Sackmann, Robin. 2000. "Numeratives in Mandarin Chinese"
Sackmann, Robin. 2000. "Numeratives in Mandarin Chinese".

In: Petra M. Vogel, and Bernard Comrie (eds). Approaches to the typology of word classes. Berlin etc.: Mouton de Gruyter. (= Empirical Approaches to Language Typology 23). 421–477.


A. Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The problem: A short outline
    2.1 Classifiers and measures
    2.2 Terminological commitments
    2.3 Formulation of basic problems
  3. A short introduction to Integrational Syntax
    3.1 General remarks
    3.2 Integrational Syntax
  4. The syntactic structure of numerative expressions
    4.1 Theoretical options
    4.2 The traditional analysis
    4.3 Four problems for the attribute analysis
    4.4 An alternative analysis for numerative expressions
    4.5 The status of demonstratives in numerative expressions
  5. The part-of-speech status of numeratives and substantives
    5.1 Numeratives and substantives
    5.2 Subclassifications on NUMT(-,S) and SUBST(-,S)
    5.3 Defining "NUMT"
    5.4 Defining "combinable"
    5.5 The Noun Class System
    5.6 Noun class terminology (1): Terms specific to a grammar of Mandarin Chinese
    5.7 Noun class terminology (2): Terms of a theory of language
  6. The systematic basis of 'nc-compatibility'
    6.1 Introduction
    6.2 Semantic basis or semantic bias?
    6.3 Semantic bias and syntactic basis
    6.4 Compatibility restrictions through lexical meaning
    6.5 Compatibility restrictions through government
    6.6 Conclusion
  7. Summary and outlook

B. Abstract

The class of numeratives in Mandarin Chinese comprises measures such as píng 'bottle' or jīn 'pound' on the one hand, and classifiers such as běn, zhāng, and tiáo on the other. The present essay investigates both the syntactic properties of Chinese numeratives and the structure of numerative expressions, i.e. of those expressions in which numeratives typically occur. It is assumed that in Chinese the class of numeratives is a separate class of nominal words.
Using Integrational Linguistics as a theoretical background, the essay focuses on three topics:
  • the syntactic structure of numerative expressions
  • the part-of-speech status of numeratives, i.e. the position that numeratives and their subclasses occupy in the part-of-speech system of Mandarin Chinese
  • the syntactic basis of Chinese noun classification conceived as a relationship between classifiers and certain sets of substantives, so-called 'noun classes'.
A number of key concepts needed for describing any numeral classifier language are formally defined, in particular, a concept of numeral classifier language that may be expected to be useful for typological studies.
The essay is organized as follows.
The introductory part of the essay consists of three sections. Section 1 provides a general introduction. Classifiers and measures are informally distinguished in Section 2, which also clarifies some basic terminological points and specifies the basic problems to be tackled. The general theoretical framework adopted for the investigation, Integrational Linguistics, is characterized in Section 3, emphasizing the general syntactic theory, Integrational Syntax.
The main part of the essay is dedicated to the three topics on which the essay focuses. Section 4 ("The syntactic structure of numerative expressions") begins by identifying four theoretical options for constituent structures of numerative expressions in Mandarin Chinese (4.1) and goes on to summarize the traditional type of analysis for numerative expressions that construes the numeral+numerative part of a numerative expression as a modifier of the substantive part (4.2). This analysis meets with a number of fundamental problems that lead to its rejection (4.3). It is demonstrated that an alternative analysis given in (4.4) either solves or avoids these problems. Section 4 is concluded by a solution to another traditional problem, clarifying the status of demonstratives in numerative expressions (4.5).
Section 5 ("The part-of-speech status of numeratives and substantives") introduces numeratives and substantives as separate 'substantival' word classes in Mandarin Chinese (5.1); inquires into the subcategories of numeratives and substantives and their respective positions within the word class system of Mandarin Chinese (5.2); formally defines the key terms "NUMERATIVE" (5.3) and "combinable" (5.4); introduces the notion of 'Noun Class System' (5.5); and defines key concepts needed for describing numeral classifier languages (5.6 and 5.7), in particular, the very concept of numeral classifier language.
Section 6 ("The systematic basis of 'nc-compatibility'") introduces the notion of 'noun class compatibility' as a relation between numeral classifiers and collective nouns (6.1); discusses the question of a semantic basis for this notion (6.2); and demonstrates its syntactic basis (6.3), for which two theoretical options can be considered (6.4 and 6.5), one of which is finally chosen (6.6). This subsection also contains a diagram that summarizes the overall view of the part-of-speech system of Mandarin Chinese developed in this essay.
Section 7 contains a summary of all major results of the essay and outlines some problems that continue to be open in the study of numeratives and noun classes.