numeral classifiers

Measure words, in linguistics, are words (or morphemes) that are used in combination with a numeral to indicate the count of nouns. Measure words often classify the noun they modify into some semantic class and consequently measure words are considered numeral classifiers, closely akin, but distinct from grammatical number. Measure words are most often used when counting. Their use is analogous to English words that represent units or portions of mass nouns, for example one drop of milk, fifty head of cattle, three pieces of cake.

Measure words are part of the grammar of most East Asian languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Thai, and Vietnamese, plus Bengali just to the west of this area, as well as many Indigenous languages of the Americas near the Pacific coast, including Classic Maya. They also occur in some languages of the Amazon Basin and a very small number of West African languages.

They are also known as counters, count words, counter words, or counting words.

Indo-European languages

In contrast to Asian languages and others, measure words are not grammatical in the case of most Indo-European languages including English.

English

English has a distinction between mass nouns and count nouns, and employs a small number of fixed words that can be considered semantically-oriented counters. Consider the following:
  • five head of cattle (said by ranchers)
  • ten stem of roses (said by florists)
  • three pair of pants (or pairs)
Note that the preceding measure words are singular in form. If they were plural, the first two phrases would have different meanings.

Most measure words in English are more accurately called units of measurement. They are normal count nouns, not grammatical particles. A measure word is the only way to quantify a mass noun:
  • three cups of coffee
  • four kernels of corn, three ears of corn, two bushels of corn
  • one litre of water
A water or a corn (taken in the sense of grain) do not make sense and are almost never heard.

With count nouns, however, measure words are unnecessary. A number alone can be used as an adjective to modify the noun to be counted:
  • four pencils
  • three horses
However you cannot say "three cattles".

English also features some cases in which the number and the measure word are combined as a single word: for example, when counting
  • golfers: twosome, threesome, foursome...
  • musicians: solo, duet, trio, quartet...
  • wombmates: twins, triplets, quadruplets....
See also collective noun for a concept related to measure words that is found in English.

Bengali

Although not typical for an Indo-European language, Bengali makes use of measure words. Every noun in this language must have its corresponding measure word (MW) when used with a numeral or other quantifier. Most nouns take the generic measure word ţa, although there are many more specific measure words, such as jon, which is only used to count humans. Still, the number of measure words in Bengali certainly does not compare to that of Chinese or Japanese. As in Chinese, Bengali nouns are not inflected for number.

Bengali Literal English translation Normal English translation
Nôe-ţa ghoŗiNine-MW clockNine clocks
Kôe-ţa balishHow.many-MW pillowHow many pillows
Ônek-jon lokMany-MW personMany people
Char-pañch-jon shikkhôkFour-five-MW teacherFour or five teachers


Similar to the situation in Chinese, measuring nouns in Bengali without their corresponding measure words (e.g. aţ biŗal instead of aţ-ţa biŗal "eight cats") would typically be considered ungrammatical. However, omitting the noun and preserving the measure word is grammatical and not uncommon to hear. For example, Shudhu êk-jon thakbe. (lit. "Only one-MW will remain.") would be understood to mean "Only one person will remain.", since jon can only be used to count humans. The word lok "person" is implied.

Russian

The Russian language basically follows English in this aspect.

Russian has a distinction between mass nouns and count nouns, and employs a small number of fixed words that can be considered semantically-oriented counters. Consider the following: Note that unlike English, the preceding measure words are plural in form.

Certain numerals (ten, dozen, hundred), etc. may serve as measure words.

East Asian languages

Languages such as Ainu, Bangla, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai use measure words as the standard way of indicating the count of the number of items, rather than, as in most Indo-European languages, allowing numbers to count a noun directly.

Chinese

Main article: Chinese measure word


In Mandarin, nouns are not conjugated for singular or plural numerus; a noun without a classifier can be translated as either singular or plural. Classifiers are used when enumerating a count noun:

Chinese Literal translation Grammatically correct/idiomatic translation
他有三雙筷子。
他有三双筷子。
Tā yǒu sān shuāng kuaìzi.
He have three pair chopstick.He has three pairs of chopsticks.
你有沒有七張桌子?
你有没有七张桌子?
Nǐ yǒu méi yǒu qī zhāng zhuōzi?
You have-not-have seven [flat-thing classifier] table?Do you have seven tables?
一個人
一个人
yī ge rén
one [general classifier] personone person or a person


In contrast to the above examples from English, Chinese measure words are obligatory with enumeration of all count nouns; "yī rén" in modern Chinese when used as a measure word is grammatically incorrect, though uses elsewhere, and in classical Chinese, can be found. The choice of a classifier for each noun is a matter of grammar, is somewhat arbitrary–though frequently corresponds with a relatively well-defined classification of objects based on physical characteristics–and must be memorized by learners of Chinese. The classifier assigned to a noun often has an imagistic association with that object. Thus, zhāng has table as one of its meanings, and is used for large and thin objects. (Though uncommon, it is even possible to omit the noun if the choice of classifier makes the intended noun obvious–like the Bengali example above.) Not all classifier words derive from nouns. For example, the word can also be a verb meaning to grab, and is the measure word for objects that have handles.

Japanese

Main article: Japanese counter word


In Japanese grammar, most nouns are effectively mass nouns, and measure words must be used with a number when counting them. The appropriate measure word is chosen based on the kind and shape of the noun, and combines with the numeral, sometimes adopting several different forms. This is similar to noun classes in many African languages, except that the classifiers are used only when counting.

Japanese English, literal English
鉛筆五本
enpitsu go-hon
pencil five cylindrical-thingsfive pencils
犬三匹
inu san-biki
dog three animal-thingsthree dogs
子供四人
kodomo yo-nin
child four people-thingsfour children
鶏三羽
niwatori san-wa
chicken three bird-thingsthree chickens
ヨット三艘
yotto san-so
yacht three boat-thingsthree yachts
車一台
kuruma ichi-dai
car one mechanical-thingone car
トランプ二枚
toranpu ni-mai
playing card two flat-thingstwo cards

See also

Linguistics is the scientific study of language, which can be theoretical or applied. Someone who engages in this study is called a linguist.
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In morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest linguistic unit that has semantic meaning. In spoken language, morphemes are composed of phonemes (the smallest linguistically distinctive units of sound), and in written language morphemes are composed of graphemes (the
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numeral system (or system of numeration) is a framework where a set of numbers are represented by numerals in a consistent manner. It can be seen as the context that allows the numeral "11" to be interpreted as the binary numeral for three
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Examples
A proper or common noun can co-occur with an article or an attributive adjective. Verbs and adjectives can't. As usual, a `*' in front of an example means that this example is ungrammatical.
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grammatical number is grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one" or "more than one").[1]
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English}}} 
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mass noun (also uncountable noun or non-count noun) is a common noun that presents entities as an unbounded mass. Given that different languages have different grammatical resources, the actual test for which nouns are mass nouns may vary from language to language.
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East Asian languages describe two notional groupings of languages in East and Southeast Asia:
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Chinese or the Sinitic language(s) (汉语/漢語, Pinyin: Hànyǔ; 华语/華語, Huáyǔ; or 中文, Zhōngwén) can be considered a language or language family.
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Japanese
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Thai (
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Vietnamese (tiếng Việt, or less commonly Việt ngữ[1]), formerly known under the French colonization as Annamese (see Annam), is the national and official language of Vietnam.
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Indigenous languages of the Americas (or Amerindian Languages) are spoken by indigenous peoples from the southern tip of South America to Alaska and Greenland, encompassing the land masses which constitute the Americas.
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The Classic Maya language is the oldest historically-attested member of the Mayan language family. It is the main language documented in the pre-Columbian inscriptions of the Classic Era Maya civilization.
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Languages of Africa are a diverse set of languages, many of which bear little relation to one another. European language has a great deal of influence due to the recent history of colonization.

There are an estimated 2000 languages spoken in Africa.
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Indo-European languages comprise a family of several hundred related languages and dialects [1], including most of the major languages of Europe, the northern Indian subcontinent (South Asia), the Iranian plateau (Southwest Asia), and much of Central Asia.
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English}}} 
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mass noun (also uncountable noun or non-count noun) is a common noun that presents entities as an unbounded mass. Given that different languages have different grammatical resources, the actual test for which nouns are mass nouns may vary from language to language.
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In linguistics, a count noun (also countable noun) is a noun which can be modified by a numeral and occur in both singular and plural form, as well as co-occurring with quantificational determiners like every, each, several, most, etc.
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ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool.
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Floristry, flower arranging, floral arrangement, floral design or floral arts is the art of creating flower arrangements in vases, bowls and baskets, or making bouquets and compositions from cut flowers, foliage, herbs, ornamental grasses and other
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grammatical number is grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one" or "more than one").[1]
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Plural is a grammatical number, typically referring to more than one of the referent in the real world.

In the English language, singular and plural are the only grammatical numbers.

In English, nouns, pronouns, and demonstratives inflect for plurality.
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units of measurement have played a crucial role in human endeavour from early ages up to this day. Disparate systems of measurement used to be very common. Now there is a global standard, the International System (SI) of units, the modern form of the metric system.
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In linguistics, the term particle is often employed as a useful catch-all lacking a strict definition. In general, it is understood that particles are function words that tend to be uninflected — that is, words which do not have suffixes, for example, that reflect grammatical
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The litre or liter (see spelling differences) is a unit of volume. There are two official symbols, namely the Latin letter L both in lower and upper case: l and L.
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In music, a solo is a piece or a section of a piece played or sung by a single performer (solo is a Spanish word literally meaning alone). In practice this means a number of different things, depending on the type of music and the context.
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