Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2665-9336
  • E-ISSN: 2665-9344
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Korean and Japanese are typical classifier languages that classify a noun based on the semantic type of its referent with a counter word when plurality is involved. Their plural marking appears to be optional when the noun denotes general plurality, but obligatory when a noun is marked by the semantic feature, [+specific] (Ioni, Ko & Wexler, 2004). In this study, we characterize the so-called ‘optional’ plurality in Korean and Japanese as the manifestation of the grammaticalization. Drawing on actual data, we demonstrate that the plural suffix is increasingly used as a neutral plural marker. The grammaticalization is more prevalent when the nouns are higher in the Animacy Hierarchy (e.g., Comrie, 1989), although there are differences in acceptability between Korean and Japanese. We attribute the differences to the language-specific uses of the plural suffix, namely, Japanese associative reading and Korean event-plural reading (Song, 1997).


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): classifier languages; grammaticalization; Japanese; Korean; plurality
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