The interaction of number and gender in Katcha


  • Darryl Turner University of Edinburgh


The Kadu languages of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains have been the subject of an ongoing controversy regarding whether they should be classified as Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, or as an independent family. Against this background, I present novel data from nouns in Katcha. I show that not only does the number system have elements typical of both NiloSaharan and Niger-Congo, but that in its interaction with gender it is strikingly reminiscent of Afro-Asiatic, in ways that are typologically unusual. Where nouns are morphologically marked for number, the affix and not the root determines gender, leading to the type of gender polarity more commonly observed in Semitic. More unusually, and more controversially, the semantic basis of the third gender appears to be plurality. ‘Plural gender’ has been argued to exist in some Cushitic languages, but has never previously been documented outside that family.