linguoboy wrote: vijayjohn wrote: linguoboy wrote:
dEhiN wrote:I think there are languages in Africa that solely use the term class and have something like 4 or 6 (or maybe more?) classes. The grammar is literally broken down into Noun Class I, Noun Class II, etc.
Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as having 19 noun classes
. Most modern Bantu languages retain fewer (Swahili has about 16), but Shona actually exhibits 20..
FWIU this is misleading because the even-numbered "classes" are just the plural forms of the odd-numbered ones
Why is that "misleading"? In many if not most cases the affixes are completely different. It's not like there's a consistent pluralising element which can be added to any singular noun class to yield the plural forms. Each set of correspondences has to be memorised individually.
Sure, they have to be learned individually, but that's (usually) a separate concept from noun classes per se. German has three classes (genders), but seven common ways to form plurals. We don't say that means German has seven noun classes or some number of noun clases formed from a combination of those three genders plus the different plural endings possible within each gender; it's still just three classes/genders even though there are multiple ways to form their plurals.
On a similar note, grammatical cases are generally not counted separately for singular and plural either, even though they too usually require memorizing singular and plural affixes (or changes) separately for each grammatical case. (To put it this way: Estonian has 14 cases, not 28. Still, you have to learn the singular and plural forms. The fact that you have to learn 28 forms does not mean there are 28 cases. Linguists could have decided to count them that way, but... they didn't.)
I know grammatical cases aren't at all the same as noun classes, but in terms of a discussion of "how many forms have to be memorized" and how they are traditionally counted by linguists, it seems to make a fair comparison. Neither noun classes nor grammatical cases are specifically about "how many forms you have to memorize". (In fact, in some Finnic languages, some grammatical cases have multiple forms even for a single word, some of which change its meaning and some of which don't; again, more forms to memorize but not more cases!) Noun classes and grammatical cases are about the ways in which languages categorize (in the case of classes) and use (in the case of grammatical cases) words and concepts, not about how many forms there are to memorize. Most of the time
, for most
languages, linguists have considered singular and plural forms to belong to the same categories, even when they take different forms and whether or not there is any regularity or "consistent pluralising element" for forming them.
For Bantu languages, that's not how they are counted, but it's an anomaly. Bantu linguistics counts noun classes in a different way from the way they would be counted in most other languages, considering singular and plural to be separate classes. I agree with Vijay - for the purposes of comparing them with non-Bantu languages, it's misleading, because the number of noun classes for Bantu languages are simply counted in a different way (by tradition) from the way they are counted in most other languages and that effectively doubles the number of them.
Edit: see also this
Critics of the Meinhof's approach notice that his numbering system of nominal classes counts singular and plural numbers of the same noun as belonging to separate classes. This seems to them to be inconsistent with the way other languages are traditionally considered, where number is orthogonal to gender (according to the critics, a Meinhof-style analysis would give Ancient Greek 9 genders). If one follows broader linguistic tradition and counts singular and plural as belonging to the same class, then Swahili has 8 or 9 noun classes, Sotho has 11 and Ganda has 10.