Multifunctional agreement patterns in Bantu and the possibility of genderless nounsMultifunctional agreement patterns in Bantu and the possibility of genderless nouns
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Grammar and Pragmatics
Linguistic typology. - Berlin
10(2006):2, p. 183-221
University of Antwerp
It is generally assumed that all nouns belong to a gender in gender languages and that this constitutes a fundamental difference between gender systems and systems of noun classifiers. An analysis of gender and agreement in the Cameroonian Bantu language Eton challenges this assumption. Gender assignment cannot be predicted on semantic grounds in Eton, except for proper names and deictic kinship terms. Although these nouns trigger the same agreement pattern as nouns of gender 1, their behaviour differs too much from the other nouns for them to be analysed as gender 1 words. It is argued that they form the core of a set of genderless nouns. The agreement pattern they trigger is a multifunctional one: it marks agreement with gender 1 words and with genderless words. It will be shown that multifunctionality is a typical characteristic of agreement patterns in Bantu.