Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 75–99 | Cite as

Plurality in a Classifier Language

  • Yen-Hui Audrey Li


This work argues that -men in Mandarin Chinese is best analyzed as a plural morpheme realized on an element in Determiner, in contrast to a regular plural on an element in N, such as the English -s. A nominal with a classifier has a Classifier projection: [D [Num [Cl [N]]]]. The plural feature in Number can only be realized in D because of the Head Movement Constraint. Without an intervening Classifier, it can be realized in N. This analysis captures the fact that the -men type plural morpheme is generally found in classifier languages and the English type plural morpheme in non-classifier languages. The plural analysis of -men also captures many generalizations missing from the traditional "collective" analysis, such as (i) -men can occur with a proper name/pronoun/definite common noun but not a definite expression of the form [Demonstrative + Classifier + N], (ii) a quantity expression [Number + Classifier] can follow a pronoun/proper name with -men but not a common noun with -men, and (iii) a quantify expression cannot precede a nominal with -men.


Head Movement Classifier Language Common Noun Classifier Projection Movement Constraint 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yen-Hui Audrey Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Linguistics, Department of East Asian Language and CulturesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles

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