The numeral classifier in Upper Necaxa Totonac: unitization and lexical specification

Michelle Garcia-Vega


The literature on the semantic contribution of the classifier to the numeral classifier construction is vast and fairly divided. Some views maintain that numeral classifier constructions semantically modify the head noun and contribute to the construction of meaning. In particular, the numeral classifier provides a unit for measuring or counting the noun that lack semantic properties needed for enumeration. Other views imply that the classifier in numeral constructions agrees with some inherent feature of the noun and serves purely formal or grammatical functions. Rather than adding to the meaning of the lexical noun, they categorize the set of nouns in a language into different classes. Numerals in Upper Necaxa Totonac are obligatorily prefixed with a classifier in counting under 20 (Beck 2011). Data from Upper Necaxa show that while some classifiers in classifier-numeral expressions serve important pragmatic and semantic functions, the system in general is lexically specified, satisfying purely formal or grammatical properties of the language. 


Totonac; numeral classifiers; lexical specification; unitization

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria