[Colloquium] Substance and subtlety: Grammatical gender from three perspectives

In this talk, I present three distinct strands of research on grammatical gender. The first study describes the morphological realization of a new gender in the Bitur language and its implications for contemporary issues in gender analysis. In the second study, participants are tasked with learning different artificial languages which do or do not violate the number and animacy hierarchies, shedding light on the role of constraints on learnability as a possible explanation for cross-linguistic patterns. The third study explores the correlation between the syntactic distributions of nouns and their grammatical gender across several languages, and the results provide evidence for how language is structured for efficient use. These studies attest to the complexity of grammatical phenomena such as gender, forcing the linguist to reconcile patterns and pressures at different scales in search of a comprehensive theory of language. In doing so, we get a glimpse of how the functional underpinnings of language persist through seemingly random processes and in “senseless” systems such as grammatical gender.