Gender and numeral classifiers in Modern Nepali and their Proto-Indo-European analogues

Marcin Kilarski, Piotr Gąsiorowski


Proto-Indo-European (PIE) had two grammatical genders (common and neuter); the feminine was a shared innovation of the non-Anatolian part of the family. Using comparison with Modern Nepali, we argue that the puzzling feminine forms of the numerals ‘3’ and ‘4’ in Celtic and Indo-Iranian, and possibly also some similar constructions in Latin and Old Irish, are survivals of a system of numeral classifiers predating the full gender system. They contain the feminine element * s(o)r-, grammaticalized as a numeral classifier in PIE. A similar situation is attested in Nepali, where grammatical gender occurs alongside numeral classifiers. Analogies between numeral phrases in PIE and Nepali help elucidate the historical development in question.


Nepali; Proto-Indo-European; nominal classification; grammatical gender; numeral classifiers

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Copyright (c) 2020 Marcin Maria Kilarski, Piotr Gąsiorowski

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