NUMERAL CLASSIFIERS IN PERSIAN
University of Erfurt
Persian makes use of so-called numeral classifiers. This word class occurs in a tripartite numeral classifier phrase comprised of a numeral, the classifier and a noun. In studies of Persian grammar, neither the types nor the characteristics of the word class have been examined. By means of a corpus-based analysis, this study aims to describe the types of numeral classifiers found in Persian and to compose an inventory of each type. It also investigates the nature of the word class as well as its syntactic, semantic and functional behavior. In providing a lucid account of the characteristics of numeral classifiers, basic linguistic theory is applied as a theoretical framework.
Numeral classifiers occur quite frequently in both formal and colloquial language use. However, not every noun can be associated with a numeral classifier. There are nouns that do not take any classifier whereas other nouns require the use of specific classifiers when counted. Furthermore, the usage of numeral classifiers is optional in Persian, although there are constructions in which the use of a numeral classifier appears to be obligatory. Moreover, the exact number of numeral classifiers in Persian is difficult to estimate. It has been conjectured that there are anywhere between a few dozen to one hundred such classifiers in Persian. Some of them have very specialized uses or are archaic and only a few classifiers are regularly used. Semantically speaking, the numeral classifiers must be seen as part of a continuum from carrying a light semantic meaning to being highly informative. The semantic parameters that Persian numeral classifiers cluster around are categories such as animacy or physical properties such as shape or function. Among other functions (for instance classification, the primary function of classifiers), classifiers in Persian serve to mark the importance of participants in discourse to highlight culturally valued objects or objects that are prominent to life in the Persian community.
ISBN 9783862882816. LINCOM Studies in Language Typology 22. 223pp. 2012.