Hungarian is a classifier language

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We present an overview of classifiers, a subgroup of what Simone & Masini (this volume) call Light Nouns. Three major types have been distinguished: group, sortal and mensural classifiers. Focusing on group and sortal classifiers, we establish a battery of tests which diagnose the membership in the appropriate classifier subgroup. It is argued that some of the tests established have universal validity, while the applicability of others depends on language-specific factors. The tests are called upon to support the claim that Hungarian is a classifier language. We show that Hungarian has the hallmarks of a classifier language indeed, which warrants a treatment similar to the more familiar Southeast Asian classifier languages. As for the category of sortal and group classifiers, it is suggested that while the sortal classifiers represent a functional category in the extended projection of the noun, the group classifiers are nouns themselves that take an optional nominal complement. Finally, we show how the distributional differences between sortal and group classifiers fall out from this proposal.


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