Virtual WiP: Grammatical Gender in Tsova-Tush

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are proud to present the 4th talk of the 2020 Fall Series of the Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series, now celebrating its 10th year!

“Grammatical Gender in Tsova-Tush, a Minority Language in Georgia”

By Jesse Wichers Schreur, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Date: October 7, 2020, at 18:30 Tbilisi time
Venue: Given the continuing COVID19 situation, we will once again hold the Works-in-Progress session virtually. The link for the event will be posted in WiP Facebook page on the day of the talk. Alternatively, you can RSVP to georgia[at]arisc.org to receive the URL

This presentation will give an overview of the Tsova-Tush language, its speakers, sociolinguistics and history, after which the focus is put on the aspect of grammatical gender in the language. Tsova-Tush (also known as Bats or Batsbi) is an endangered East Caucasian language spoken only in Zemo Alvani, eastern Georgia. It belongs to the Nakh branch of East Caucasian, and is therefore closely related to Chechen and Ingush. It is spoken by approximately 500 individuals, who identify as members of the Tsova clan of the Tush people, a subgroup of the Georgian ethnic identity. Until the beginning of the 19th century the Tsova-Tush lived in villages around the Tsovata gorge in Tusheti, a Georgian mountainous region bordering Chechnya to the north and Daghestan to the east. In the 1820s, the Tsova-Tush people south to the Kakhetian plains.

Tsova-Tush possesses a five-way system of grammatical gender: masculine, feminine, and three ‘neuter’ genders. Grammatical gender has puzzled and fascinated scholars for many centuries. It is present and pervasive in some languages, such as almost all East Caucasian languages, but completely absent in and not missed from others, such as Georgian. Rather than being arbitrary, gender assignment (a.k.a which word belongs to which gender) in a language can largely be predicted on the basis of either fully semantic (e.g. following biological sex), or a combination of semantic and morpho-phonological principles. We will discuss both native Tsova-Tush gender assignment and current research into gender assignment of borrowed and code-switched Georgian nouns in Tsova-Tush utterences.

Jesse Wichers Schreur is a PhD student at the University of Frankfurt and at École pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, researching the language contact situation between Tsova-Tush and Georgian. He publishes on minority languages in the Caucasus, on the Low Saxon language spoken in the Netherlands and Germany, and on computational solutions for low-resource languages in the framework of the Linked Open Dictionaries project, which aims to create a platform for multiple Caucasian dictionaries.

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Although this presentation will take place in virtual format, in observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule to which the series generally adheres, the talk will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing it as well.
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WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that normally takes place at the new office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.