Number is the most underestimated of the grammatical categories. It is deceptively simple yet the number system which philosophers, logicians and many linguists take as the norm - namely the distinction between singular and plural (as in cat versus cats) - is only one of a wide range of possibilities to be found in languages around the world. Some languages, for instance, make more distinctions than English, having three, four or even five different values. Adopting a wide-ranging perspective, Greville Corbett draws on examples from many languages to analyse the possible systems of number. He reveals that the means for signalling number are remarkably varied and are put to a surprising range of special additional uses. By surveying some of the riches of the world’s linguistic resources this book makes a major contribution to the typology of categories and demonstrates that languages are much more varied than is generally recognised.

• Provides an introduction to the grammatical category of number revealing that the world’s languages are richer than even many linguists realise • Surveys a large number of languages • Each chapter illustrates a particular typological point, so the book can be used as an entry to typology


Introduction; 1. Introduction; 2. Meaning distinctions; 3. Items involved in the Nominal Number System; 4. Integrating number values and the Animacy Hierarchy; 5. The expression of number; 6. The syntax of number; 7. Other uses of number; 8. Verbal number; 9. Conclusion and new challenges.


‘Number is an area of morphosyntactic typology that has often been taken for granted by linguistic researchers. In this comprehensive typological survey, Corbett convincingly shows that the complexity and diversity of number systems in the languages of the world far surpasses what is commonly assumed.’ Thomas E. Payne, The Linguist


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