Talk:Measure word

Latest comment: 1 year ago by NETronnes in topic Citations


The Classifier page redirects to "Measure word", but I'm not sure if this must be so. A measure word is a specific type of classifier, but are all classifiers used exclusively for counting? I know that that's the case with Japanese and Mandarin, but I'd like to see examples of classifiers that are not measure words, if there are any. -- Pablo D. Flores 11:40, 29 Dec 2004 (UTC)

You are right. Those Chinese words are not measure words but noun classifiers. This article should be merged with noun classifier. - TAKASUGI Shinji 05:47, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)
There are other classificatory systems. Classification of nouns (or events??) doesnt necessarily have to entail semantic number. Allan (1977) identifies 4 different language types:
  1. numeral classifier langs (e.g. Thai)
  2. concordial classifier langs (e.g. Bantu, many Australian langs, Oceanic langs)
  3. predicate classifier langs (e.g. Athabaskan langs)
  4. intra-locative classifier langs (e.g. Toba, Eskimo, Dyirbal)
(see Southern_Athabaskan_languages#Classificatory_Verbs for examples of the predicate type). reading Allan is highly recommended. peace — ishwar  (SPEAK) 23:27, 2005 May 7 (UTC)
  • Allan, Keith. (1977). Classifiers. Language, 53, 2, 285-311.

Chinese nouns, language comparisonEdit

2002.05.25: Cleaned up and moved discussion from Talk to count noun article. -- pgdudda

Well, I disagree with the description of the Chinese nouns as count nouns. Even though you can count something ( pieces of furniture ) doesn't mean that it is grammatically a count noun. Because the use of the measure word is mandatory, this is grammatically equivalent to saying that all the nouns are mass nouns. I'll bet linguists have strong opinions ( on both sides) of this one. I don't speak Mandarin, so I didn't change anything even though I was tempted.

Anyway, I reformatted so that the language comparison comes after the introduction and the examples. Contrasting languages may be the reason why we notice these grammatical points, but the contrast isn't necessary to define and explain, and I think ( in the English wikipedia anyway ) that beginning with examples in English is more straightforward. -- Olof

Comparison with grammatical gender?Edit

In some respects, grammatical gendering and measure words are similar, but different, and my understanding is that there are few, if any, languages that use both. English is rare in that it uses neither, but most European languages are gendered, and most Asian languages are counted. Does anyone know enough linguistic theory to discuss the implications of this somewhere? Bigpeteb 16:11, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Number is more important than noun classes. I read somewhere that a language with noun classes always has number, and number and noun classifiers usually don't coexist. English is not exceptional, because it has number and no noun classifier. - TAKASUGI Shinji 06:14, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Sorry about all the edits on 2004-11-04 (17:51, 18:02, and 18:04). I realized I hadn't logged in after I saved the page, and the precess of attaching myself to the edit got kinda messy. --Vishahu 22:07, Nov 4, 2004 (UTC)

merge to classifierEdit

i added the merger notice. although measure words are not the same as classifiers, most of the text in this article goes with "classifier". Benwing 04:03, 10 August 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Factual inaccuracies?Edit

In contrast to the above examples from English, Chinese measure words are obligatory with enumeration of all count nouns; "yī rén" in modern Chinese is grammatically incorrect.

Contrary to what is written, "yī rén" is an acceptable phrase in modern Chinese. eg. 他一人闯进了门. Though I admit this isn't really talking about "a person barged in the door" but "he barged in the door alone". Still, the claim that "yī rén" is grammatically incorrect is false. Maybe for measure words, but not in the whole language. Besides, in classical Chinese it is definitely acceptable, eg. 三人行必有我师.
-- Миборовский U|T|C|E 06:13, 17 October 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Is quantifier synonymous to measure word? --Abdull 14:37, 24 January 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No, European languages have quantifiers, but they don't really have measure words; or at least they don't use measure words in the systematic way in which Southeast Asian words do. FilipeS (talk) 18:47, 5 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Why is the Russian in here, when it is basically the same as the English pattern? This article should be concerned with languages that are NOT like English, as English is not a true measure-word language. --SameerKhan 03:36, 29 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

English: "A water"Edit

I disagree that this is 'almost never heard.' It's used often enough in restaurants or food stands when someone is ordering a bottle or cup of water - "I'd like a water" or "we'll have three waters" for example. (In fact I was going to write "when someone is ordering a water" as my first instinct but realized that might not be clear enough.) --Dbutler1986 (talk) 16:29, 7 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Chinese classifierEdit

In case anyone is interested: the article Chinese classifier is currently up for FAC, at Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Chinese classifier/archive2. Any comments would be welcome. Thanks, rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 16:20, 27 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wrong articleEdit

This article is almost entirely about classifiers, not measure words. (For an in-depth but language-specific explanation of the difference, see Chinese classifier#Count-classifiers and mass-classifiers.) I am hoping to rewrite it when I have a chance, but for now just wanted to at least leave a message in case anyone is watching. rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 01:06, 25 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This article should be merged with classifier. Obviously what Wikipedia refers to as "measure words" and what it refers to as "classifiers" are different, and a merged article would be better prepared to elucidate the difference. Also, Wikipedia overstates the difference and consistency with which actual linguists use the two terms. The two English terms "measure word" and "classifier" can be used interchangeably, at least when talking about Chinese classifiers. I suspect it is only recently that specific author(s) have tried to delegate the two words; there is hardly a linguistic consensus--the issue is too trivial and semantic. In any case, it complicates the issue terribly to have two articles--merge! --gwc (talk) 00:34, 24 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm not sure I agree with all that. "Measure word" is used to refer to Chinese classifiers mostly in the pedagogical realm; in linguistic publications and conferences I have almost always seen 'classifier'. The differences between the two are more than just trivial semantic ones. rʨanaɢ (talk) 03:58, 24 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
DeFrancis himself uses the word "measure word" (and not "classifier") in his 1984 publication. But for modern times, "'Measure word' is used to refer to Chinese classifiers mostly in the pedagogical realm; in linguistic publications and conferences [one] almost always [sees] 'classifier'" sounds spot on to me. I wish we could work that sentence into the article. --gwc (talk) 23:38, 29 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roughly this same sentence is used in Chinese classifier#Types (near the top of the section), so we could always steal it, along with its footnote. It's referring specifically to Chinese ones, but it might be generalizable to others as well...I'm not sure though, since I personally don't have any experience with Japanese classrooms, and most other languages with classifiers don't seem to be common classroom languages in my part of the world... rʨanaɢ (talk) 02:42, 30 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Measure words with count nounsEdit

Am I right in thinking that measure words can in fact be used with both mass and count nouns? If pails in "three pails of mud" is a measure word, is it not equally so in "three pails of shells"? W. P. Uzer (talk) 16:26, 24 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If no-one object, then, I'm going to make this point. W. P. Uzer (talk) 09:16, 26 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, that's correct. rʨanaɢ (talk) 12:42, 26 August 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

“No equivalent of of” in East Asian languagesEdit

On the contrary, in Japanese, both 学生五人 gakusei go-nin (student five-CL) and 五人の学生 go-nin-no gakusei (five-CL-GEN student) are valid noun phrases meaning ‘five students’, the only difference being the emphasis. The genitive particle の no in the latter phrase has literally the same function as the English of for uncountable nouns. I’d expect Korean to be the same, but I don’t know a thing about Chinese. Anybody? Ashpilkin (talk) 00:54, 3 June 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


This article has a total of two citations (they appear as four, but it's two, each of which is repeated). Both citations only concern Chinese measure words (which as discussed above might not even be measure words but rather classifiers because linguists use different terminology from teachers), with no sources for even the definition of the term. There are a number of other specific claims of fact (such as materials for teaching Chinese as a second language generally refer to Chinese classifiers as "measure words") that are unverified, and I'm not even sure it would be possible to verify them. NETronnes, who is doing this for a class (talk) 03:10, 18 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]