Numerals and their Position in Universal Grammar

Mark Donohue 1
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1Australian National University Singapore

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


One of Greenberg’s claims concerning the appearance of numerals as modifiers concerns the order of the elements, suggesting that post-nominal numerals are “favored in indefinite and approximate constructions”. Examining a small but representative body of data from a variety of languages, and one of the common grammaticalisation targets of singular numerals, the indefinite article, we conclude that the generalisation does not have a universal status, and exists at best as a statistical universal.

Keywords: word order; numerals; Greenberg; lexical classes



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