Chapter published in:The Diachrony of Classification Systems
Edited by William B. McGregor and Søren Wichmann
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 342] 2018
► pp. 241–282
Nominal and verbal classification
A comparative perspective
The present paper starts from the observation that classification is cross-linguistically very widespread in the domain of the noun and rather rare in the domain of the verb. It argues that this asymmetry is not arbitrary. It is motivated by two conditions: (i) the markers used for classification should not interfere with other grammaticalization processes, and (ii) the use of a classification marker in later processes of grammaticalization should not impair the initial classification system. Since these conditions are violated more easily with verbs than with nouns, classification is more persistent in nominal classificaton than in verbal classification. The paper looks at compounding, which is the common denominator of many nominal and verbal classification systems and thus provides the starting point from which the differences between the two types of classification can be observed. It then looks at the semantics involved in nominal and verbal classification, and it shows that the two conditions are more easily violated in the domain of the verb than in the domain of the noun.
Published online: 14 May 2018
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