IIT Madras – Humanities and Social Sciences

Department of Humanities & Social Sciences

Indian Institute of Technology Madras

International workshop on Nominalization, Gender and Classifiers

Jointly organized by

Collaborative Research Project “Empirical Study of the Typology
of Nominalization—from Theoretical, Fieldwork, Historical and Dialectal
Perspective”, National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics,
(NINJAL) Japan


The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India

Date: 1st August (Monday), 2022

Venue: HSB356, IIT Madras



9:30 to 9:45    Welcome address by Professor Jyotirmaya Tripathy, Head of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras

9:45 to 10:00  Introduction by Professor Prashant Pardeshi, NINJAL

10:00 to 12:00
Talk 1

Toward “Dynamic Functional Typology”—Nominalization, gender, and classifiers—

Masayoshi Shibatani
Rice University/Kobe University/University of Tokyo

While Functional Typology yields certain generalizations about form-function correlations, it, like a (synchronic) descriptive grammar, does not explain how a language ends up displaying such generalizations. By incorporating a diachronic perspective, the diverse marking patterns of grammatical nominalizations in Amami Ryukyuan of Japan are explained in terms of two competing economic motivations; namely, the hearer’s economy motivating innovations toward diversity in form, and the speaker’s economy driving changes toward form uniformity. This dynamicization of functional typology is also useful in understanding cross-linguistic patterns of gender and classifier-marking, which, we contend, have been mishandled by leading researchers in the field such as Corbett (1991) for the former and Allen (1977) and Aikhenvald (2019) for the latter. In particular, we advance the claim that grammatical genders and (numeral) classifiers nominalize numerals, demonstratives, and other structures and at the same time classify what is being denoted according to the gender- and classifier-classes of the language. In other words, genders and classifiers are specifically classifying types of nominalization, while ordinary nominalizations classify minimally, if at all.


12:00 to 13:30


13:30 to 14:30
Talk 2

Classifier and Gender marking in Marathi: A nominalization perspective

National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics

In previous studies, classifier, gender marking and relativization are treated as distinct, unrelated phenomena. Under such treatments, the question of why numerals, demonstratives, genitives, adjectives and relative clauses all modify a noun receives no ready answer. The goal of this talk is to revisit these adnominal structures in Marathi and to demonstrate that they are instances of grammatical nominalizations as claimed by Shibatani (2019, 2021). With ample data it will be shown that grammatical genders and (numeral) classifiers nominalize numerals and other adnominals and at the same time classify what is being denoted by these constructions. So-called relative clauses (both headed and headless) are V-based nominalizations, which are further nominalized by genders in gender-marking languages like Marathi.


14:30 to 15:00
Tea break


15:00 to 16:00
Talk 3

Assamese and Bengali classifiers
A comparative study in nominalization perspective

Gitanjali Bez
Department of Linguistics, Gauhati University

The nominalization perspective on classifiers opened up by Shibatani (2019, 2021) brings about intriguing results hitherto hidden in the study of classifiers. Methodologically, it provides a useful framework in systematically comparing classifiers across languages. The present study demonstrates these by looking into the patterns of the grammatical uses and distributions of classifiers in Assamese and Bengali, the two closely related Eastern Indo-Aryan languages in northeast India.

By applying the methodology of studying nominalizations to the investigation of classifiers, Shibatani (2021) came up with the following hierarchy that he claims governs the synchronic distribution patterns and the diachronic development of classifiers (and gender marking):

NUM > DEM > GEN > ADJ > V-based nominalizations

(NUM=numerals, DEM=demonstratives, GEN > genitives,

ADJ=adjectives, V-based nominalizations=participles)

This hierarchy coupled with the two usage patterns of NP- and modification use provides a fine-grained comparative framework equipped with the powers for constraining the synchronic distribution patterns and for predicting historical developments of classifiers across languages. The study conducted shows that Assamese and Bengali both furnish a paradigm case for the Shibatani hierarchy in following it strictly and revealing the systematic differences between the two languages, indicating, in particular, that Assamese is more advanced in its use of classifiers compared to Bengali, as in the following summaries:


Bengali (colloquial variety)

NP Use:       NUM   >  OPTDEM >  OPTGEN  > *OPTADJ   >  *V-based nominalization

Mod use:     NUM   >  OPTDEM >     *GEN   >     *ADJ   >  *V-based nominalization


Assamese (colloquial variety)

NP use:       NUM  >     DEM   >  OPTGEN  > *OPTADJ  > *OPTV-based nominalization

Mod use:     NUM  > OPTDEM  >  OPTGEN  >      *ADJ  >     *V-based nominalization

(No mark=CLF marking obligatory; OPT=optional CLF marking; *OPT=CLF marking if the referent is
definite; no marking for indefinite referents; *= CLF marking impossible)


16:00 to 16:30

Discussions and Closing Remarks by Professor Rajesh Kumar