In languages with numeral classifier systems, nouns must generally appear with one of a series of classifiers in order to be modified by a numeral. This squib presents new data from Mi’gmaq (Algonquian) and Chol (Mayan), arguing that numeral classifiers are required because of the syntactic and semantic properties of the numeral (as in Krifka 1995), rather than the noun (as in Chierchia 1998). The results are shown to have important consequences for the mass/count distinction.

Mandarin Chinese is a frequently cited example of a language with numeral classifiers. As shown in (1), classifiers cannot be dropped in the presence of numerals.

Krifka (1995) and Chierchia (1998) provide two very different accounts of the theoretical distinction between languages with classifiers (like Mandarin) and those without (like English). Chierchia links the distinction to the nominal system, arguing that nonclassifier languages have a mass/count distinction among nouns, while...

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