new publications on nominal classification

Ellen Contini-Morava elc9j at
Fri Jan 3 22:41:57 UTC 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Please see the abstracts below of two recent publications on nominal 
classification systems.

In the paper "Functions of Nominal Classification" [Language Sciences 40 
(2013): 263-299,] we 
propose a functional typology for nominal classification systems. 
Thosewho don't have access to the journal can get a copy of the paper by 
contacting one of the authors (Ellen Contini-Morava, contini at or Marcin Kilarski, kilarski at


Nominal classification systems are generally categorized on the basis of 
morphosyntactic criteria. However, the functional motivations for these 
phenomena do not coincide directly with their morphosyntactic 
properties: some functions are shared by diverse systems, and each 
morphosyntactic type may serve diverse communicative functions. We 
provide a functional typology for nominal classification, including both 
noun class and classifier systems. We focus on two types 
of functions: semantic, i.e., the use of classification markers to 
expand the referential power of the lexicon, and discourse/pragmatic, 
i.e., the use of classification markers to establish and manipulate the 
status of discourse referents. We identify functions that are shared by 
formally diverse systems as well as functions that depend on means of 
expression. We also review psycholinguistic evidence for the role 
of nominal classification in language comprehension and production.

In his book, "Nominal Classification: A history of its study from the 
classical period to the present" (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John 
Benjamins 2013,, 
Marcin traces the evolution of approaches to gender/noun classes and 
classifiers throughout the history of Western linguistics. The book 
appears in the Studies in the History of the Language Sciences series.


This book offers the first comprehensive survey of the study of gender 
and classifiers throughout the history of Western linguistics. Based on 
an analysis of over 200 genetically and typologically diverse languages, 
the author shows that these seemingly arbitrary and redundant categories 
play in fact a central role in the lexicon, grammar and the organization 
of discourse. As a result, the often contradictory approaches to their 
functionality and semantic motivation encapsulate 
the evolving conceptions of such issues as cognitive and cultural 
correlates of linguistic structure, the diverse functions of grammatical 
categories, linguistic complexity, agreement phenomena and the 
interplay between lexicon and grammar. The combination of a typological 
and historiographic perspective adopted here allows the reader to 
appreciate the detail and insight of earlier, supposedly 
'prescientific' accounts in light of the data now available and 
to examine contemporary discussions in the context of prevailing 
conceptions in the study of language at different points in its history 
since antiquity.

With best wishes for the New Year,

Ellen and Marcin


Marcin Kilarski
Assistant professor
Faculty of English
Adam Mickiewicz University
Al. Niepodleglosci 4
61-874 Poznan, Poland

Ellen Contini-Morava
Department of Anthropology
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400120
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4120
phone:  +1 (434) 924-6825
fax:    +1 (434) 924-1350

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