Tikuna (isolate, western Amazonia) features a system of five nominal agreement classes: Feminine, Masculine, Neuter, Salientive, and Non-Salientive. Like in well-known Indo-European gender languages, the targets of class agreement (nominal modifiers and pronominal morphemes, essentially) obligatorily agree in class with the participant they relate to. Tikuna, however, usually offers several options of class assignment to given participants in discourse, and even allows participants to change class over the course of a single discourse performance. A participant designated by means of the noun kŏwǘ ‘deer’ may thus be assigned to any class except Neuter, suggesting that lexical properties of nouns cannot fully account for class assignment. I argue that the primary factor underlying class assignment (and reassignment) in Tikuna are the inherent semantic and pragmatic values of each class. Lexical properties and, occasionally, the class assignment of other participants in the immediate context, do come into play, but as secondary factors. Flexibility and secondary reliance on lexical information are the most visibly divergent characteristics of class assignment in Tikuna relative to typical Indo-European gender systems.
Ese Ejja is an Amazonian language spoken in Peru and Bolivia. It possesses four posture verbs that appear in multiple constructions to express location, possession, existence, imperfective aspect and present tense. Firstly, the article examines the criteria for associating these verbs (be they grammaticalized or not) to the animate or inanimate entities. These criteria are not necessarily linked directly to posture, be it real or prototypical for a given entity, but may involve the sex of the entity, or even to the place where the entity is located. Secondly, it argues that the Ese Ejja posture verbs are better analyzed as verbal classifiers rather than classificatory verbs, as they participate in a number of constructions spanning the continuum from purely lexical to entirely grammatical ones, using the same semantic criteria.
This paper analyzes Kubeo’s system of nominal classification from a synchronic, diachronic and typological perspective. It is argued that Kubeo has two distinct but integrated systems, labeled as “gender” and “noun class markers” (CMs). Gender contrasts animacy and number for all nouns and sex-based gender only for animate nouns. CMs mostly code for physical properties. Both systems are productively used in several morphosyntactic, semantic and discourse functions, such as noun derivation, syntactic agreement, individuation, reference identification and management. The paper focusses on highlighting formal and functional asymmetries between the systems, especially in situations where gender and noun class overlap and compete. It is shown that despite a great deal of functional equivalence, Kubeo’s “gender” is more similar to typologically defined gender systems than the language’s class marker system, while the latter, by contrast, is more similar to specific types of noun class and classifier systems found in Amazonia and elsewhere.
This article describes noun classes in Tuwari, a Papuan language of Papua New Guinea. The exponents of gender are clitics, realized once per clause-level phrase, and always at their right periphery. In noun phrases, the exponent is a gender-agreeing article, while on verb phrases it is a subject index. This agreement system is uncanonical since it brings into play a set of complex syntactic rules. As in other Papuan languages, such gender markers used at the periphery of the noun phrase share formal and semantic properties with markers of subordination.
Kobiana is a Niger-Congo language belonging to the Atlantic language family, mostly spoken in Guinea Bissau by about seven hundred people. This language has a quite typical Niger-Congo noun class system with 16 classes for singular, 11 classes for plural and 6 classes non-sensitive to any number contrast. This language also has developed another system of number marking, different from the noun class system whereby the plural number is marked on nouns by means of a -a suffix. This suffixed plural combines with a sizeable part of Kobiana nouns. Such nouns also trigger agreement within the noun phrase, with both singular and plural agreement markers. After presenting the two types of number marking on Kobiana nouns, we observe the morphological behavior of these nouns when they combine with numerals. We also describe how the agreement markers enable us to account for the syntactic analysis of numerals and to show how numerals can be ascribed to different parts of speech. We also discuss several striking morphosyntactic peculiarities of Kobiana numerals.