"Gender" puzzels | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 61, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0039-8691
  • E-ISSN: 2215-1214


The material that we present in this article is the result of a collaboration that started out with intriguing facts from the field of Dutch child language, showing that children –at a certain stage– have recourse to a default determiner in what seemed to make part of their way towards acquiring grammatical gender. By attempting to get grip on the facts, we soon came across the notion of “neuter” –since Dutch is a language that does not make the familiar distinction between masculine and feminine nouns, but instead opposes nouns that are to nouns that are . Moreover, we ran into related puzzling facts opposing adult and child Dutch. In this article, we will show that the Dutch gender system is not only driven by purely grammatical features, but that other factors have to be taken into account as well. The starting point for our discussion is recent work by Carme Picallo, who argues that pronouns in languages like Spanish and Catalan do not represent a third gender class –next to masculine and feminine pronouns– but instead are elements that lack grammatical gender and number. We will investigate whether Picallo’s hypothesis is interesting for a language like Dutch as well. In the first part of this article, we will show that this question can be answered positively, and we will show which new questions are raised as a consequence. In the second part of this article, we will show that acquisition data of by Dutch children give support in favour of the hypothesis under investigation.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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