Chapter 7. Number and numeration in Nêlêmwa and Zuanga (New Caledonia)

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In contrast with some other Austronesian languages, number (i.e. singular, dual, paucal, plural) in Nêlêmwa and Zuanga is generally not marked by inflectional morphology. NP number is marked by demonstrative determiners which also mark definiteness. Numeration makes obligatory use of numeral classifiers (sortal or mensural) which classify count nouns into various ontologies. The subcategorisation of nouns into mass and count is precisely displayed by these two features: mass nouns are unmarked for number and uncountable, they always appear as bare nouns and may only be quantified, only count nouns are marked for number by demonstrative determiners and are of course countable. Demonstrative determiners and numerals appear in pre- or post-NP positions, i.e. in specifier or modifier positions. These positions correlate with pragmatics and discourse informational properties: pre-NP specifiers mark salient or referentially new entities, while post-NP modifiers encode referentially backgrounded entities. Numerals follow this pattern, in specifier position, they also have partitive reading.


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