Assigned gender in a corpus of nineteenth-century correspondence among settlers in the American Great Plains

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This contribution explores the use of the formal resources of English (third-person singular pronouns in anaphora, sex-sensitive collocations) for “assigned gender” in a corpus of letters written by settlers of the Great Plains of the United States in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The textual work is introduced by a discussion of significant theoretical aspects of the grammatical category of gender and of certain methodological issues – particularly “Units of Anaphoric Reference”. Although assigned gender has been approached from a general perspective, particular attention has been paid to two specific usages: the feminine pronoun as an indicator of colloquial American English, and the neuter pronoun as a frequent (and possibly patterned) choice for nouns like baby or child.


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