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Altamura is a town of more than 70000 inhabitants located in the province of Bari, Puglia.


We aim to focus on patterns of gender agreement, which has been undergoing change over the past few decades in Altamurano. In particular, in the conservative dialect, the counterparts of standard Italian masculine nouns (used to) select different plural agreement according to their specification in terms of [▒human]. This is exemplified in (1)-(2), where the relevant agreement target (viz. the adjective [ɲɲʊu̯r] ‘black.M’/[ɲɲau̯r] ‘black.F’) shows gender agreement:

(1)  a.    ʊ waɲɲau̯n ɲɲʊu̯r                         
               ‘the black boy’
      b.    ɪ waɲɲʊu̯n ɲɲʊu̯r
            ‘the black boys’

(2)    a.  ʊ kwavaddə ɲɲʊu̯r    
            ‘the black horse’
        b. ɪ kavarrə ɲɲau̯r
            ‘the black horses’

As seen in (1), nouns denoting male humans uniformly take masculine agreement across number, while nouns denoting non-humans (exemplified in (2) with horse) display alternating agreement, whereby the masculine form is selected in the singular ((2a)), while in the plural ((2b)) the same feminine form occurs which is selected uniformly with feminine nouns, as shown in (3):

a.    la waɲɲedda ɲɲau̯r                        
            ‘the black girl’
      b.   ɪ waɲɲeddə ɲɲau̯r
            ‘the black girls’

This boils down to a three-gender system, where the masculine has become a strictly semantic gender (defined as [+human]), contrary to what is normally found in Romance. While agreement with feminine nouns in (3) is stable across generations in the dialect, agreement in (1)-(2) – and, hence, the gender system as such – has been undergoing change in different ways according to the idiolects (documented in the database).

For a more detailed description of this ongoing change – as well as of other aspects of agreement in Altamurano – please refer to the overview written by Michele Loporcaro, Serena Romagnoli and Federica Breimaier.

  • Loporcaro, M. 1988. Grammatica storica del dialetto di Altamura. Pisa: Giardini.
  • Loporcaro, M. 2001. 'Distinctive features and phonological change: vowel fronting and gravity interactions in Altamurano' Rivista di Linguistica 13: 255-308.

  • Loporcaro, M. 2018a. Gender from Latin to Romance: history, geography, typology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Loporcaro, M. 2018b. 'Semantica e genere grammaticale: i dati italo-romanzi in prospettiva tipologica' in G. Brincat & S. Caruana (eds.), Tipologia e “dintorni”. Il Metodo Tipologico alla Intersezione di Piani d’Analisi. Atti del XLIX Congresso internazionale di studi della SocietÓ di Linguistica Italiana, Malta, 24-26 settembre 2015. Rome: Bulzoni, 169-189.
  • Loporcaro, M. [▒animate], [▒human] and grammatical gender in Italo-Romance. Plenary lecture at the Italian Dialect Meeting 2015/CIDSM X, 22-24 June 2015. Leiden University Centre for Linguistics.
  • Loporcaro, M. 'Semantica e genere grammaticale: i dati italo-romanzi in prospettiva tipologica' XLIX Congresso Internazionale di Studi della SLI, “Tipologia e ‘dintorni’”, Malta, 24-26 settembre 2015.