Universal semantic features and the typology of cardinal numerals


  • Marcin Wągiel Masaryk University in Brno University of Warsaw
  • Pavel Caha Masaryk University in Brno


The paper proposes a unified morpho-semantic account for the typological variation in the form and meaning of cardinal numerals. In particular, we investigate the morphological marking of two different types of cardinals and argue that it is possible to identify cross-linguistically stable semantic ingredients, which compositionally provide the attested types of numerals. We adopt the framework of Nanosyntax (Starke 2009 et seq.) 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. All cardinals share an underlying scale of natural numbers but differ in the number of operations subsequently applied to that scale.


numerals, portmanteau, classifiers, nanosyntax


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