Noun categorisation in North Halmahera

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Avdelningen för allmän språkvetenskap

Abstract: The languages spoken on northern Halmahera and surrounding small islands constitute a group of related ‘Papuan’ languages called North Halmahera. They are also, together with other Papuan and Austronesian languages, included in a proposed sprachbund which is called East Nusantara. Neuter gender and numeral classifiers have both been proposed to characterize the sprachbund. Consequently,an investigation of the noun categorisation systems in the North Halmahera languages, which is the subject of this study, can be of interest for the characterization of the sprachbund. The method for the investigation is to search for information about seven languages in existing grammatical descriptions, complemented with information which can be culled from published texts in the languages. There are mainly two categorisation systems in all the investigated languages: genders and numeral classifiers. The numerals often contain fossilized prefixes. Among the numeral classifiers, the human classifiers are special because of their origin from pronominal undergoer prefixes and the limitations of its use in some languages. Except in West Makian, there is a default classifier and a classifier for trees, and secondarily for houses, in all languages. A classifier for two-dimensional objects is also quite common. The other classifiers are used with a very limited number of nouns.

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