Volume 45, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0731-3500
  • E-ISSN: 2214-5907
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Languages with sortal classifiers () are distributed across the world, with a large concentration in East and South (east) Asia. Across the world’s classifier languages, few are attested which order classifiers before numerals in counted noun phrases (). The Sino-Tibetan language family includes languages without sortal classifiers, languages with the more typical order, as well as languages with order. The latter group of languages are concentrated in Northeast India and neighboring regions. The Sino-Tibetan languages with order do not fit under one genealogical node. The present hypothesis is that the classifiers arose through repetition of the counted noun, following which the order spread via contact. The order appears to have arisen at least as early as the time of Proto-Bodo-Garo. However, we do not yet find cognate classifiers at a time depth beyond Proto-Bodo-Garo. A remaining mystery is why such a cross-linguistically rare morpheme order spread so easily within the Northeast India linguistic area.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): classifier; historical; morphosyntax; typology
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