Numeral base, numeral classifier, and noun
Word order harmonization
Greenberg (1990a: 292) suggests that classifiers (clf) and numeral bases tend to harmonize in word order, i.e. a numeral (Num) with a base-final [n base] order appears in a clf-final [Num clf] order, e.g. in Mandarin Chinese, san1-bai3 (three hundred) ‘300’ and san1 zhi1 gou3 (three clf
animal dog) ‘three dogs’, and a base-initial [base n] Num appears in a clf-initial [clf Num] order, e.g. in Kilivila (Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic), akatu-tolu (hundred three) ‘300’ and na-tolu yena (clf
animal-three fish) ‘three fish’. In non-classifier languages, base and noun (N) tend to harmonize in word order. We propose that harmonization between clf and N should also obtain. A detailed statistical analysis of a geographically and phylogenetically weighted set of 400 languages shows that the harmonization of word order between numeral bases, classifiers, and nouns is statistically highly significant, as only 8.25% (33/400) of the languages display violations, which are mostly located at the meeting points between head-final and head-initial languages, indicating that language contact is the main factor in the violations to the probabilistic universals.
Keywords: numeral base, numeral, classifier, word order, noun, harmonization