Volume 21, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



Greenberg (1990a: 292) suggests that classifiers () and numeral bases tend to harmonize in word order, i.e. a numeral (Num) with a base-final [] order appears in a -final [Num ] order, e.g. in Mandarin Chinese, (three hundred) ‘300’ and (three dog) ‘three dogs’, and a base-initial [] Num appears in a -initial [ Num] order, e.g. in Kilivila (Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic), (hundred three) ‘300’ and (-three fish) ‘three fish’. In non-classifier languages, base and noun (N) tend to harmonize in word order. We propose that harmonization between and N should also obtain. A detailed statistical analysis of a geographically and phylogenetically weighted set of 400 languages shows that the harmonization of word order between numeral bases, classifiers, and nouns is statistically highly significant, as only 8.25% (33/400) of the languages display violations, which are mostly located at the meeting points between head-final and head-initial languages, indicating that language contact is the main factor in the violations to the probabilistic universals.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): classifier; harmonization; noun; numeral; numeral base; word order
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