Extending the Verb Classifier Hypothesis: Aspectual Prefixes as Sortal Classifiers in Slavic and Procedural Prefixes as Mensural Classifiers in East Slavic and Bulgarian
Janda 2012 and Janda et al. 2013 presented the hypothesis that Russian aspectual prefixes serve as verb classifiers, similar to verb classifiers identified in Australian languages, and as the verbal analogs of numeral classifiers found primarily in Asia and Central America. We further extend this hypothesis in two directions. First, we make the point that the distinction between sortal classifiers (that classify items based on inherent properties such as shape) and mensural classifiers (that classify based on non-inherent measures) are relevant also to the verbal domain. In other words, the distinction for numeral classifiers we see in Table 1 has a parallel in the verbal domain. Russian uses prefixes as both a) sortal classifiers, as in na-pisat’ where na- sorts pisat’ among verbs involving accumulation on a surface (an inherent property); and as b) mensural classifiers in the formation of procedural verbs such as po-stonat’ ‘groan for a while’ where an external measure is imposed on an activity. Classifier Type Numeral Classifier Noun Sortal yi ‘one’ tiao CL: long-thin shengzi rope Mensural yi ‘one’ bei CL: glass pijiu beer Table 1: The Numeral Classifier Construction in Mandarin Chinese Whereas Janda 2012 and Janda et al. 2013 focused only on Natural Perfectives (where the prefixes have a “purely perfectivizing” function, as in na-pisat’ ‘write’) and only on Russian, we argue that the use of prefixes as the verbal analog of sortal classifiers can be extended also to Specialized Perfectives (where the prefix brings additional meaning to a perfective, as in pere-pisat’ ‘rewrite’), and that all Slavic languages have sortal verb classifiers used in the formation of Natural and Specialized Perfectives. We further show parallels between the radial category structure of the meanings of numeral classifiers and the meanings of Slavic prefixes, as well as the foregrounding and weak definiteness effects of bare classifier constructions in languages such as Cantonese or Vietnamese and of perfective verbs in East Slavic and Bulgarian.
CitationAndalusian Symposia on Slavic Studies (2014), 04.-06. June
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