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Gender change from Old to Middle English

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Abstract

Gender-assignment and -exponence changed dramatically from Old to Middle English.1 This paper provides insights on the mechanisms and chronology of this change by quantitatively analysing the annals 1129–1154 of the Peterborough Chronicle. A logistic regression reveals substantial effects of formal, semantic and extralinguistic parameters on gender reassignment. Lexical-to-referentialgender transition is largely a directed development in which correspondence of sex and gender plays a major role. At the same time, instances of random gender-reassignment occur and produce gendered noun-phrases incompatible with both the Old English (OE) as well as the Middle English (ME) system of gender-assignment. Pronouns adopt referential agreement before adnominals as a diachronic application of the Agreement Hierarchy (Corbett 1979) predicts.

References

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