Slavic Aspectual Prefixes and Numeral Classifiers: Two Kinds of Lexico-Grammatical Unitizers
What do Slavic aspectual prefixes have in common with numeral classifiers? Our answer is that the parallels are compelling, both in terms of breadth and depth. The grammatical function of numeral classifiers is to form and classify units for the referents of nouns, and we argue that Slavic aspectual prefixes have the function of forming and classifying units for the referents of verbs. Numeral classifiers contribute a meaning of discreteness to objects, whereas Slavic aspectual prefixes do the same for events. Just as there are various types of numeral classifiers, there are also various types of Slavic aspectual prefixes. We find that the patterns identified for numeral classifiers are consistently matched by the grammatical behavior of the various types of aspectual prefixes throughout the Slavic linguistic territory. We furthermore anchor this comparison in a variety of ways, taking into account distributional and semantic evidence, and the effects of construal, foregrounding, definiteness, and transnumerality. In the places where this comparison breaks down, the causes are inherent differences between the domain of nouns and the domain of verbs. We suggest that Slavic aspectual prefixes and numeral classifiers should be considered to be verbal and nominal instantiations of a general category of lexico-grammatical unitizers.
SiteringLingua 168(2015) s. 57-84
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