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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

03.12. Afrikalinguistisches Kolloquium: Concurrent nominal classification systems (Kilarski)

"Concurrent nominal classification systems in Indo-European and Algonquian" - Vortrag von Marcin Kilarski (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan) im Rahmen des Afrikalinguistischen Kolloquiums
Wann 03.12.2019 von 16:15 bis 17:45 (Europe/Berlin / UTC100) iCal
Wo Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstr. 118, Raum 410
Kontaktname Christfried Naumann

Although there is a vast amount of literature on grammatical gender, until recently little attention has been devoted to those languages with a long history of linguistic description which in addition to gender also possess systems of numeral classifiers. In this talk I will illustrate two examples of such concurrent systems: Nepali, an Indo-European language of Nepal, and the varieties of Cree and Ojibwa, two Algonquian languages spoken in Canada and parts of the US. In addition, I will discuss the implications of these concurrent systems for our understanding of more general principles behind nominal classification. Here I will focus on two issues, i.e., the functions of seemingly overlapping forms of categorization and the development of nominal classification systems. With regard to functions, I will show that gender and classifiers in Nepali contribute to the lexicon and discourse in diverse but complementary ways, in what can be described as a trade-off effect (cf. Sinnemäki 2019; Tang and Kilarski in press). With regard to the diachrony of nominal classification, I will point to the analogies between the concurrent system in Nepali with the much earlier phenomenon of the feminine forms of the numerals ‘3’ and ‘4’ preserved in Celtic and Indo-Iranian, which can be viewed as a nascent system of numeral classifiers predating the rise of the feminine gender (Gąsiorowski and Kilarski 2019). While this ‘experiment’ with numeral classification ultimately failed, it is intriguing to think of an alternative history of Indo-European languages as possessing instead a numeral classifier system, or possibly both numeral classifiers and gender. Such a scenario is perfectly possible considering the sociolinguistic context of early Indo-European which would allow such complexification in grammar. Further, if we allow this alternative scenario, a much different picture emerges of the history of language study in the Western tradition, in which grammatical gender, a prime example of arbitrariness and redundancy, is replaced with a more transparent numeral classifier system.


Gąsiorowski, Piotr and Marcin Kilarski. 2019. “Ex oriente lux: How Nepali helps to understand relict numeral forms in Proto-Indo-European”, in: Magdalena Wrembel, Agnieszka Kiełkiewicz-Janowiak and Piotr Gąsiorowski (eds.), Approaches to the study of sound structure and speech: Interdisciplinary work in honour of Katarzyna Dziubalska-Kołaczyk. London: Routledge, 76-84.

Sinnemäki, Kaius. 2019. “On the distribution and complexity of gender and numeral classifiers”, in: Francesca Di Garbo, Bruno Olsson and Bernhard Wälchli (eds.), Grammatical gender and linguistic complexity. Vol. 2. World-wide comparative studies. Berlin: Language Science Press, 133-200.

Tang, Marc and Marcin Kilarski. in press. “Functions of gender and numeral classifiers in Nepali”, Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics.