Nominal domain


The units in this section will focus on major issues with respect to classifier systems:
  • the synchronic and historical variation in classifier systems in Mayan languages;
  • the need for numeral classifiers (in some Mayan languages) and its interaction with number properties (in particular the optionality of plurals);
  • the nature of classifier systems: beyond numeral classifiers, a different system, known as "noun classifiers", is found in languages of the Cuchumatanes region of Guatemala, where it coexists with a limited system of numeral classifiers. It is a much rarer system around the languages of the world and offers an interesting system of categorization reflecting many aspects of the local cultures.


Barbara Blaha Pfeiler

CEPHSIS, Merida, Mexico

Colette Grinevald (Craig)

CNRS Lyon, DDL, France

Danny Law

University of Texas, Austin, USA

Carol-Rose Little

University of Oklahoma, USA

Stavros Skopeteas

University of Göttingen, Germany

Roberto Zavala Maldonado

CIESAS, Unidad Regional Surueste, Mexico


The acquisition of numeral classifiers in Yucatec Maya
by Barbara Blaha Pfeiler



primary role of input in acquisition, early child speech, inanimate numeral classifier, unicity, demonstrative function, acquisition of plural suffix


The Jakaltek Popti'
noun classifiers

by Colette Grinevald (Craig)



system of noun classifiers, history of accounts, categorizations and cultural value, numeral vs noun classifiers, cross-linguistic issues and evolution


The history of numeral classifiers in Mayan
by Danny Law



numeral classifiers, generic classifiers, constituency, mensurative/sortal, positional roots, variation between Mayan, borrowing and spread


Numerals and classifiers
in Mayan languages

by Carol Rose Little



numeral classifiers in the world's languages, function of classifiers, Ch'ol numeral classifiers, Chuj numeral and noun classifiers, specificity effects


Mayan classificatory systems
by Roberto Zavala Maldonado


DOI: doi/10.5281/zenodo.10475924

numeral/noun/genitive classifiers and noun classes in Mayan, classifiers and number, multiple classifiers, general classifier, origin and development


Variation and Reanalysis
by Barbara Blaha Pfeiler and Stavros Skopeteas



numeral classifiers in Yucatec Maya, generalization of classifiers, multiple classifier constructions, from mensural classifiers to measure nouns, variation in Space



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basic recommendations

Arcos López, Nicolás Los clasificadores numerales y las clases nominales en ch’ol. MA thesis, CIESAS.
Bale, Alan & Jessica Coon. 2014. Classifiers are for numerals, not for nouns: Consequences for the mass/count distinction. Linguistic Inquiry 45(4), 695–707.
Bale, Alan, Jessica Coon & Nicholás Arcos. 2019. Classifiers, partitions, and measurements: Exploring the syntax and semantics of sortal classifiers. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 4(1). 77, 1–30.
Blaha Pfeiler B., Skopeteas S. 2023. Numeral classifiers in Yucatec Maya: Microvariation and Syntactic Change. Journal of Historical Syntax (under review).
Grinevald Craig, Colette. 1986a. Jacaltec Noun Classifiers: A Study in Language and Culture. In C. G. Craig (ed.), Noun Classes and Categorization, Benjamins North America, pp. 263-295.
Grinevald Craig, Colette. 1986b. Jacaltec Noun Classifiers: A Study in Grammaticalization. Lingua 70: 241 284.
Grinevald Craig, Colette. 1990. Los clasificadores de nombre en Jacalteco: una innovación kanjobalana. In Nora England (ed.), Lecturas sobre la lingüística maya. Antigua: CIRMA, pp. 253-268.
Grinevald Craig, Colette. 1992. Classifiers in a functional perspective. In M. Fortescue, P. Harder, L. Kristoffersen (Eds.), Layered Structure and Reference in a Functional Perspective. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins, pp. 277-303.
Grinevald Craig, Colette. 2000. A morphosyntactic typology of classifiers. In Gunter Senft (ed.), Systems of nominal classification, 50–92. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grinevald Craig, Colette. 2016. The Jakaltek Popti’ noun classifier system: Changes due to Spanish contact. In A. L. Berez Kroeker, D. Hintz, C. Jany (eds.), Language Contact and Change in the Americas: Studies in honor of Marianne Mithun, pp. 273-296.
Grinevald Craig, Colette. 2015. Classifiers. Linguistics of . In James D. Wright (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, [Second Edition]. Oxford: Elsevier. 811–818.
Lehmann, Christian. 2010. On the function of numeral classifiers. In Franck Floricic (ed.), Essais de typologie et de linguistique générale: mélanges offerts à Denis Creissels, 435–445. Lyon: École Normale Supérieure.
Law, Danny. 2020. Pattern borrowing, linguistic similarity, and new categories: Numeral classifiers in Mayan. Morphology 30, 347–372.
Little, Carol Roses. 2022. Against a generalized quantifier analysis of certain quantity expressions in Ch’ol. Proceedings of SALT 32, 498–521.
Little, Carol Rose, Mary Moroney & Justin Royer. 2022. Classifiers can be for numerals or nouns: Two strategies for numeral modification. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 7(1). 1–35.
Lucy, John A. 1992. Grammatical categories and cognition: a case study of the linguistic relativity hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pfeiler, Barbara. 2009. The acquisition of numeral classifiers and optional plural marking in Yucatec Maya. In Ursula Stephany & Maria D. Voeikova (eds.), Development of nominal inflection in first language acquisition: a cross-linguistic perspective, 91–110. Mouton de Gruyter.
Royer Justin. 2022. Decomposing definiteness: Evidence from Chuj. Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique. 2022;67(3):383-418. doi:10.1017/cnj.2022.23.
Zavala, Roberto. 2000. Multiple classifier systems in Acatec (Mayan). In Gunter Senft (ed.), Systems of nominal classification, 114–146. Cambridge University Press.