Scalar Inferences of Minimizers in Numeral Classifier Languages
The use of expressions involving ‘one’ as minimizers is common crosslinguistically. ‘One’-phrases are employed as minimizing constructions in other numeral classifier languages as well, such as in Japanese and Korean. Like Mandarin Chinese, these numeral classifier languages lack articles, either definite or indefinite. The actual meaning of their ‘one’-phrases has to be determined by the constructions in which they occur. ‘One’-phrases are special in numeral classifier languages because they are composed of three components: the numeral ‘one’, a classifier, and a noun. The ordering of the three components can lead to different sets of scalar inferences. Each type of word order reflects its correspondent information structure. The correlation between ordering, focus, and the choice of scales shows how conceptual scales are contextually and structurally determined.