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CLASSIFIERS ARE FOR NUMERALS, NOT FOR NOUNS: CONSEQUENCES FOR THE MASS-COUNT DISTINCTION *

By Alan Bale and Jessica Coon

Abstract

In classifier languages, nouns must appear with one of a series of classifiers in order to be modified by a numeral. This squib presents new data from Mi’gmaq (Algonquian) and Chol (Mayan), arguing that classifiers are required due to the syntactic and semantic properties of the numeral (as in Krifka 1995), rather than the noun (as in Chierchia 1998). The results are shown to have important consequences for the mass-count distinction. Mandarin Chinese is a frequently cited example of a language with obligatory classifiers. As shown in (1), classifiers cannot be dropped in the presence of numerals. 1 (1) MANDARIN CHINESE a. liǎng *(zhāng) zhuōzi two CL table ‘two tables’ b. liǎng *(píng) jiǔ two CL.bottle wine ‘two bottles of wine’ Krifka (1995) and Chierchia (1998) provide two very different accounts of the theoretical distinction between languages with obligatory classifiers (like Mandarin) and those without (like English). Chierchia links the distinction to the nominal system, arguing that non-classifier languages have a mass-count distinction among nouns, while classifier languages do not. All nouns in Mandarin are likened to mass nouns in English. Krifka, on the other hand, proposes that the difference lies in the the numeral system. He argues that classifier languages morphologically separate the semantic measure function (i.e., the classifier) from the numerals, whereas non-classifier languages have a measure function incorporated into the numerals. Here we bring in new data from Mi’gmaq and Chol—languages which sometimes use classifiers—in order to distinguish between the two theories. In both languages, certain numerals obligatorily appear with classifiers, while others never do. We show that these idiosyncratic numeral systems—also attested in other languages, discussed below—cannot be accounted for under Chierchia’s influential (1998) proposal. Furthermore, we show that these results have consequences *We are grateful to Janine Metallic, Mary Ann Metallic, and Janice Vicaire for help with Mi’gmaq, and to Matild

Year: 2013
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.353.1742
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