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Word order of numeral classifiers and numeral bases

Harmonization by multiplication

One-Soon Her, Marc Tang and Bing-Tsiong Li

Abstract

In a numeral classifier language, a sortal classifier (C) or a mensural classifier (M) is needed when a noun is quantified by a numeral (Num). Num and C/M are adjacent cross-linguistically, either in a [Num C/M] order or [C/M Num]. Likewise, in a complex numeral with a multiplicative composition, the base may follow the multiplier as in [n×base], e.g., san-bai ‘three hundred’ in Mandarin. However, the base may also precede the multiplier in some languages, thus [base×n]. Interestingly, base and C/M seem to harmonize in word order, i.e., [n×base] numerals appear with a [Num C/M] alignment, and [base×n] numerals, with [C/M Num]. This paper follows up on the explanation of the base-C/M harmonization based on the multiplicative theory of classifiers and verifies it empirically within six language groups in the world’s foremost hotbed of classifier languages: Sinitic, Miao-Yao, Austro-Asiatic, Tai-Kadai, Tibeto-Burman, and Indo-Aryan. Our survey further reveals two interesting facts: base-initial ([base×n]) and C/M-initial ([C/M Num]) orders exist only in Tibeto-Burman (TB) within our dataset. Moreover, the few scarce violations to the base-C/M harmonization are also all in TB and are mostly languages having maintained their original base-initial numerals but borrowed from their base-final and C/M-final neighbors. We thus offer an explanation based on Proto-TB’s base-initial numerals and language contact with neighboring base-final, C/M-final languages.

Acknowledgments

We thank the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their constructive comments, which led to significant improvements of the paper. All remaining errors are our own. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support by Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) via the following grants awarded to O.-S Her: 101-2410-H-004-184-MY3, 104-2633-H-004-001, 104-2410-H-004-164-MY3, and 106-2410-H-004-106-MY3.

Appendix – Classifier languages in SMATTI

Sinitic
DunganMandarin ChinesePu-Xian Chinese
Gan ChineseMin Bei ChineseWu Chinese
Hakka ChineseMin Dong ChineseXiang Chinese
Huizhou ChineseMin Nan ChineseYue Chinese
Jinyu ChineseMin Zhong Chinese
Miao-Yao
Biao-Jiao MienHmong NjuaPa-Hng
Bu-Nao BunuJiongnai BunuShe
Hmong dawNorthern Qiandong Miao
Austro-Asiatic
BlangKhasiParauk Wa
BondoKhmuPear
BuganLavePnar
Car NicobareseLyngngamPrai
Central KhmerMae Hong Son LawaRuching Palaung
ChongMah MeriSamre
ChrauMalSamtao
Eastern BruMan MetSantali
Eastern KatuMangSapuan
Jah HutMonSedang
JehNorthern KhmerSemelai
JehaiNyahkurSo
KhariaPacohVietnamese
Tai-Kadai
AhomLingaoSui
Baha BuyangLiujiang ZhuangTai Daeng
BiaoLuTai Dam
BouyeiMakTai Don
ChadongMaonanTai Nua
CunMulamTen
Dai ZhuangNong ZhuangThai
GelaoNorthern DongWhite Gelao
Guibei ZhuangNungYang Zhuang
Guibian ZhuangQabiaoYongbei Zhuang
HlaiRed GelaoYoujiang Zhuang
LachiSaekZuojiang Zhuang
LakkiaShan
LaoSouthern Dong
Tibeto-Burman
AchangHaka ChinRawang
AdiHaniSangkong
AkhaHmarSani
Angami NagaHorpaSgaw Karen
AnuIdu-MishmiShixing
ApataniInpui NagaSimte
AtongJiarongSouthern Bai
AxiJingphoSouthern Pumi
AzheKadoSouthern Qiang
BaimaKarbiSouthern Tujia
BantawaKatsoSunwar
BhujelKok BorokTawang Monpa
BisuKonyak NagaThado Chin
BodoLahuThangmi
BurmeseLashiThulung
CamlingLeinong NagaTiwa
Central BaiLhao VoTshangla
ChakLisuUgong
ChantyalMiriUsoi
ChhintangeMizoVaiphei
Daai ChinMuyaWambule
DeoriNamuyiWayu
DhimalNewarWestern Gurung
DimasaNocte NagaWestern Kayah
DrungNorthern BaiXiandao
DumiNorthern PumiYakha
Eastern KayahNorthern QiangYamphu
ErsuNorthern TujiaYoule Jinuo
Falam ChinNungZaiwa
Galo AdiPaite ChinZauzou
GangtePelaZhaba
GaroPumaZou
Geba KarenQueyu
GuiqiongRabha
Indo-Aryan
AssameseChhattisgarhiMaithili
AwadhiDaraiMarathi
Balkan RomaniFiji HindiNepali
BengaliGujaratiOriya
BhojpuriHalbiRajbanshi
BishnupriyaHindiSadri

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Published Online: 2019-09-28
Published in Print: 2019-09-25

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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