Universal semantic features and the typology of cardinal numerals


WĄGIEL Marcin CAHA Pavel

Year of publication 2019
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The paper proposes a unified morpho-semantic account for the typological variation in form and meaning of cardinal numerals across languages. In particular, we will investigate the morphological marking of different types of cardinals used as nominal modifiers and as singular terms referring to abstract arithmetical concepts in a number of languages, e.g., English, German, Japanese, Maltese, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Vurës and Standard Arabic. Based on the typological evidence, we will argue that despite an apparent morphological chaos, it is possible to identify cross-linguistically stable semantic ingredients, which compositionally provide the attested types of numerals. We adopt the framework of Nanosyntax as a model of morphology which, when applied to the semantic structures we propose, delivers the relevant marking patterns. The model we develop is broadly based on the idea that the meaning components are uniformly structured across languages, and they must all be pronounced, though languages differ in how they pronounce them. According to our proposal, all cardinals share an underlying scale of natural numbers but differ in a number of operations subsequently applied to that scale.
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