Edited by Anne Storch and Gerrit J. Dimmendaal
[Studies in Language Companion Series 151] 2014
► pp. 135–166
The Papuan language Teiwa has a small set of sortal numeral classifiers: one human classifier, three fruit classifiers, and a general classifier. The classifiers vary widely in function and distribution, and it is argued that it is unlikely that they have been inherited. Instead, it is proposed that Teiwa inherited a class of part-of-whole nouns from which certain members were recruited to be grammaticalised into numeral classifiers through the reanalysis of ambiguous structures. Two more factors have enhanced this development. First, the existence of number neutral nouns in Teiwa implies that nouns must be individuated before they can be counted, a function fulfilled by numeral classifiers. Second, areal pressure from Austronesian classifier languages has reinforced the development of classifiers. Connecting the numeral classifier system of Teiwa with those of its sister languages and the wider linguistic context of eastern Indonesia, we can thus identify structural, semantic and areal factors playing a role when classifiers are born into a language.
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