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On the diachrony of gender in Asia Minor Greek: The development of semantic agreement in Pontic

Karatsareas, Petros


Petros Karatsareas


Alongside the syntactic agreement system that it inherited from earlier stages in its history as a Greek dialect whereby targets agree with the morphologically-assigned gender of their controllers (masculine, feminine, neuter), Pontic has developed an innovative semantic agreement system: nouns denoting inanimate and non-human animate entities trigger agreement in the neuter. Adopting the theoretical framework of Corbett (1991, 2006) and drawing on recent cross-linguistic findings on the development of gender agreement, this paper provides (a) a synchronic description of the distribution of the two Pontic agreement systems, syntactic and semantic; and (b) a diachronic account of the historical origin and subsequent evolution of the innovative semantic agreement system. It is shown that the synchronic distribution of the two systems confirms Corbett's generalisations: semantic agreement is found with targets syntactically distanced from their controller while syntactic agreement holds sway with those targets that appear syntactically nearer to it. It is further argued that the development of semantic agreement in the dialect followed the cross-linguistically well-observed path defined by Corbett's Agreement Hierarchy, starting from the personal pronoun and gradually arriving at definite articles with its completion attested in Rumeic, the dialect of the area of Mariupol (Ukraine). Finally, it is proposed that this innovation, whose earliest manifestations must be dated before the early 14th century CE, paved the way for the later loss of gender agreement in Cappadocian and Pharasiot, the other two Asia Minor Greek dialects to have undergone innovations in their gender systems. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Karatsareas, P. (2014). On the diachrony of gender in Asia Minor Greek: The development of semantic agreement in Pontic. Language Sciences, 43, 77-101.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Journal Language Sciences
Print ISSN 0388-0001
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Pages 77-101
Keywords gender, semantic agreement, Asia Minor Greek, Pontic
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Additional Information Additional Information : Available online 20 November 2013

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