Madame Susan ROTHSTEIN
(Professeur de linguistique à l’Université de Bar-Ilan – Gonda Brain Research Center, Tel Aviv, Israël)
(dans le cadre du séminaire de Hilary Chappell)
« Classifier constructions and the count/measure constrast: a crosslinguistic perspective »
Date, Horaires et Lieu
le mardi 10 novembre 2009 de 15h à 17h
EHESS, salle 451
au 54 boulevard Rasapil
NB : Les communications seront données en anglais
Mme Rothstein a été invitée dans le cadre du projet ERC de Mme Hilary Chappell sur le thème de recherche ‘Structure nominale des langues sinitiques: approche typologique’ dont le sujet fait également partie du programme de recherche de l’Equipe 1 du CRLAO « Typologie linguistique des langues sinitiques et tibéto-birmanes » .
Classifier constructions and the count/measure constrast: a crosslinguistic persepctive
Bar-Ilan University/Leiden University
It has long been observed (e.g.Doetjes 1997, Landman 2004) that classifier phrases like two glasses of water are ambiguous between an ‘individuating’ reading, where they denote two
individual glasses filled with water, and a ‘measure’ reading in which they denote water to the quantity of two glasses. Two glassfuls of water of course has only the measure reading.
Landman (2004) suggests that in the measure reading water is the head of the phrase and two glasses is a modifier expression modifying water, while in the individuating reading glasses
is the head of the nominal phrase. However, there is as yet no direct syntactic evidence to support this. In Modern Hebrew, however, the situation is different. Two glasses of water
can be expressed either by a construct state form as in (1a) where the classifier has the noun mayim ‘water’ as a direct complement, or by an absolute form where the classifier has a
prepositional phrase as its complement:
(1) a. šaloš kosot mayim
three cups water
b. šaloš kosot šel mayim
three cups of water
I show that while the construct state expression is ambiguous between the measure and the individuating reading, the absolute expression in (1b) has only the individuating reading. A
careful analysis shows that the construct state form plausibly allows the classifier to be reanalysed as a modifier, thus making the measure reading available, while the absolute form
does not. Furthermore, independent constraints on the expression of definiteness within a construct state predict that reanalysing the apparent classifier head as a modifier should be possible only in indefinite construct state constructions. This prediction is borne out. Thus Modern Hebrew provides evidence that individuating and measure readings of classifier
phrases are independent, and that the measure reading involves analysing the classifier expression as a modifier.
I show some preliminary results from other languages, including Russian and Brazilian Portuguese, indicating that the contrasts in (1) are replicated crosslinguistically, although the
syntactic conditions which enable the modification structure to be derived differ crosslinguistically and depend on the morphosyntactic properties of the individual language. I
conclude with some (even more) preliminary remarks on extending an analysis of the individuation /measure contrast to classifier languages such as Mandarin.