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„Qualität hat seinen Preis“: Genus-insensitives sein im Gegenwartsdeutschen

Fleischer, Jürg

Linguistische Berichte (LB), Bd. 2022 (2022), Iss. 271: S. 5–42

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Fleischer, Jürg


The German possessive sein is usually classified as a pronoun of the 3rd person singular masculine and neuter. However, in the grammatical literature some descriptions of sein instead of an expected 3rd person singular feminine possessive pronoun ihr referring to feminine antecedents can be found. Based on search queries in the German Reference Corpus DeReKo it is shown that the phenomenon can be empirically established. While certain collocations displaying a high amount of neuter pronoun antecedents might be favorable for the use of sein (allesNEUTER hat seinen Preis ‘everything has its price’ > QualitätFEMININE hat seinen Preis ‘quality has its price’), it turns out that the semantics of the antecedent is decisive. In most examples, the feminine antecedent is an inanimate noun. This suggests that sein is underlyingly unmarked with respect to gender, while the feminine ihr is primarily a pronoun denoting female sex and only secondarily feminine gender.