Lecture: (Un)marked Gender in German
In this talk I want to show that a standard assumption about markedness can't be applied to German as easy as it might seem: masculine gender is unmarked in most languages that distinguish a masculine and a feminine gender.
Some data from different domains of German nouns are going to be presented to show that the picture is a lot more complicated than it might seem at first glance but maybe can be explained under the assumption that there are interpretable and uninterpretable gender features located at a little n head.
This talk is going to present the concept of markedness in the domain of phi-features. A common assumption about markedness in the domain of gender is, that in all languages that distinguish a masculine from a feminine gender, the masculine gender is less marked. Challenging this statement I want to propose the question if there even is a single unmarked gender category for all German nouns.
Some diagnostics for marked and unmarked categories from semantic and morphological points of view will be shown, mostly based on Greenberg (1980) and Sauerland (2008).
Applying these diagnostics to different domains of German nouns (human denoting nouns, kinship terms and animal denoting nouns) it can be seen that there doesn't seem to be a coherently unmarked gender category across the considered German noun classes.
Following a distributed morphology approach I want to introduce the assumption of gender features being located at a head called little n and the notion of interpretable and uninterpretable gender features, following Kramer (2015). Within this framework I want to present a markedness scale possibly explaining the mixed picture that is visible for the different domains of German nouns.