Publication details

Semantic parameters, syncretism and counting


CAHA Pavel

Year of publication 2021
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

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Description In the languages of the world, there appears to be a bi-furcation among languages depending on whether numerals combine with a noun in the singular (e.g., Turkish, Estonian) or plural (e.g., English, Czech). A relatively common approach is to explain this variation by invoking “semantic parameters.” The idea is that the singular (or plural) in a language of the first type does not mean the same thing as in a language of the other type. In this talk, I will suggest an alternative way of thinking about the data. I will give reasons to think that the a noun after numerals has a special grammatical number that should not be unified with the singular or the plural denotation. When the counted noun looks the same as one of these, this is because the special “counting” number is morphologically realized the same as singular or plural (classical syncretism). The evidence for this claim will be drawn from a variety of languages including Serbian, Bulgarian, Ossetic, Saami.
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