Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 367-377
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojml) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojml.2013.34048
Open Access 367
Lexical Borrowing Bearing Witness to the Notions of Gender and
Inflection Class: A Case Study on Two Contact
Induced Systems of Greek
Department of Philology, University of Patras, Patras, Greece
Received June 6th, 2013; revised July 9th, 2013; accepted July 18th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Dimitra Melissaropoulou. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cited.
This paper provides a comparative analysis of nominal loanword integration in two different contact in-
duced systems of Greek (i.e. Grico and Capapadocian) in order to offer further insights into two major
grammatical categories, those of inflection class and gender (from a morpho-semantic viewpoint, i.e.
gender assignment). By providing an analysis of the general mechanisms (e.g. natural gender, formal cor-
respondences, semantic equivalences, analogy) which account for the integration of loanwords in the ex-
amined systems it is shown that notwithstanding the divergence, grammatical gender splits into its two
major primitives, the semantic one relating to sex and animacy and the structural one, i.e. as an inflec-
tional classifier—in correlation with the notion of inflection class—in the organization of nominal classi-
fication types, offering further support to the claim that gender is not a purely morphological or a purely
semantic category, but a combination of the two. Each one of the two different facets of grammatical
gender along with the notion of inflection class conjoins the need of the systems to provide some type of
classification in nouns. However, the realization of those two facets, of one, or none of them, is subject to
parametric variation depending, especially in contact induced varieties, on the interplay between the
grammatical properties of all the involved systems (i.e. system compatibility, simplification phenomena).
The present study is a contribution to the overall language contact studies as well as to the studies on
grammatical gender and inflection class and their role in the organization of grammar, emphasizing the
role of loanwords in revealing aspects of this organization.
Keywords: Nominal Loanwords; Grammatical Gender; Inflection Class; Language Contact; Grico;
Lexical borrowing, and more specifically loanword integra-
tion, is a favorite topic in linguistic studies both for theoretical
and applied reasons (cf. Haspelmath, 2008 for relevant discus-
sion), among which its invaluable contribution to the under-
standing of the organization of grammar. In situations of lan-
guage contact, the first loan elements that are inarguably trans-
ferred from one language into the other are words (cf. Wein-
reich1, 1968; Thomason & Kaufman, 1988; Haspelmath & Tad-
mor, 2009). Thus, loanwords, as the most commonly attested
language contact phenomenon, have attracted the attention of
linguistic research in many different perspectives, touching
upon different linguistics subfields (e.g. phonetics, phonology,
morphology, semantics, sociolinguistics, and historical linguis-
tics). Some of the major questions that are tackled in the study
of lexical borrowing involve: a) the nature of loanwords, b) the
borrowability of different spheres of the vocabulary or of dif-
ferent grammatical categories, c) their adaptation strategies, d)
their place in the Lexicon etc.
The aim of this paper is to provide a comparative analysis of
nominal loanword integration in two different contact induced
systems of Greek in order to offer further insights into two
major grammatical categories, those of inflection class and
gender2 from a morpho-semantic viewpoint (i.e. gender as-
signment) rather than a syntactic one (i.e. gender agreement).
Furthermore, although integration of loanwords in the stan-
dard variety has been treated and led to relevant publications (cf.
Anastasiadi-Symeonidi, 1994; Christophidou, 2003 for Standard
Modern Greek), this is the first attempt to make a comparative
analysis of the integration of loanwords in contact induced
dialects which are in contact with both typologically and ge-
netically divergent linguistic systems.
In this vein, our data involve, on the one hand, Cappadocian in
contact with the agglutinative Altaic Turkish, while on the other
hand, Grico, in contact with the semi-fusional analytic Indo-
1When two divergent systems are spoken within the same territory, lexical
units are the first items to be transferred from the one system to the other,
the situation that Weinreich (1968: p. 1) refers to as interference.
2Counterarguments on the status of gender as a central grammatical category
lie in the fact that it is not present in all attested languages and that, even
when present, its status may vary in strength or clarity (for relevant discus-
sion cf. Bichakjian, 1999; Trudgill, 1999; McWhorter, 2001).
European Italian. The data under investigation are extracted
from the available written sources (among others Tommasi,
1996; Stomeo, 1996; Karanastasis, 1997; Rohlfs, 1977; Filieri,
2001; Dawkins, 1916; Mavrochalyvidis, 1990; Janse, forthcom-
ing; Sasse, 1992 etc.) as well as from the oral corpora of the
Laboratory of Modern Greek dialects at the University of Patras.
Our presentation is organized as follows: Section 2 summa-
rizes basic premises and assumptions on the notions of gender,
inflection class, loanwords, and loanword integration mecha-
nisms. In Section 3, a sketchy description of the sociolinguistic
background is offered and all the relevant data are presented
accompanied by generalizations on the attested phenomena. In
Section 4, discussion, specific claims and proposals are put
forward in order to account for the commonalities and the par-
ticularities of the role and the realization of gender and inflection
class in the two divergent language contact situations, showing
that in any case gender is a metalinguistic category with two
different facets—one semantic, which is thought to have a uni-
versal basis—and one morphological—the realization of which
is subject to parametric variation depending, especially in con-
tact induced varieties, on the interplay between the grammatical
properties of the involved systems. The paper ends with a brief
summary of the main points of this contribution.
The notion of inflection class has been studied in depth and
several approaches (among others Carstairs, 1987; Dressler,
1987; Carstairs-Mc Carthy, 1994; Ralli, 2000, 2006; Corbett,
2005, 2007, 2008) have been proposed in order to account for it
as a classifier of nouns into different groups based on varied
criteria. On the other hand, notwithstanding the respectable
relevant literature (among others Corbett, 1991, 2005; Corbett
& Fraser, 2000; Dahl, 2000a,b,c), grammatical gender is still to
some extent obscure, especially if one takes into account that,
on the one hand, it complicates morphological production,
while on the other hand, there are languages that do perfectly
For reasons of clarity we should mention from the very be-
ginning that gender is conceived of as a bipartite notion subdi-
vided into natural and grammatical gender4. Natural gender is
closely related to animacy, i.e. refers to the sex of human be-
ings and animals (gender distinctions often cut through on dif-
ferent places of the animal kingdom continuum (cf. Dahl, 2000a:
pp. 99-100), since it is often the case that some higher animals
are treated as persons, while some lower ones as inanimate
entities. Thus, the cutoff point varies cross-linguistically5.
On the other hand, grammatical gender is often argued to have
no semantic correlates. However, as argued by Aksenow (1984)
all gendered languages have both a semantic and a non-semantic
pole. As is well known there are languages that realize only
natural gender (e.g. English, Turkish, Hungarian) but not
grammatical one. Thus, grammatical gender is not cross-lin-
guistically obligatory and from this view-point it is often con-
sidered as a “less central category” (see Trudgill, 1999: p. 134)6.
In this perspective, it is often alluded an arbitrary in terms of
semantic content7 (see among others Hickey, 1999) or even
luxurious and admittedly non universal character, in the sense
that compared to other categories it serves no specific function
neither in grammar nor in human communication, plus lan-
guages can do perfectly without it. As such, it is argued to be
extremely vulnerable and easily subject to change when the
language contact factor is at play8. Interestingly, no pidgin lan-
guage is reported to have grammatical gender distinctions, while
its reintroduction remains extremely rare in cases of creoliza-
tion9. Nevertheless, the role of gender as a system of formal
classification based on morphological and phonological pa-
rameters or those as well has been recognized10, although lack of
regularity has been attributed in this case as well.
One important aspect of the realization of gender in loan-
word elements, as part of their integration process, concerns the
interaction between grammatical gender and the notion of in-
flection class. In languages with rich morphology, the notions
of gender and inflection are acknowledged to be strongly re-
lated (among others Corbett, 1991; Aronoff, 1994; Dressler &
Thorton, 1996; Ralli, 2000, 2002 etc.). However, grammatical
gender cannot be thought of as being identical with a specific
inflection class type though there is a frequent correlation be-
tween the two categories. It is often the case that from the pho-
nological shape of a word and its gender the inflection class can
usually be deduced.
There have been proposed totally opposite theses—usually on
the basis of a specific linguistic system—on which of the two
notions dominates the other11. Aronoff (1994: p. 74) claimed
that the gender to class dominance is the “normal” direction
while the opposite the class to gender dominance the ‘inverted’
one. However, a universal principle cannot be established and
this relationship admittedly varies cross-linguistically.
With respect to Greek, Ralli (2000, 2002) following a gen-
erative tradition, although she does not underestimate the role of
semantics for the assignment of a specific grammatical gender
value on the basis of animacy, argues that the role of morphol-
ogy (related to the processes of inflection, derivation, and com-
pounding) is more important in grammatical gender assign-
3No matter the lack of general consensus both within and across different
linguistic approaches on what the major grammatical categories are, gender
is usually listed among them (see among others Bybee, 1985, or earlier
Bloomfield, 1933 and Lyons, 1977).
4The distinction and the correspondences between natural and grammatical
gender were firstly discussed by early Greek scholars such as Aristotle,
Stoics and Dionysius Thrax.
5In many Indo-European languages, humans and some—admittedly varying—
higher animals bear masculine or feminine gender on the basis of their sex,
while in-animates and lower animals on the basis of formal or other criteria.
6Admittedly, the realization of natural gender is much less obscure or puz-
zling than that of grammatical gender in the sense that the former distinguish
etween males and females, which is a basic biological and social distinction
7Following Hickey (1999: pp. 3-4), grammatical gender can obtain a seman-
tic function in those cases where the only formal distinction between words
of different meaning is to be found in the article they take. However, the
reverse situation seems to occur as well, since different articles can also be
used with the same form without a semantic distinction being involved.
8Grammatical gender constitutes a vulnerable domain for variation and
change in language contact situations (see among others Cornips, 2008;
9For the purposes of this paper no consideration of pidgins and creoles (cf.
Mufwene, 2001), mixed languages (cf. Bakker & Mous, 1994), or contact
languages per se (cf. Wurm et al., 1996) is made since our focus is on con-
tact induced varieties.
10Braunmüller (2000: 33) argues that “only grammatical rules o
languages with a three-gender system [where the] use of gender is restricted
to the morphological and syntactic level”.
11Unsurprisingly, totally different accounts for the direction of dominance
(gender inflection class or viceversa) have been offered for the same
language (e.g. Russian cf. Corbett, 1991; Aronoff, 1994) as well.
Open Access 369
ment12. Although both gender and inflection class provide a type
of classification for nouns, they do not coincide, not in all dif-
ferent cases at least.
Christophidou (2003: p. 114) on the other hand, within a
natural morphology framework and focusing on the productivity
of the (productive) inflection classes, argues that in Greek there
is a mono-directional relationship between gender and inflection
class, in the sense that inflection class could be described on the
basis of gender13.
As regards lexical borrowing, following Johanson (1992), it
can be defined as the process of copying a form from one lan-
guage system into another, with or without all the meanings it
expresses in the source language. (Lexical) borrowings often
referred to as loanwords, transfers or copies are subject to dif-
ferent classifications depending on various criteria e.g. the de-
gree of their integration to the recipient system, their frequency
of use, the agents of transfer etc. (see Bloomfield, 1993; Van
Coetsem, 1988). Although the classification of loanwords var-
ies depending on the viewpoint from which they are studied,
the classification provided by Haugen (1950, 1953) remains
seminal and is adopted for the purposes of this paper as well.
He proposed a tripartite categorization of borrowed elements
into: a) loanwords, which copy both the form and the meaning b)
loanblends, consisting of combinations of borrowed and native
forms and c) loanshifts referring only to the copy of the meaning.
The examined elements are thought to be part of the first class,
i.e. loanwords, in the sense that—apart from fitting the definition
—they are fully adapted to the recipient system and participate
in other phonological and grammatical processes.
As widely acknowledged in the relevant literature, in several
circumstances, lexical borrowings, namely loanwords have to be
adapted to the morphological system of the recipient languages
(Sankoff, 2001). More specifically, when nouns are transferred
into gendered languages or into languages with noun-class systems,
the former should obligatorily come to certain re-arrangements
so as to fit the new categories. Loanword grammatical gender
and/or inflection class assignment is said to be subject to a va-
riety of criteria, phonological, morphological, and semantic of
combinatorial nature. Although they may be subject to para-
metric variation depending on the involved systems, the main
mechanisms governing loanword integration are considered to
be the following (cf. Ibrahim, 1973; Poplack, Pousada, &
Sankoff, 1982; Corbett, 1991; Thornton, 2001; Winford, 2010):
a) The natural gender (sex) of the referent.
b) The formal (phonological-structural) shape of the word.
c) Analogy to the recipient language suffix.
d) Analogy to the recipient language semantic equivalent14
However, apart from factors reflecting the dynamics-char-
acteristics of the recipient system, Anastasiadi-Symeonidi
(1994: pp. 189-190), proposed that when a loan element comes
from a gendered donor language, its value may influence the
value it will be assigned in the recipient language, while Stolz
(2009) advocates that the source language as well may employ
special strategies such as the preference for a default gender
(see also Kilarski, 2003) or for a special gender-noun class.
Lastly, we should notice that loanwords are a very important
empirical test bed in order to confirm whether grammatical
gender assignment is part of the organization of grammar, i.e. is
part of the native speaker’s competence, since when new nouns
enter a system they must be given a gender and become mem-
bers of a specific group of nouns. What is really important is to
see how assignment rules operate on elements that often are
quite unlike the native vocabulary. Let us now examine the
dialectal data after a sketchy description of the dialects socio-
The dialectal variety of Grico is spoken in Southern Italy, in
the area of Puglia, Salento, widely known as Grecia Salentina
(cf. Karanastasis, 1984), The dialectal enclave of Grico is situ-
ated at the heart of Salentino peninsula and consists of nine
communities: Calimera, Castrignano dei Greci, Corigliano d’
Otranto, Zollino, Sternatia, Martano, Martignano, Melpignano,
and Soleto (cf. Karanastasis, 1984: p. ια΄; Profili, 1985). The
sociolinguistic status of this Greek-speaking enclave varied
during centuries. Till 80’s Grico was in danger of extinction. The
last decades, it experiences some revitalization efforts (cf.
Caratzas, 1958; Profili, 1999a,b), having as a starting point its
official recognition as a minority language (1999).
Being spoken for great many centuries in an Italian area (see
Minas, 1994, 2004; Manolessou, 2005 and references therein
for the different opinions with respect to Grico origin, i.e. An-
cient Greek vs. Byzantine Greek15), Grico was in long term
contact with Italian, not only in its standard form (the language
of school and media), but in the local Romance varieties as well,
(dialetti salentini), used in every day speech (street conversa-
tions, local commerce), a situation that inevitably limited the
sphere of its usage to family situations (cf. Profili, 1985;
Katsoyannou, 1996, 1999). Following Profili (1999a), speakers
of Grico do not advocate a Greek identity. They are Italian
citizens and their national identity is Italian. The dialectal va-
rieties constitute for them a link that brings them closer to their
Greek neighbors from a viewpoint of mentality and culture, but
no genetic bond is implied in anyway.
Grammatical Gender Assignment in Grico Loanwords
As already mentioned in the previous sections, Grico variety
is a three-gendered system. It distinguishes between masculine,
feminine, and neuter nouns. More specifically Grico distin-
guishes between masc(uline) nouns in -a, -i, and -o, fem(inine)
nouns in -a, and neu(ter) nouns in -o, -i, and -a, as shown in the
examples under (1), ( 2), and (3) respectively.
(1) Masculine nouns in -a, -i, and -o
-a: mina “month”
12Ralli (2002, 2003) considers gender to be a lexical feature whose informa-
tion has to be listed in the Lexicon, since in several cases neither the seman-
tics nor the morphology can account for the assignment of a specific gram-
matical gender value. Thus, gender assignment in SMG is considered only
13In SMG gender is argued to have priority over inflection class, since all
loans or neologisms are assigned grammatical gender whether inflected or
14This principle is also referred to as “the closest lexical equivalent” (Car-
stensen, 1980: p. 15ff.).
15Traditional research vacillates between the Byzantine and the Ancient
Greek origin. However, the study of the sociolinguistic background of the
area in modern sociolinguistic terms, contributed significantly to ease off the
conflict, focusing on the coexistence of the two language forms (Grico and
Italian) for great many centuries in the area as well as their mutual influence
(cf. Fanciullo, 2001; Manolessou, 2005 for a more detailed discussion on the
nature of this question).
-i: tʃuri “master”
-o: milo “mill”
Grico masculine inflectional markers are reminiscent of but
not identical with the SMG inflectional affixes (-as e.g. minas
“month”, -is e.g. ciris “master”, and -os e.g. milos ‘mill’ respec-
tively). This is mainly due to final -s dropping resulting from
the preference of Italiot systems for open (CV) syllables.
(2) Feminine nouns in -a
-a: ʝineka “woman”
Feminine nouns seem to be confined basically to one group
of nouns those in -a, as opposed to SMG and other dialectal
varieties where two classes of feminines are distinguished,
those in -a (e.g. ʝineka “woman” and those in -i (e.g. limni
“lake”). In Grico variety the vast majority of the former
feminine nouns in -i are transferred to the -a group16 without
the reverse tendency being seriously at play17.
(3) Neuter nouns in -o, -i, and -a
-o: fsilo “wood”
-i: gala “milk”
-a: krovatti “bed”
Adaptation of nominal loan elements seems to show a pref-
erence to specific gender-inflection class values. More specifi-
a. nominal loan elements ending in -a (from loan feminine
forms in -a) are generally assigned a feminine grammatical
gender value due to their correspondence with the productive
feminine -a declension in the Grico system18. E.g.:
19akula.FEM < acula.FEM Salentino
avina.FEM < vena.FEM Italian/Salentino
tʃista. FEM < cista.FEM Salentino
fuddha.FEM < fuδδa. FEM Salentino
a. Nominal loan elements ending in -i (mainly from loan
masculine forms in -e and few from -i), for the account of
which other mechanisms may also be involved (e.g. suffix
addition, pilaci.NEU < pila.FEM+aci “must tank” etc.), are
generally assigned the neuter grammatical gender value and
become members of the -i subgroup of nouns. E.g.:
kapetali.NEU < capitale.MASC Salentino
paisi.NEU < paise.MASC Salentino
pitʃiuni.NEU < pecciune.MASC Salentino
sapali.NEU < sapale.MASC Salentino
fiddhitti.NEU < fiδδittu.MASC Salentino
torloci.NEU < tarloci.MASC Salentino
b. Nominal loan elements ending in -o (from loan masculine
forms in -u or -o) are generally assigned the masculine
grammatical gender value. E.g.:
fjuro.MASC < fiuru.MASC Salentino
fundo.MASC < fundu.MASC Salentino
guito.MASC < uitu.MASC Salentino
& gomito.MASC Italian
gualano.MASC < calanu.MASC Salentino
What can be seen is that from the total of different seven in-
flectional classes of Grico, nominal loans are adjusted entering
three specific inflection classes, one masculine, one feminine,
and one neuter. Moreover, this preference is not accidental at
all. Masculine nouns in -o and feminine nouns in -a correspond
to two of the most productive inflection classes both for Stan-
dard Italian and Salentino inflectional systems. Relative exam-
ples can be seen under (7) below:
(7) Italian productive nominal declensions
Standard Italian Romance (Salentino)
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Feminine X-a X-e X-a X-e
donna donne igna igne
“woman, lady” “fire”
Masculine20 X-o X-i X-u (<o)
marito mariti maritu mariti
(from Melissaropoulou forthcoming)
The choice of neuter in -i inflection class can be accounted
for on the basis of the following: on the one hand it is the most
productive Grico inflection class, b. it’s inflectional marker
does not coincide with the markers of the other inflection
classes as neuter in -o and -a would do (-o and -a are found
correspondingly in masculine and feminine nouns as well) and
c. it is phonologically very close to /e/ the which characterizes
another productive declension in Italian (masculine-feminine
nouns in -e (plural in -i) e.g. il paese.MASC “country”).
Crucially, a contrastive look at the Grico vs. Romance
nominal subgroups reveals that there are formal (structural and
phonological) correspondences between the two groups of sys-
tems that cannot but have contributed to the adaptation of
nominal loanwords in the specific inflection classes and their
assignment of a specific grammatical gender value. Thus, dia-
morphemic structural and morphological schemata, in this par-
ticular case what we would call dia-classes (cf. Melissaropou-
lou forthcoming), are proven to influence morphological adap-
tation and grammatical gender assignment into the Grico sys-
According to Anastasiadi-Symeonidi (1994: pp. 189-190),
when a loan element comes from a gendered donor language,
its value influences the value it will be assigned in the recipient
16Indications of this change in the inflection class membership of -i nouns
are attested in Medieval Greek documents of Italiot and Sicilian Greek, as
described by Minas (1994: pp. 88-89), where formerly -i feminine nouns are
inflected as ending in -a. For example, tin oxθa instead of tin oxθi “the
shore.Acc”, tin limna instead of tin limni “the lake.Acc”.
17Only the noun tripi instead of tripa “hole” is found in use in Salento. In
Calabria the corresponding form is tripa.
18As already mentioned by Newton (1963: p. 22), the retention of feminines
in -a in both Italian and Grico systems facilitates their transference.
19As regards the convention for transliteration employed throughout the
aper, dialectal data are transliterated in broad phonetic transcription, while
the corresponding forms in the source systems are exemplified as they ap-
pear usually in the sources, using the Latin alphabet.
20Few feminine nouns in -o can be traced in both Standard Italian and Salen-
tino dialect. E.g. la mano.FEM “hand”, la radio.FEM “radio”.
21In Salentino dialect, the mid vowels and /e/ and /o/ are raised into /i/ and
/u/ respectively when found in final position (cf. Maiden & Parry, 1997).
Open Access 371
language unless other conditions are in operation. In our case
study we would add that the formal correspondences, as realized
through a specific inflectional marker which bears a specific
grammatical gender value, influence the morphological adapta-
tion (both the grammatical gender assignment and the inflection
class membership) of loanwords in the recipient system.
Moreover, apart from the formal shape of the word, which
seems to play a very crucial role for the vast majority of loan-
word elements and is highly ranked, there are some other
mechanisms involved in grammatical gender assignment of
loanwords. These are as follows:
a. The natural gender of the referent. The phonological and
structural correspondences can be biased and a different
grammatical gender value can be assigned when human
nouns or more generally animate nouns22 are involved,
since in this case nouns have to bear the grammatical gen-
der value that matches their sex (masculine when the refer-
ent is male and feminine when female). For example nouns
in -i are assigned the neuter grammatical gender value when
non-human and the masculine grammatical gender value
when human males. You can see the examples under (8)
paisi.NEU < paise.MASC Salentino
vutʃeri.MASC < ucceri.MASC Salentino
sarturi.MASC < sartore.MASC
spetʃiali.MASC < speciale.ADJ Italian/Salentino
b. Analogy to the recipient system suffix. The status of suf-
fixes as heads that are marked for a specific gender value
and attach to a specific inflectional marker plays also an
important role in morphological adaptation of loanword
elements, offering further support to the claim that gender is
a lexical feature (cf. Spencer, 1999; Ralli, 2003) that ac-
tively participates in word-formation processes. You can
see the examples below:
a. vardeddhi.NEU < varda.FEM Salentino
NOTE: the suffix -eddhi in the recipient system bears the
neuter grammatical gender value.
b. kasciuna.MASC < cascia.FEM Salentino
“big box” “box”
NOTE: the suffix -una in the recipient system bears the
masculine grammatical gender value.
c. furmikar-ea.FEM < furmiculòria.FEM Salentino
ΝΟΤΕ: the suffix -eα in the recipient system bears the femi-
nine grammatical gender value
d. vutʃer-ena.FEM < vucceri.MASC Salentino
“female/wife of “butcher”
ΝΟΤΕ: the suffix -ena in the recipient system bears the
feminine grammatical gender value, since it forms feminine
professional nouns or feminine agent nouns in general from the
corresponding masculine ones.
However, these formations are not abundant and it is often
the case that both simple and derived loan forms are found in
the recipient system.
c. Although marginally, analogy to the recipient system se-
mantic equivalent23. In few cases the nominal loan does not
bear the grammatical gender value that would be expected
given the above mentioned mechanisms/parameters (mainly
the formal correspondences), but it acquires the grammati-
cal gender value of its semantic equivalent in the recipient
fikato.NEU < fegato.MASC Salentino
NOTE: the Grico semantic equivalent sikoti is neuter.
faradz/dʒo.MASC < farazza.FEM Salentino
NOTE: the Grico semantic equivalent volvos is masculine
mugnulo.NEU < mugnullo.MASC Salentino
NOTE: the Grico semantic equivalent laxano is neuter
spirlingoi.MASC < perlangoi.FEM Salentino
NOTE: the Grico semantic equivalent melisofao is masculine
In an attempt to generalize and provide a hierarchy of the
mechanisms governing grammatical gender assignment in Grico
loanwords, we would propose it to be as follows:
Natural gender is ranked in the first-highest position even
though formal correspondences govern/determine morphologi-
cal adaptation for the vast majority of nominal loanwords, since
the latter can be biased and a different grammatical gender value
can be assigned when human nouns are involved since in this
case nouns have to bear the grammatical gender value that
matches their sex (masculine when the referent is male and
feminine when female). Analogy to the recipient system suffix
and semantic analogy are operative in a very small number of
loanwords thus are thought of not as prevailing but rather as
In cases of structural compatibility among the systems in
contact (both are gendered systems although they do not bear
the same gender values and display inflection classes that in-
teract with gender) the tendency for the default gender (i.e. the
neuter) to be employed for inanimate objects is not borne out.
Grammatical gender assignment is thought to be predictable
only in those cases where natural gender is involved. In all the
other cases the formal (phonological-structural) correspond-
dences (between the source and the recipient system) prove to
be the most powerful mechanism governing morphological
adaptation of loanwords. More specifically, from the total of
seven different inflectional subgroups in Grico, nominal loans
are adjusted entering three specific subgroups, one masculine
(in -o), one feminine (in -a), and one neuter (in -i), revealing
that formal correspondences between the involved systems
contributed to the integration of nominal loanwords in the spe-
cific inflection classes and their assignment of a specific
grammatical gender value. Let us now turn to Cappadocian.
Cappadocian came under the Turkish influence during the late
byzantine period, for the first time in the 11th century after the
22Some domesticated animals bear the grammatical gender value that
matches their sex as well. 23Some Semantic analogy or concept association in Corbett’s (1991) terms.
Seljuk invasion and subsequently in the 14th century after the
conquest of Asia Minor by the Ottoman Turks. It was spoken till
1923 (i.e. till the exchange of populations that followed the
treaty of Lausanne in the former Asia Minor (today’s central
Turkey) in an area that covered 32 communities approximately.
The dialect is subdivided into two basic groups, North and South
Cappadocian (cf. Dawkins, 1916) and an intermediate one,
namely Central Cappadocian (cf. Janse forthcoming)24 showing
intra-dialectal divergence25. Today it is spoken by descendants
of Cappadocian refugees (second and third-generation refugees)
in several parts of Northern Greece (Kavala, Alexandroupoli,
Kilkis, Thessaloniki, Karditsa, Volos, Larisa).
Cappadocian is often used in the literature as a prototypical
example of “heavy borrowing” in terms of Thomason & Kauf-
man’s borrowing scale, referring to “overwhelming long-term
cultural pressure” (Thomason & Kaufman, 1988: p. 50). The
length and intensity of cultural and linguistic contact led Daw-
kins to the following statement about Cappadocian dialect “[…]
the body ha[d] remained Greek but the soul ha[d] become
Turkish […]”, Dawkins (1916: p. 198). It should be noted that
although Cappadocian is originally a Greek variety and its basic
morphological structure is fusional, it displays some agglutina-
tive patterns due to language contact with Turkish (cf. Dawkins,
1916; Janse, 2004, 2009, forthcoming).
Grammatical Gender Assignment in
Cappadocian Loanw ords
The situation in Cappadocian seems to be quite differentiated
compared to that in Grico. In this case, the dominant language,
Turkish, is both genetically and typologically divergent, namely
it is a non-Indo-European, Altaic, agglutinative, genderless lan-
As already acknowledged in the relevant literature (among
others Dawkins, 1916; Janse, 2004, forthcoming), Cappadocian
holds a prominent position compared to all other Modern Greek
dialects and SMG since it is characterized by the following
innovations: a. the distinction between animate and inanimate
nouns in North and Central Cappadocian, b. the progressive
loss of gender distinctions, especially in South Cappadocian (cf.
Dawkins, 1916; Janse, 2004, forthcoming and Bakker, 1997 for
adaptation of loans), and c. the emergence of a generalized
agglutinative declension, innovations that are relevant for the
purposes of this paper.
Our presentation of morphological adaptation of loanwords
in Cappadocian follows the geographical subdivision into North,
Central, and South Cappadocian in order to be able to capture
the intra-dialectal divergence, and account for it in terms of
mirroring the gradualness of linguistic change towards a spe-
cific direction: the establishment of a genderless system.
Crucially, in Cappadocian the original categorization of nouns
into different subgroups, i.e. inflection classes, based on their
different inflectional endings in combination with their different
grammatical gender values, as shown in (11) below, is retained
to some extent only in the North Cappadocian zone (and much
less to the central Cappadocian zone). The original subgrouping
of Cappadocian inflection can be seen from (11) to (13) below:
(11) Masculine nouns in -os, -is, and -as
-os: aθropos “man”
-is: kleftis “thief”
-as: papas “priest”
(12) Feminine nouns in -a, -i
-a: neka “woman”
-i: nif(i) “bride”
(13) Neuter nouns in -i, -a, and -o:
-a: konizma “icon”
-o: metapo “forehead”
More specifically, in the admittedly less corrupted North
Cappadocian zone (and to Axó, Central Cappadocian zone, to a
lesser extent), nouns are assigned a specific grammatical gender
value on the basis of the categorical semantic distinction of
animacy. Human nouns mainly, few animals as well, (but the
distinction is not always consistent), seem to bear a masculine or
feminine grammatical gender value, in some environments at
least, while non human nouns become neuter, which marks the
lack of gender. See examples under (14):
a. tʃobanus.MASC < çoban.Ø26
Delmesó, North Cappadocian Turkish
b. patiʃahos.MASC < padišah.Ø
Delmesó, North Cappadocian Turkish
c. herifos. MASC < herif.Ø
Axó, Central Cappadocian Turkish
d. γərəxos.MASC < kuyruk.Ø
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
e. balduza.FEM < baldız.Ø
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
f. tʃiftʃis.MASC < çiftçi.Ø
Malakopí, North Cappadocian Turkish
g. astʃis.MASC < aşçı.Ø
Malakopí, North Cappadocian Turkish
h. γ/goltʃ/dʒis.MASC < kolcu.Ø
Axós Central Cappadocian Turkish
As shown in (14) above, human male loanwords ending in a
consonant in Northern Cappadocian are assigned a masculine
grammatical gender value and are mainly integrated into the -os
subgroup of nouns (examples 14a-d), while human loanwords
ending in a vowel or loan agentive nouns in -cI27, mainly into
the -is (very few ending in -a(s) e.g. arkadaʃ “friend” into the
-as subgroup) subgroup of nouns (examples 14f-h).
On the contrary, non-animate nouns are integrated into the
originally neuter subgroup, the one in -i, whether consonant
final—which constitutes the vast majority of Turkish loan ele-
ments from Turkish—or vowel final and attach to the originally
neuter generalized -ja -ju markers (which is usually called in
the literature “agglutinative inflection” cf. Dawkins 1916; Janse
2004, forthcoming etc.). It should be noticed that in this case
neuter subgrouping marks the characteristic [-human or -ani-
mate] and more generally the lack of gender. E.g.:
24For a more detailed categorization of the Cappadocian varieties into zones
see the Appendix.
25The division of Cappadocian into zones is not clear cut since for example
ortheast Cappadocian system is in some aspects similar to that of Axó’s
which belongs to Central Cappadocian.
26Ø marks the lack of grammatical gender.
27In Turkish, the suffix -cI is subject to vowel harmony whereby the final
vowel can equally appear as ı /ɯ/, u /u/ or ü /y/ as well, depending on the
Open Access 373
tʃadir.NEU < çadır.Ø
Delmesó, North Cappadocian Turkish
diken.NEU < diken.Ø
Delmesó, North Cappadocian Turkish
varmax.NEU < parmak.Ø
Delmesó, North Cappadocian Turkish
γazan.NEU < kazan.Ø
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
irmax(i).NEU < irmak.Ø
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
yara. NEU < yara.Ø
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
Crucially, the addition of this innovative category in the
Cappadocian system—which is absent from Turkish—is not
uniform in all Cappadocian subvarieties. Signs of de-systema-
tization appear already in the Central Cappadocian zone. In
Axó, human loanword elements marked as masculine on the
basis of their animacy (see the examples c., d., e. under 14)
co-occur with loanwords, which, although bearing the same
semantic characteristic, are marked as neuter. E.g.:
arkadaʃ.NEU < arkadaş
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
musafir.NEU < misafir
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
bektʃis.NEU < bekçi
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
“field guard” “field guard”
miʃedʒis.NEU < meşeçi
Axós, Central Cappadocian Turkish
This instability of grammatical gender assignment in loan-
words can be seen as a transitory stage (cf. Poplack & Sankoff,
1984: p. 124) paving the way towards the re-structuring of the
specific category as exemplified in South Cappadocian.
In the more “corrupted” (using the words of Dawkins, 1916:
p. 112) South Cappadocian zone, this distinction appears to be-
come completely extinct and all nouns, both loan and native
elements, either plus or minus human are formally neuter,
marking the lack of gender, establishing thus a totally gender-
less system. E.g.:
tʃoban.NEU < çoban.Ø
Ulağáç, Fertek, South Cappadocian Turkish
padiʃax.NEU < padišah.Ø
Ulağáç, South Cappadocian Turkish
baldəza.NEU < baldız.Ø
Ulağáç, South Cappadocian Turkish
bizelik.NEU < bilezik.Ø
Ulağáç, South Cappadocian Turkish
What can be seen in Cappadocian is that a totally new cate-
gorical distinction emerges, that of animacy, a category that is
totally absent both from Greek and Turkish. Assuming thus,
that intra-dialectal variation mirrors the gradualness of linguis-
tic change, the addition of this extra category of animacy, pre-
sent in North and—to some extent—in Central Cappadocian
but extinct in the South Cappadocian zone could best, in our
view, be accounted for as a temporary resolution, a repair
strategy, one of the greater or lesser re-arrangements in the
structure of the system in order to pave the way to its reshaping
according to the new dynamics and tendencies, due to the pre-
vailing—but not exclusive—influence of the dominant Turkish
language; namely towards acquiring a totally genderless status.
In this vein, all loanwords are accommodated as neuters—
which marks the lack of gender—and are inflected via the at-
tachment to the generalized—originally most productive neu-
ter—inflectional -ja -ju markers, which, as already mentioned
above, is usually called in the literature the “agglutinative in-
flection”. These markers, as already shown in Karatsareas
(2011), Melissaropoulou (forthcoming), form part of the one
and only inflectional paradigm that tended to generalize and
substitute the several original subgroups of nouns (the uniform
paradigm can be seen in Table 1).
Although our data involve two totally divergent case studies,
on the one hand, contact of a Greek variety with a Indo-Euro-
pean two-gender system of the fusional type, while, on the other
hand, contact of a Greek variety with a genderless agglutinative
Altaic system, important generalizations focusing both on
commonalities and particularities can arise.
Emphasizing commonalities, in both cases what seems to
play a very important role in grammatical gender assignment as
part of the morphological adaptation process is the semantic
feature of animacy. Either in contact between gendered lan-
guages or between gendered vs. genderless systems, the most
compelling mechanism at work, the one that could be argued to
have a universal basis is the correspondence with natural gen-
der, offering further support to the claim that gender has a se-
mantic basis/core (cf. Aksenov, 1984: pp. 17-18). In this sense,
one of the most important functions of gender seems to be the
grammatical encoding of sex and animacy as a means of nomi-
nal classification. Our data are in line with Dahl’s (2000a)
claims that in situations of language contact animacy as codi-
fied in grammatical gender plays a crucial role for the organiza-
tion of grammar. However, the cut-off point of animacy can be
placed in different spots of the animacy hierarchy (cf. Dahl
2000a), i.e. between humans and animals, between higher and
lower animals, as is the case in Cappadocian, or between ani-
mals and inanimates, varying cross-linguistically.
The emerging inflectional paradigm in Cappadocian.
Nom Ø -ja atropos atropoz-ja
Gen -ju -(ja)ju atropoz-ju atropoz-(ja)-ju
Acc Ø -ja atropos atropoz-ja
Note: adapted from Melissaropoulou forthcoming.
Apart from the notion of animacy, the other important facet of
gender is the formal one, i.e. as an inflectional classifier in the
organization of nominal classification types. As illustrated by
the data on Grico, apart from the compelling mechanism of
animacy, the other important parameter governing grammatical
gender assignment in loanwords is the formal (phonological-
structural) correspondences. This factor seems to be activated—
mainly but not exclusively—when structural compatibility
among the systems in contact is involved. Both Italian and Grico
are gender-inflection class systems, notwithstanding that the
grammatical gender values are not identical in both of them.
What seems to play a crucial role is that the gender-inflection
class classification is present in both systems. In the case of
loanword integration into Grico, the notion of gender is strongly
related to the notion of inflection class, since assignment of
gender entails membership in a specific inflection class (unless a
more special rule intervenes and imposes another grammatical
On the contrary, in Cappadocian where contact between an
originally gender-inflection class system and a genderless ag-
glutinative one non displaying inflectional classes is at play, the
morphological facet is not realized, only the semantic one, based
on animacy which serves—at least at a particular stage—as a
classificator of loanwords into the different inflection classes
and takes over the formal-morphological function as well. In this
case, animacy takes over the classificatory function of integrat-
ing human and some higher animals treated as human to the
inflection classes that originally contained human nouns, i.e.
where marked as masculine or feminine.
Crucially, the progressive loss of the different grammatical
gender values and the temporary resolution strategy of the ani-
macy based classification seem to go hand in hand with the
progressive loss of the different inflection classes. The direction
towards the establishment of a completely genderless system
coincides with the direction towards the establishment of a
single and uniform inflection class for nouns, remarkably the
one coinciding with the most productive neuter inflection class.
This choice is not accidental and is accounted for on dual
grounds: it was preferred because it is the most productive
Christophidou (2003) or in terms of Anastasiadi (1994) the
default inflectional class among the neuter classes, marking the
lack of gender (in terms of Karatsareas, 2011: p. 8) it assigned
inanimate nouns to a semantically appropriate class), and it has
probably been triggered as well by the massive influx of con-
sonant-ending Turkish nominal loans into this class, i.e. due to
reasons of formal correspondences. Namely, the neuter group
of nouns in -i often surfaced as consonant ending due to a gen-
eral phonological rule operating in Cappadocian, which pre-
dicted unstressed high vowel deletion in word final position
(often medially as well). For example, the Greek word mati
“eye” surfaced as mat. This rule facilitated the massive influx
of consonant ending Turkish loanwords in Cappadocian (e.g.
γazan.NEU < kazan.Ø Turkish “copper”) which constitute the
vast majority of Turkish nominal loans, since they are formally
identical with the corresponding native words, i.e. both end in a
consonant. In this case as well, formal correspondences seem to
play a role into the morphological integration of loanwords into
the recipient system, even though grammatical gender assign-
ment of different grammatical gender values is not involved.
Admittedly, there is no general consensus in the relevant lit-
erature on the sources of these innovations, i.e. the loss of
grammatical gender distinctions and of the different inflection
classes with the development of “agglutinative” inflection in
Cappadocian. Previous research has overwhelmingly accounted
for them as instances of contact-induced change, (see, among
others, Thomason & Kaufman, 1988: pp. 215-222; Johanson,
2002: p. 104, Winford, 2005: pp. 402-409, 2010: p. 181) result-
ing from the influence of Turkish. Karatsareas (2011: pp. 8-9),
on the other hand, treated them in strictly language internal
terms, i.e. arguing that they result from language internal de-
velopments dating back to a linguistic precursor of the Modern
Asia Minor and Northern Greek dialects28.
With respect to this disagreement what we would claim is that,
although we suffer from lack of sources on earlier (Medieval)
stages of Cappadocian in order to be in a secure ground when
claiming that these innovations are the result of a contact-in-
duced influence or of internal linguistic processes, intense lan-
guage contact in an environment of regressive bilingualism
cannot but have played a crucial role in determining the direction
of change, accelerating it or heavily influencing the specific
form it has taken. Further support to this claim is offered by the
fact that, no matter the similarities (in semantic agreement pat-
terns or in neuter heteroclisis as argued by Karatsareas 2011)
none of the other Asia Minor Greek dialects has—tended to—
become a totally genderless system nor was led to the emergence
of a unique inflectional paradigm, similar to the so called Cap-
padocian “agglutinative inflection”29.
Loss of grammatical gender and of the different inflection
classes were accounted for by Melissaropoulou (forthcoming) as
contact-induced simplification phenomena (cf. Nichols, 1992;
Trudgill, 2009, 2011) that were adjusted to the system main
intra-linguistic characteristics and tendencies aiming to balance
out the system. In this spirit, the addition of the extra category of
animacy is seen as a temporary repair complexification strategy
paving the way towards the simplification of inflectional or-
ganization under the influence of Turkish.
Whatever the primary or the secondary cause of change, it
seems that the loss of the one category—gender—in Cappado-
cian entails the loss of the other one as well since the basic
function i.e. classification of nouns need not be served anymore,
paving the way towards grammar simplification. It is true that
complex morphology is not a sufficient condition for the reali-
zation of grammatical gender, since there are languages with
complex agglutinating morphology and no grammatical gender.
Crucially, things seem to go the other way around offering
further support to the claim that the distinction of different in-
flectional classes (or in other words microclasses) entails the
realization of different grammatical gender values, while
genderless languages generally tend to have no distinction of
(macro)classes (see Dressler & Thorton, 1996: p. 26), leading to
a simpler morphology. Further support to this claim is offered by
data on Slavonic languages, Germanic languages, and many of
the German dialects, Bantu languages or English (cf. Dressler et
al., 1996; Corbett, 1991; Hickey, 199930).
In the case of Grico, on the other hand, the strong correlation
28Loss of grammatical gender is treated by Karatsareas (2011: pp. 8-9) as a
second level development resulting from the extension of the semantic
agreement in the neuter form, while loss of inflection classes as a conse-
quence of the emergence of neuter heteroclisis.
29Data from language acquisition corroborate the claim that bilingualism can
play significant role in the loss of gender, cf. Georgalidou et al. (2005) on
the Muslims of the community of Rhodes or Tsimpli (2003) on bilingual
speakers in Russian and Turkish.
30According to Hickey (1999), present-day Germanic languages and many
of the German dialects (such as North Rhenish) have a simpler morphology
and, hand-in-hand with this, a simpler gender system.
Open Access 375
between gender and inflection class is strongly corroborated in
its positive aspect, since it was shown that in loanword integra-
tion a specific form (phonological shape) entails assignment of a
specific grammatical gender value and membership in a specific
inflection class. Crucially, in loanword integration the mis-
matches between gender assignment and inflection class mem-
bership are minimal, establishing a one to one correspondence
between a specific gender value and a specific inflection class.
Our findings show that in Grico loanwords gender has priority
over inflection class, i.e. follows the “normal” direction in terms
of Aronoff (1994: p. 74), corroborating the claim that inflection
class membership depends on extra-morphological factors such
as gender and phonology (cf. Wurzel, 1984; Aronoff, 1994).
Furthermore, our data seem to verify only partially the estab-
lished claims in the literature that the source language as well
may employ special strategies such as the preference for a de-
fault gender (see Kilarski, 2003; Stolz, 2009) or for a special
gender-noun class. Our data show that in cases of structural
compatibility among the involved systems, i.e. the case of
Grico, the formal correspondences take priority over a default
gender. Crucially, given the sociolinguistic status of the dialect
(regressive bilingualism as well), our prediction is that the mas-
sive influx of Italo-Romance loanwords may change the mor-
phological shape of the dialect and more specifically the num-
ber of inflection classes in use, in the sense that those corre-
sponding to the donors’ languages will gain in productivity and
consequently will restrict the domain of use of the other exist-
ing inflection classes and ultimately may force them into ex-
In the case of Cappadocian, on the other hand, the situation
seems to be more complicated in the sense that Cappadocian
adopts the neuter, marking the lack of gender, under the influ-
ence of the dominant genderless Turkish language, indicating
thus a kind of preference for a default gender value even in its
negative realization. On the other hand, the emergence of a
unique inflection class, known as agglutinative inflection, is
viewed as well as a direct consequence of the loss of gram-
matical gender under the Turkish influence. However, the pref-
erence for the prevalence of this specific neuter class over the
other available ones appeals again to reasons of formal corre-
spondences between the original members of this class and the
vast majority of Turkish loanwords (after unstressed word final
-i deletion both native and loan words end in a consonant, as
Lastly, based on our data we cannot postulate that there are
different or additional mechanisms which apply to the assign-
ment of borrowings and not to that of native words. All operative
mechanisms (animacy, formal correspondences, analogy) can
apply equally efficiently in both native and loanword elements
both in cases of structural compatibility and incompatibility
among the systems involved (cf. Christophidou, 2003; Ralli,
2005). In other words, recipient systems seem to allude to their
available mechanisms, and try to treat and incorporate loanword
elements with the same means as native words. These findings
offer further support to the status of gender and inflection class
as integral parts of the organization of grammar and not just as
the burden of diachrony or as what language evolution has not
make disappear yet.
To conclude, hopefully we have shown in the light of the
evidence provided by situations of intense language contact with
both genetically and typologically divergent systems that gender
and inflection class serve as linguistic tools or units to construct
representations of the world and fit them into the organization of
grammar. Notwithstanding the divergence, our analysis shows
that in any case grammatical gender splits into its two major
primitives: the semantic one relating to sex and animacy (cf.
Animacy Hierarchy, Dahl, 2000a,b), which in turn relates to
sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic phenomena, and the struc-
tural one, i.e. as an inflectional classifier in the organization of
nominal classification types, offering further support to the
claim that gender is not a purely morphological or a purely
semantic category, but a combination of the two. Each one of the
two different facets of the grammatical gender along with the
notion of inflection class conjoins the need of the system to
provide some type of classification in nouns. However, the
realization of those two primitives, of one, or none of them, is
subject to parametric variation depending, especially in contact
induced systems, on the interplay between the grammatical
properties of all the involved systems (e.g. system compatibil-
ity vs. incompatibility, simplification phenomena cf. Trudgill,
2009, 2011). Thus, our conception of gender and inflection class
is in a similar line with Aikhenvald (2000: p. 307) claiming that
“[classification systems] can offer a ‘unique window’ into study-
ing how humans construct representations of the world and
encode them into languages”. In case of language contact in
particular, the dynamics of change in classification of nouns, and
more specifically in the realization of gender and inflection class
as well as in their interplay are revealed, allowing for further
predictions on what features have a universal basis, and more
generally on the direction of change.
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Subgroupings of Cappadocian
- Araván, Gúrzono