The variation of gender agreement on numerals in the Alpine space
The study of dialects and of closely-related systems can be very interesting under the perspective of language typology since they give insights into different forms of linguistic patterning, setting off from very similar linguistic substance. The topic of this paper is gender agreement on cardinal numbers, a good example in which dialects exhibit a higher degree of complexity than their nearest standard languages, in this case German and Italian, as well as most European standard languages. Cardinal numerals are a special kind of linguistic object. From the point of view of agreement, lower numerals may share adjective-like properties and agree (usually in gender) with their head nouns, whereas higher numerals tend to have more noun-like properties and behave more as agreement controllers than as targets. Focusing on the Romance-Germanic contact area encompassing the alpine space, patterns of variation on numerals will be considered. On the basis of linguistic atlases, local grammars and dictionaries, and field-work research a typology of diffusion and evolution of the phenomenon of gender agreement on lower numerals both in Romance varieties (Gallo-Romance, Italo-Romance, Ladin) and German (Upper German dialects) can be outlined.