Original Paper

Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 43-59

First online:

Numeral classifiers in Mandarin Chinese

  • Hong ZhangAffiliated withDepartment of East Asian Studies, Colby College Email author 

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This article uses a multilevel approach to study the Chinese numeral classifiers. It argues that although shape categories constitute a major cognitive base for numeral classification, lexical taxonomy, linguistic convention, and stylistic creativity also play a role in determining the use of Chinese classifiers. It cautions that in general the relationship between noun and classifier is explicable from the semantic/cognitive stance, but the relationship is not always transparent and consistent. At times the choice of a classifier can be entirely arbitrary and subject to linguistic innovation.