Chapter published in:The Diachrony of Classification Systems
Edited by William B. McGregor and Søren Wichmann
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 342] 2018
► pp. 33–76
Niger-Congo numeral classifiers in a diachronic perspective
Numeral classifier systems have only recently come to be recognized in various African languages where they either co-exist with fully fledged noun class systems or supersede residual ones. This chapter explores the semantic and morphosyntactic properties of Niger-Congo numeral classifier systems in a typological and a diachronic perspective. Due to an incipient stage of development, most of these systems are fairly transparent etymologically. With respect to lexical source concepts, the classifier items originate in nouns for concrete objects such as body parts or in basic level terms, most of which relate to the botanical domain. Syntactically, the emergent classifier constructions provide counter-evidence to current generalizations in that they separate the classifier from the numeral, allowing for morphophonological fusion of classifier and enumerated noun rather than classifier and numeral. These syntactic properties reflect constituency relations directly inherited from associative predecessor constructions.
Published online: 14 May 2018
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