part, I will address the gender systems of Central-Southern Italo-Romance dialects. These have been traditionally analysed as featuring a three-way gender opposition (masculine/feminine/neuter), but are alternatively claimed by many (e.g. Maiden 2011: 170) to display just a binary contrast, with the ‘neuter’ analyzed as a merely semantic subdivision (that of mass nouns) within the masculine, rather than as an autonomous gender value. I will reassert the three-gender analysis, based on structural and neurolinguistic evidence. In the second part, I will argue that Central Asturian – often put on a par with Central-Southern Italo-Romance in the literature in linguistic typology (Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2004: 1069), given the existence of a controversial agreement pattern traditionally dubbed ‘el neutro asturiano’ – departs radically not only from those dialects of Italy but also from the rest of Romance, in having developed two concurrent gender systems (in a way comparable to the language of Australia, New Guinea or the Americas recently reviewed by Fedden and Corbett 2017), in the second of which, one gender value, the neuter, is associated biuniquely with masshood. On the whole, the paper reads as a plea for typologically informed (re)analysis of the data from even such well known domains as Romance.
References: Fedden, S. and G. G. Corbett (2017): Gender and classifiers in concurrent systems: Refining the typology of nominal classification. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 34, 1–47. • Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M. (2004): Mass and collection. In G. Booij, C. Lehmann and J. Mugdan (eds), Morphology: A Handbook on Inflection and Word Formation, vol. 2. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 1016–31. •Loporcaro, M. (2018): Gender from Latin to Romance: history, geography, typology. OUP. • Maiden, M. (2011): Morphological persistence. In M. Maiden, J.C. Smith and A. Ledgeway (eds), The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages, vol. 1: Structures. CUP, 155–215, 699–706.