Tid: må den 31 maj kl. 15-17
Plats: C 307


The hierarchic status of adnominal cardinal numerals has been discussed by many linguists (cf. Corbett 1978, Melcuk 1985, Hurford 1987 etc.). However, the problem is connected to the general theoretical issue of defining the head/modifier status of a syntactic element. In this connection, various criteria have been proposed for determining the dependency direction (see e.g. Zwicky 1985), but many of them are either language-specific or allow of several controversial interpretations, and in general, there seems to be no uniform decision since the concept of HEAD itself has not received a commonly accepted definition.

In our study so far, the focus has been made on morphosyntatic manifestations of the head status. Typological investigations prove there to be no universal, i.e. uniform, head or dependent function assignment to cardinal numerals. It can be shown that in many languages the morphosyntactic treatment of numerals parallels that of another word class whose syntactic function can be stated unambiguously, and that, according to this test, numeral constructions in these languages form two different groups: constructions with numerals as syntactic modifiers of nouns vs. constructions with numerals used as heads of the NP, the quantified noun being the dependent element.

The head/dependent status of numerals correlates with their further morphosyntactic features, first of all with their word class affinity (cf. Böhm passim) and the preferred pragmatico-syntactic function of numerals in the language at hand. Thus, for example, numerals with a noun-like morphosyntactic behaviour are more likely to become heads of the NP (cf. high numerals in Duala, Russian and other languages), and so do numerals that preferably pattern like sentence predicates (as in Samoan or Maori). In this respect, however, it is important to mention a striking autonomy of different levels of linguistic structure with respect to the morphosyntactic behaviour of numerals: thus, a numeral can have morphological characteristics of a noun but function like an attributive adjective, i.e. as modifier.