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




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


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.

Author Biographies

  • Marcin Kilarski, Adam Mickiewicz University

    Faculty of English

    Department of Contemporary English Language

    Associate Professor

  • Piotr Gąsiorowski, Adam Mickiewicz University

    Faculty of English

    Department of Older Germanic Languages

    Associate Professor

    Deputy Dean for Research and Scientific Evaluation




How to Cite

Kilarski, Marcin, and Piotr Gąsiorowski. 2020. “Gender and Numeral Classifiers in Modern Nepali and Their Proto-Indo-European Analogues”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 5 (1): 475–483.