On the function of numeral classifiers

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Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, La Trobe University,

16/09/2010

On the function of numeral classifiers

Christian Lehmann

Philosophische Fakultät

Universität Erfurt

1.

Introduction

Theses

At least for some languages:

1.

2.

There is no evidence for an individuating function of numeral classifiers.

The presence of numeral classification in such a language is, therefore, no evidence for some non-individuated basic semantic character of nouns in that

3.

4.

language.

Instead, numeral classifiers are hosts to such numerals that fall short of independent nouns (in the traditional sense of ‘noun’).

By grammaticalization, numeral classifiers become a kind of substantivizers.

Numeral classifiers in Yucatec Maya

E1. a. hun-p'éel tunich

YM one-CL.INAN stone

“a/one stone”

b. ka'-p'éel tunich two-CL.INAN stone

“two stones”

E2. a. hun-túul

YM one-CL.AN

“a/one man” xib man

b. ka'-túul two-CL.AN

“two men” xib man

Christian Lehmann, The function of numeral classifiers

2

Functional hypotheses

Why should counting an object presuppose its classification?

1.

The speakers of a numeral classifier language have not arrived at the pure concept of number; they have not yet abstracted cardinality as the common property of all the manifold sets of objects which happen to be of the same number. (Lévy-Bruhl

1910)

2.

o o o o

Languages with numeral classification typically lack the category of nominal number.

And if they have it, it usually does not appear on a noun phrase containing a classifier phrase (just as in measure phrases).

The noun does not designate an individual falling under the concept, but just the concept itself.

The classifier has the function of individuation. (Greenberg 1972)

2.

Structural analysis

Yucatec numeral classifier phrase

E3. a. Hay-p'éel tunich yàan tèech ?

YM how.many-CL.INAN stone EXIST you

“How many stones do you have?”

b. Hay-túul how.many-CL.AN xib man yàan tèech ?

EXIST you

“How many men do you have?”

Ka'-p'éel. two-CL.INAN

“Two.”

Ka'-túul. two-CL.AN

“Two.”

S1. Structure of the counted nominal (Yucatec)

[

[

[ X ]

Num

– [ Y ]

Num.Cl

]

Num.Cl.P

[ Z ] ]

Count.Nom

G1. If a language uses numeral classifiers in counted nominals (Count.Nom) such as

E1f , then it also has naked numeral classifier phrases (Num.Cl.P) (such as E3) in the place of complete noun phrases.

Diachronic version of G1

G2. If a language acquires numeral classification in constructions such as S1, it first

Christian Lehmann, The function of numeral classifiers

acquires numeral classifier phrases and uses these in anaphora.

Numeral classifier construction in Bribri

E4. a.

B

RI kano

' tulur b

ö

-k

tepezcuinte POS.seated:PL two-CL.round cave

“there are two tepezcuintes in the cave.”

b. dù tulur sts

ö k b

ö

-tk k

á uk a

LOC bird POS.seated:PL sing:IMPF two-CL.flat

“there are two birds singing”

c. ye' tö tkab

ë sa w

é

b

ö

-töm

I ERG snake see:PRFV two-CL.long

“I saw two snakes”

E5. kano

' b

ö

-k tulur k

á uk a

B

RI

tepezcuinte two-CL.round POS.seated:PL cave LOC

“the two tepezcuintes are in the cave.” (Constenla et al. 1998:70)

S2. Structure of the discontinuous counted nominal (Bribri)

[ X ]

Nomi

... V ...

[

[ Y ]

Num

[-Z ]

Num.Cl

]

Cl.Pi

3

phase

1

S3. Evolution of numeral classifier construction

2

construction

classifier phrase as an anaphor

Yucatec native and loan numerals

E6. a. óox-túul xib discontinuous counted nominal

3 continuous counted nominal

YM three-CL.AN

“three men” man

b. kan-túul four-CL.AN man

“four men” xib = cuatro xib-o'b four man-PL

c. cinco five xib-o'b man-PL

Christian Lehmann, The function of numeral classifiers

“five men”

Conclusion 1

It is not the Yucatec noun that needs individuation; it is the Yucatec numeral that needs the classifier.

Yucatec numerals and classifiers – free or bound ?

E7. Hay-túul-o'b ?

YM how.many-CL.AN-PL

– Seis

six u

[ POSS.3 túul-ul.

CL.AN-REL ]

NP

“How many were they?” – “There were six of them.” [lit.: six (are) of them]

Conclusion 2

The primary function of Yucatec numeral classifiers is purely structural: its members serve as props for the numerals, which are affixes.

The primary function of numeral classifiers is to serve as dummy nouns that those numerals which are affixes can attach to.

3.

Classifiers and the status of numerals

G3. If a numeral of numerical value X is adjectival in nature, then all numerals lower than X are adjectival, too.

Conversely, if a numeral of numerical value X is substantival in nature, then all numerals higher than X are substantival, too. (cf. Corbett 1978)

S4. Grammatical status of numerals affix < adjective < noun

G4. Given a numeral with numerical value X occupying position Y on S3, then numerals for numbers lower than X will not occupy positions to the right of Y.

Conversely, numerals for numbers higher than X will not occupy positions to the left of Y on S3.

4

Christian Lehmann, The function of numeral classifiers

Numeral classifiers in Bribri numeral longish object flat object round object human

1

e'-töm e'-tk e'-k

2

b

ö

-töm b

ö

-tk b

ö

-k

3

4

ma

ñ

à

-töm ma

ñ

à

-tk ma

ñ

á

-l tk

ë

-töm sk

è

-töm tk sk

ë

-l

é

-l tk sk

ë

-l

é

-l

5

9

su l

ì

-töm

how many i

ë

-töm i su

ë l

-tk

ì tu i su

ë

-k l

ì tu e'-köl b

ö

-l ma

ñ

á

-l tk

ë

-l sk

é

-l su l

ì tu i

ë

-l

the other bì-töm bì-tk bì-k bí-l

T1. Paradigm (after Constenla et al. 1998:65f, 73)

Numerals and numeral classifiers

G5. If, in a language, a numeral of numerical value X combines with numeral classifiers, then all numerals with numerical values lower than X also combine with numeral classifiers.

Conversely, if a numeral of numerical value X does not require a numeral classifier, then numerals with numerical values higher than X do not require one, either.

Numeral classifiers and substantivizers in Bribri

class longish object flat object round object human function classifier

-töm

substantivizer -ëtöm

-tk

-ëtk

-k

-ëk

-l

-ël

T2. Paradigm (after Constenla et al. 1998:92)

E8. a. bua'-ëk

B

RI

good-CL.round

“the good one (fruit etc.)”

b. chkàii-ël fat-CL.HUM

“the fat one (person)”

c. chkàii-ël-pa fat-CL.HUM-PL

“the fat ones (persons)”

5

Christian Lehmann, The function of numeral classifiers

Substantivization of numerals in German

E9. Was für Eier willst du? – Gib mir mal kleine.

G

ERM

“What (kind of) eggs do you want?” – “Give me small ones.”

E10. Wie viele Eier willst du? – Gib mir mal sechs.

G

ERM

“How many eggs do you want?” – “Give me six.”

E11. Wie viele Eier willst du? – Gib mir mal sechs Stück.

G

ERM

“How many eggs do you want?” – “Give me six items.”

E12. Wie viele Eier willst du? – Gib mir mal sechse.

G

ERM

“How many eggs do you want?” – “Give me six.”

E13. Wann treffen wir uns? – a. Um acht Uhr.

G

ERM

b. Um acht.

c. Um achte.

“When shall we meet?” – “At eight o'clock.”

E14. a. kleine Eier

G

ERM

“small eggs” b. sechs Eier

“six eggs”

/ *sechse Eier

E15. a. alle neune

G

ERM

“all nine (pins)” b. alle Kleinen

“all small ones”

E16. a. Erwin begab sich auf alle Viere.

G

ERM

“Irvin got down on all fours.” b. Irvin näherte sich auf allen Vieren.

“Irvin approached on all fours.”

T3. German substantivized numerals einer, eine, eins zweie, dreie ... zwölfe [ ʦ vœlv ə

]

?

dreizehne,

?

vierzehne ...

?

neunzehne

*zwanzige, *dreißige ... (hunderte, tausende), *millione

S5. Grammaticalization of numeral classifier generic noun > numeral classifier > numeral nominalizer

6

Christian Lehmann, The function of numeral classifiers

7

4.

Conclusion

1.

2.

3.

At least in some languages that use numeral classifiers, these function as hosts to numerals that are not words.

They are nominalizers in the broadest sense.

The final destination of a numeral classifier is the categorial operator.

5.

References

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1998, Curso básico de bribri. San José, C.R.: Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica

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