Gender switch in Sidaama

Ruth Kramer, Anbessa Teferra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Sidaama, a Highland East Cushitic language spoken in Ethiopia, the majority of nouns are feminine in the plural, regardless of their gender in the singular. We refer to this as ‘gender switch’ and we investigate how best to analyze this puzzling change in morphosyntactic behavior. We compare gender switch in Sidaama to the well-studied gender switch in Somali, arguing that Sidaama is different in that it is a true morphological syncretism unrelated to the syntax of plurality. We develop an analysis of Sidaama gender switch in the framework of Distributed Morphology and show how this analysis correctly predicts that feminine is the default gender in Sidaama. Overall, the paper provides a better understanding of gender switch in Sidaama and of the relationship between gender and number generally, it contributes to the very small theoretical-linguistic literature on Sidaama, and it offers some empirical support for Distributed Morphology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-327
Number of pages42
JournalBrill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Cushitic
  • Gender
  • Morphology
  • Number
  • Sidaama


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