Indirect possessive hosts (IPHs) in Oceanic languages are normally described as relational classifiers, whereby the classifier characterizes the real world semantic relation between the referent of the possessor and the possessed. The IPHs in the language of North Ambrym (Oceanic, Vanuatu) do not function as relational classifiers but instead match several of the criteria established for markers of gender. First, the IPHs in North Ambrym act as agreement markers in anaphoric possessive constructions. Second, the IPHs are specified in the lexical entry of the noun, and a noun only occurs with one IPH, unlike a classifier system where a possessed noun can occur with different IPHs. Evidence from different linguistic experiments will be presented that support the analysis of IPHs as gender markers. The experiments test different uses of possessed nouns and show that IPHs in North Ambrym do not change dependent upon interactional contexts, as expected in a fluid classifier system. Instead, each possessed noun is restricted to occur with just one IPH.


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pp. 87-115
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