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date: 28 May 2020

Summary and Keywords

This article provides an overview of approaches to numerals within the field of morphology. As is well known, any strict separation between morphology, semantics and syntax is hardly feasible. However, to the extent possible, this study is focused on reviewing approaches to the structural properties of numerals much more than on studies of their uses or integration with other language units. A survey of the pertinent literature shows that there is an imbalance in the study of different kinds of numerals: cardinals have been studied in greater detail than any other kinds of numerals. The morpho-syntactic aspects of cardinal numerals have been discussed in a number of works but corresponding analyses remain in demand for most numeral derivatives, other than ordinals and distributives.

Cardinal numerals have been shown to share features with some open word classes, most often with adjectives for the lower members of the set and with nouns for the higher members of the set. However, it has also been pointed out that cardinal numerals remain distinct from other word classes, and this distinction is best described in semantic terms. The use of cardinal numerals as sole or redundant markers of plurality is often related to semantic factors such as animacy and individuation, in some cases also to focus and referentiality. There are different views on whether cardinals in a phrase such as numeral noun should be regarded as heads or not.

Among numeral derivatives, complex cardinals, distributive and ordinal numerals have been studied most. There is hardly any comparative work on other known numeral derivations such as multiplicatives, frequentatives, group numerals, approximatives. Currently ongoing projects highlight the cross-linguistic frequency of ordinals and distributives compared to other numerals as well as the need to discuss the basic-derived relation for all numeral derivatives and finally, the relation between numeral derivations and classifier systems on other numeral derivations.

Other topics pertinent to the wider topics of numerals in morphology concern the analysis of more derivational patterns and way(s) numerals can be included there as well as operations of conversion whereby numerals are used for the expression of approximate quantities or non-numerical concepts.

Keywords: Numerals, counting, cardinals, ordinals, distributive, approximate quantity, multiplicative, derivation, agreement, head

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