The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Colloquium 10/16 - Roumyana Pancheva (USC)

Speaker: Roumyana Pancheva (USC)
Title: Numerals and Number Features
Time: Friday, October 16th, 3:30pm – 5pm

Zoom Link: (Please email ling-coll-org@mit.edu for more information)

Abstract: Nouns combining with numerals show variation in number marking, cross-linguistically and within one and the same language. Existing analyses differ in their answers to the related questions of (i) whether numerals need to combine with predicates of singularities or pluralities, (ii) whether number features on nouns are semantically interpretable or the result of (uninterpretable) agreement; and (iii) whether the number features realized on nouns originate higher or lower than the numeral. In this talk I present evidence from Bulgarian that (i) numerals can combine with semantically singular nouns, (ii) the singular or plural number features on nouns are interpretable, and (iii) the number features on nouns originate lower than the numeral, but are accompanied by a second number feature higher than the numeral. The arguments involve a reanalysis of one type of number inflection for masculine nouns (the ‘count’ form), which has traditionally been considered a form of plural agreement. The analysis of the Bulgarian facts (which are not well known), extends to Russian nouns combining with paucal numerals (a phenomenon that has been studied extensively), refuting the need for positing a paucal number in that language. I end with a suggestion that what underlies variation in number marking across and within languages is that there are two routes to obtaining cardinality measures.