115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Classifiers in Persian

Ladan Hamedani, University of Hawai'i, Manoa

I investigate the role of classifiers in Persian and their relationship to NumP (i.e., Number Phrase, a syntactic category that dominates the Noun Phrase). In indefinite nominal phrases, there is complementary distribution of classifiers with plural marking. Consequently, either grammatical number or grammatical classifiers can occupy the head of NumP. Nevertheless, plural marking can co-occur with full classifiers if the plural marker induces a definite reading.

Proposal: 

I investigate the role of classifiers in Persian and their relationship to NumP. Borer (2005) argues that when there is a projection of the functional category NumP in a language, the NumP head is occupied either by the plural marker or by grammatical classifiers, as in English-like languages and Chinese-like languages, respectively. Because Persian classifiers and plural markers are in complementary distribution, I propose that either grammatical number or grammatical classifiers can occupy the head of NumP in Persian.

Persian classifiers can occur in an indefinite noun phrase having a [Card + (CL) + N] combination; nevertheless, the occurrence of the plural marker in this combination renders it ungrammatical, so I propose that either a classifier or an empty classifier occupies the head of NumP.

Persian plural marking can optionally co-occur with a classifier in a definite noun phrase having a [Card + CL + N + (PLDEF)] combination. Because there is a co-occurrence restriction of classifier and plural marking in a nominal phrase, I propose that the head of NumP is occupied by the full classifier. Since the definite plural marker is optional, I propose that it has a modification role.

Example (1a) shows that a classifier can occur optionally in an indefinite noun phrase having the combination [Card + (CL) + N]. Example (1b), however, shows that the plural marker does not occur with a full classifier or an empty classifier for the intended meaning:

 

(1) a. se      (ta)     mæqaze   did-æm

         three (CL)    store          see.PAST-1SG

         ‘I saw three stores.’

     

     b. *se     (ta)     mæqaze-ha  did- æm

           three (CL)  store-PL        see.PAST-1SG

           ‘I saw three stores.’

 

However, in an indefinite nominal phrase combination of [N + PL+IND], there is no classifier, as in (2a). Accordingly, the occurrence of a [cardinal + classifier + PL + IND] combination is ungrammatical, as in (2b):

 

(2) a. bayad  ketab-ha-yi       be-xær-æm.

          must   book-PL-IND    SBJ.buy.PRES-1SG

          ‘I must buy (some) books.’

 

      b. *bayad  do   jeld         ketab-ha-yi      be-xær-æm.

           must   two   CLvolume  book-PL-IND   SBJ-buy.PRES-1SG

        

However, plural marking can optionally be present in a combination of [Card + CL + N + (PLDEF)] if it induces definiteness, but classifiers are not optional, as in (3):

 

(3) dæh *(færvænd)  hævapeyma(-ha)-ra    did-ænd.

      ten   *(CL)           airplane(-PLDEF)-OM    see.PAST-3PL

      ‘They saw the ten airplanes.’

       

In sum, in indefinite nominal phrases, there is complementary distribution of classifiers with plural marking in Persian. Nevertheless, plural marking in Persian can co-occur with full classifiers if the plural marker induces a definite reading.

 

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