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English Quasi-Numeral Classifiers

A Corpus-Based Cognitive-Typological Study


Xu Zhang

This book is an interdisciplinary study of English binominal quantitative constructions based on English-Chinese comparison. Taking three perspectives, i.e. a functional-typological perspective, a cognitive approach, and a corpus-based method, it aims to unveil the hidden categorisation process behind the usage of English binominal quantitative constructions and to reveal the language universal in cognising the concepts of ‘Quantity’ and ‘Quality’. It argues against treating Chinese and English as members of two opposing typological camps concerning quantification modes (‘classifier languages’ versus ‘non-classifier languages’) and advocates to view the two languages as lying within a more extended and inclusive system, viz. a system of quantification and categorisation modes, or a Quantity-Quality continuum.

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Appendix II. Gathering English QNCs


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Appendix II.  Gathering English QNCs

English QNCs are gathered from two sources: grammar books and related academic publications. Possible QNCs are taken from the relevant sections of the sources (e.g. QNC-related analyses all appear in ‘quantity’ sections in grammar books), and are listed below. In the meanwhile, these QNC ‘candidates’ are identified and annotated into different types according to their meanings, in the light of the functional system expounded in Table 2.9. Non-QNC words are marked with *. Confirmed QNC cases are labelled with sub-type abbreviations indicated in brackets, e.g. ‘S-S’ for ‘Sortal-Species’, ‘S-U’ for ‘Sortal- Unit’, etc. Words wanting further explanation are underlined.

A note is needed for the QNC classification. In most cases, QNCs are rather transparent in meaning. For ambiguous cases where intuition cannot make an easy judgment, definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (online) ( are taken as the reference (for more discussion on the usage of dictionary reference, see 4.3). This happens especially in distinguishing Shape and Size QNCs. In classifiers, the two parameters Shape and Size often overlap, making it rather difficult to label some QNCs with either parameter. For instance, ‘grain’ implies both a rice-like Shape and a small Size, and ‘mountain’ a mountain-like Shape and a big Size. Somewhat arbitrarily, OED definitions are used to guide decisions in these cases. Words defined merely in the sense of ‘big’ or ‘small’ are labelled as ‘Size QNCs’, and only those defined by explicit adjectives of...

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