ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Numeral classifiers in NIA – diachrony of language contact and individual developments


STRONSKI KRZYSZTOF - Adam Mickiewicz University, Oriental Studies, Poznań, Poland


19 – Beyond “linguistic areas” – Recent advances in the study of language contact in South Asia


Classifiers attested in modern NIA are said to be a contact induced phenomenon (cf. Barz and Diller 1985) but the paths of their development and distributional patterns attested in various diachronic stages are still far from clear. Most recent studies (Cathcart et al. 2020) have explored the correlation between classifiers and plural marking and thus tried to trace their origin. However, so far in all studies available to me there has been no focus on early varieties of NIA for which we have clear evidence for classifier systems. The present study aims to fill this gap exploring early NIA languages with attested literary history but also Nepali, Kumaoni, Garhwali and Chambiyali for which we have large inscriptional corpora not well investigated so far.

Preliminary results show that: a) Nepali classifier system can date back to the end of the 13th c. and b) some early western NIA languages (e.g. early Braj) as well as some Romani varieties (e.g. Kelderashi) also have some modest evidence for classifying devices which have not been borrowed.

The research has been based on the analysis of early NIA corpora (literary and inscriptional sources) as well as grammar mining.


Barz R.K. and Diller A.V. 1985. Classifiers and standardization: some South and South-East Asian comparisons. Papers in South-East Asian linguistics 9. 155-184.

Cathcart et al. 2020. Numeral classifiers and number marking in Indo-Iranian: A phylogenetic Approach. Language Dynamics and Change, 11(2):273-325.