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Re: Paleoasiatic (was: Favourite Language Group?)

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Saturday, September 7, 2002, 18:26
John Cowan writes:
 > Tim May scripsit:
 > > |Nivkh has specific sets of numerals for the enumeration of various
 > > |categories of objects - boats, people, animals, fishing-nets, small
 > > |round obj.cts, etc.  Panfilov (1962) lists 26 such sets.  For example,
 > > |`three' with reference to people is _t'aqr_; to animals, _t'3m_; to
 > > |sweep-nets, _t'for_; etc.  It is noteworthy that the palatalised t'
 > > |remains stable as initial in all variants, an the same stability
 > > |applies in other numbers.  Thus, _n'_ is the initial for the 26
 > > |variants of _n'im_ 1, and m is the initial for all variants of _mim_ 2.
 > Just so, and I don't see why Campbell (or his source) doesn't see it.

Well, perhaps he does.  It's only a brief sketch, and just because he
doesn't mention the probable history of some feature doesn't
necessarily mean he's unaware of it.

 > (I meant of course to write "numeral+classifier+noun", the Chinese-style
 > word order.)  t'for (3 nets) is simply the fused result of some original
 > numeral now represented by the t', and for is the classifier for netlike
 > things.  Since Nivkh is an isolate, there is no hope of reconstructing
 > the original forms, to be sure.  But this is not really strange.

I don't dispute that this is a probable explanation for the facts
before us, and I have no alternative hypothesis.  We are, however,
theorizing from limited data.  I should not like to make any definite
statement on the evolution of Nivkh based solely on the information
currently in my posession.  We don't, for example, know how similar
the numerals are for a given category.

Mark Rosenfelder has the numerals 1-10 for Nivkh (under the old name
Gilyak) on his site:

It looks as if some may be prefixes onto regular category stems, while
others are complete words.  Interesting.

How common are such fused numeral-classifier forms, anyway?  For that
matter, how common are classifiers?  I know Chinese and Japanese have
them, and I have the impression that there are others, but I've no
real idea as to how widespread this phenomenon is, or how it is
believed to arise.


John Cowan <jcowan@...>