classifier and plural morphology

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Wed Nov 11 19:09:40 UTC 1998

On Audrey's conjectures:

> Is it possible that the order of Number, Classifier and Noun may also play
> a role in the use of plural morphology?  I wonder if the following
> generalization is true:
> If the word order is Number + Classifier + Noun,  the Noun does not take
> plural morphology (e.g., Chinese)

A *partial* counterexample to this is Standard Malay.  Classifiers are
optional; number marking, via reduplication, is optional; word order is free;
BUT the most common word order is like Chinese, Number + Classifier + Noun.

A somewhat different partial counterexample is Vietnamese, in which
classifiers are nearly obligatory.  In Vietnamese there is a so-called plural
word _cac_, which of course is optional.  But figuring out word boundaries in
Southeast Asian languages is notoriously difficult -- so even though it's
*written* as a separate word, I don't know whether it really is one, as
opposed to, say, a proclitic or even prefix.

Come to think about it, what about the Mandarin plural marker _xie_, usually
occurring in the collocation _yi xie_:  what are its wordhood properties?

> If the word order is Noun + Number + Classifier, the noun can take plural
> morphology (e.g., Korean, Burmese)

Here Thai is a clear counterexample:  Noun + Number + Classifier word order,
but no plural morphology.


PS I'm afraid I haven't got Audrey's email asddress; perhaps Bingfu would be
so kind as to forward this to her.

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Inselstrasse 22, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 44-341-9952310
Fax: 44-341-9952119
Email: gil at

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