It seems that all the things which reflect grammatical gender in languages have to do with inflectional (presumably also agglutinative) morphology, such as agreement.

But is that just coincidence, it seems the same kind of thing could be reflected in particles in an isolating language. But does it ever happen? Are there isolating/analytic languages with the concept of grammatical gender in nouns (not just natural gender in pronouns)?


1 Answer 1


The WALS1 lets you cross-classify languages based on two features. Here's a link to the cross-tabulation of "fusion of selected morphological formatives" and "sex-based and non-sex-based gender systems"2. It indicates that there are 3 languages that fall into the "exclusively isolating, sex-based gender" class and one in "exclusively isolating, non-sex-based gender." (There are mixed categories that you might wish to explore as well.) You can follow up with these languages and see if they live up to their classification – some of them could have grammatical complications that make them less than pure examples of what you are looking for.

1. World Atlas of Linguistic Structures
2. The feature names are admittedly a little opaque.

  • 1
    Nice! I've never WALS before and found it a bit counterintuitive, but the language turned out to be Supyire (or Suppire), a Niger-Congo language of Mali. Apparently it has "eight noun classes that are grouped into five noun genders" which I find surprising! The Wikipedia page doesn't say the language is isolating or analytic and does mention some affixes so I wonder if it's a perfect fit? Sep 24, 2011 at 13:16
  • @hippietr: mentioning "affixes" is not yet incompatible with the idea of an "isolating/analytic" language, if they are derivational rather than grammatical (=inflectional). It would make sense to distinguish languages with no grammatical (=inflectional) categories, i.e. categories obligatory for being expressed. The language you've found may belong to the type of isolating/analytic language in this sense. Cf. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isolating_language : "which ... may change the meanings of individual words with derivational morphemes, [which] gives more than one morpheme per word". Nov 7, 2011 at 18:38
  • @imz: Yes I'm a bit fuzzy on that because the isolating languages I'm a bit familiar with don't see have "real" affixes. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese. They do have some things which some people call affixes but which other people seem to be able to explain some other way. Nov 7, 2011 at 18:44
  • Is gender always expressed with a bound morpheme? If not, wouldn't the Chinese classifier system be comparable to a gender system? Mar 10, 2013 at 0:01
  • @JamesGrossmann: See Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Mar 14, 2016 at 6:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.