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En or ett, un or una? A comparative study on the assignment of grammatical gender to borrowings in Swedish and Spanish


  • Victor Åstrand

Summary, in Swedish

In recent years, experimental studies on gender assignment to borrowings in languages such as German and Dutch have observed variation in gender assignment in relation to dialectal areas, among other factors. However, many issues related to gender assignment have yet to be fully understood, and the sociolinguistic variation has not been properly investigated. The objective of the present study is to compare the linguistic and sociolinguistic criteria for gender assignment, and expand the study by comparing two different languages. I collected 50 loanwords shared between Swedish and Spanish, and let over 160 native speakers of the respective languages, with a variation of sociolinguistic backgrounds, determine what gender they preferred for these nouns. The results indicate that a range of factors influence gender assignment to borrowings, which in Swedish are more centred on semantic criteria than they are in Spanish, for which formal criteria are comparatively more influential. Variation in gender assignment in regard to sociolinguistic factors was also observed, related to age, gender and dialect. These results may serve to reveal more about the gender systems of the two languages investigated, as well as about what criteria are relevant for gender assignment to loanwords on a greater scale and how it varies across different sociolinguistic groups.

Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Gender
  • grammatical gender
  • Swedish
  • Spanish
  • borrowings
  • loanwords
  • sociolinguistics
  • questionnaire


  • Gerd Carling