On the complementary distribution of plurals and classifiers in East Asian classifier languages
Kyumin Kim, Paul B. Melchin
February 2018

It is widely recognized that plural morphemes and classifiers are in complementary distribution, being unable to co-occur. A recent approach provides a syntactic account (Borer 2005) for complementary distribution: a plural morpheme and a classifier realize the same functional head and thus they cannot co-occur. The goal of this article is to examine whether this syntactic approach to the alleged complementary distribution is applicable to certain classifier languages. We review analyses for each of three classifier languages, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean where a plural and a classifier co-occur. The reviewed analyses suggest that plural markers in these classifier languages do not realize the same head with classifiers (e.g., a plural instantiates Num/D in Chinese differently from a classifier), which accounts for its co-occurrence with a classifier. This paper also discusses other approaches to the complementary distribution of plural morphemes and classifiers, e.g., a typological view (Chierchia 1998) and a semantic view (Bale and Khanjian 2009), and concludes that they may not account for the data in the languages under discussion.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003862
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Language and Linguistic Compass (to appear)
keywords: plural marker, classifier, complementary distribution, chinese, japanese, korean, syntax
previous versions: v1 [February 2018]
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