The loss of feminine gender in Norwegian: a dialect comparison


It is well known that grammatical gender systems may change historically. Previous research has documented loss of the feminine gender in several Norwegian dialects, including those spoken in Oslo and Tromsø (Lødrup in Maal og Minne 2:120–136, 2011; Rodina and Westergaard in J Ger Linguist 27(2):145–187 2015). In these dialects, the change is characterized by replacement of the feminine indefinite article ei (e.g., ei bok ‘a book’) with the masculine form en (e.g., en bok). Child and adult native speakers of the Trondheim dialect (N = 71) participated in two production experiments that tested gender marking in indefinite and double definite forms, using an identical methodology to the Tromsø study. Results show that both children and adults are affected by the change. The Trondheim-Tromsø comparison reveals that the change is more advanced in the Trondheim dialect. We conclude that the loss of the feminine gender reflects a general development taking place across a number of dialects at the current time, presumably due to the high prestige of a spoken variety of one of the written standards of Norwegian.

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The authors would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. We are also indebted to all the participants and to research assistants Inger Martine Mosfjeld and Malin Andrea Næss for their help in collecting the data.

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Correspondence to Guro Busterud.

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Busterud, G., Lohndal, T., Rodina, Y. et al. The loss of feminine gender in Norwegian: a dialect comparison. J Comp German Linguistics 22, 141–167 (2019).

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  • Grammatical gender
  • Language acquisition
  • Language change
  • Syncretism
  • Dialect
  • Norwegian