In linguistics, gender may be subdivided into two types: Sex-based and grammatical-based gender (see for example Corbett 2005a, 2005b, 2005c). Sex-based distinctions are probably found in all languages of the world; in Papiamentu (Caribbean, Ibero-Romance-based), for example, there is a contrast between mama ‘mother’ and tata ‘father’. This contrast, however, is a matter of lexical semantics. By contrast, grammatical gender requires syntactic evidence, called agreement. Agreement may be exhibited, for example, by verbs, adjectives, determiners, or numerals. An example of a language displaying agreement is French, as in un grand clocher ‘a (m.) big (m.) church steeple’ vs. une grande table ‘a (f.) big (f.) table’. In these examples, both the indefinite article and the adjective agree with their noun in gender.
Note that in many languages, not only adnominal adjectives but also predicative adjectives agree in gender with the subject noun phrase, but here we focus mostly on adnominal adjectives.
In pidgin and creole languages, which tend to be isolating languages, agreement is a very rare phenomenon; nevertheless, it exists in some rare cases of adnominal adjectives which agree in gender with their nouns.
For this feature, it is not relevant whether agreement is obligatory or optional; what matters is whether agreement exists at all. In the APiCS languages, cases of gender were inherited from the lexifier languages, though often in reduced form.
The following four values are distinguished:
|No adjective agrees with the noun||60|
|Only few adjectives agree with the noun||12|
|Many adjectives agree with the noun||2|
|All adjectives agree with the noun||1|
As mentioned before, pidgins and creoles tend to be of the isolating type; therefore it is not surprising that the great majority of the APiCS languages (60 out of 74 languages, or 81%) have no gender agreement with adnominal adjectives (value 1). Note that for the WALS languages, Corbett (2005a) states that in his sample of 254 languages, 57% lack a gender agreement system.
For English- and Malay-based APiCS languages, it is not surprising that they lack cases of gender agreement since both English and Malay do not have gender agreement; but French-based languages (seven out of nine) show that the whole French agreement system has been lost, as e.g. in Seychelles Creole.
The twelve languages which display value 2 (only few adjectives agree with their noun) all belong to the Ibero-Romance-based creoles: the three Cape Verdean varieties, Guinea-Bissau Kriyol, Casamancese Creole, and Principense in West Africa; Papiá Kristang, Cavite Chabacano, Ternate Chabacano, and Zamboanga Chabacano in Southeast Asia; and finally Papiamentu and Palenquero in the Caribbean. In all these twelve languages gender agreement is restricted to adjectives that modify human nouns; with the exception of Zamboanga Chabacano, agreement of the adjective is optional.
The following examples illustrate West African creoles. In Cape Verdean Creole of Brava, we find branku (m.) vs. branka (f.) ‘white (of persons)’ altu vs. alta ‘tall’, kabuverdianu vs. kabuverdiana ‘Cape Verdean’. In Guinea-Bissau Kriyol, agreement is restricted to the acrolect, and in Casamancese Creole, only two adjectives may agree with their noun: dudu vs. duda ‘crazy’, and beju vs. beja ‘old’. In Principense, there is only one adjective agreeing with its noun: finu vs. fina ‘nice’, as in ũa mye fina (but also ũa mye finu) ‘a nice woman’.
In Southeast Asia, Ternate Chabacano has boníta muhér ‘beautiful woman’ vs. boníto ómbri ‘handsome man’, and Zamboanga Chabacano, as already mentioned, is the only language displaying value 2 where gender agreement is obligatory, although only with a dozen adjectives:
In the Caribbean, Palenquero has, for example, guapo ‘handsome’ vs. guapa ‘beautiful’, and Papiamentu has only optional gender agreement with adjectives referring to nationality, e.g. kolombiano vs. kolombiana ‘Colombian’.
Note that not all Iberian-based languages exhibit gender agreement in adnominal adjectives; Santome and Angolar in the Atlantic area, Diu Indo-Portuguese (see example 1), Korlai, and Sri Lanka Portuguese in South Asia, as well as Batavia Creole in Southeast Asia do not.
Note, however, that agreement is not obligatory in Louisiana Creole either, as is shown by en vyè fam ‘an old woman’ vs. en vyè hòm ‘an old man’.
In Michif, agreement of adnominal adjectives depends on word order: Adjectives preceding the noun show agreement, whereas postnominal adjectives do not. The following example illustrates a prenominal adjective:
The only language representing value 4 is the bilingual mixed language Mixed Ma’a/Mbugu. In this language, all adjectives agree with their nouns: