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Linguistics Fridays Colloquium Talk – Biedny, Burner, Cudworth, Macaulay

October 19, 2018 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Classifier Medials Across Algonquian: A First Look

Jerome Biedny, Matthew Burner, Andrea Cudworth, & Monica Macaulay, UW-Madison


This paper presents a first look at verbal classifiers across a set of Algonquian languages: Blackfoot, Plains Cree, Southwestern Ojibwe, Eastern Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Menominee, Miami-Peoria, Innu, Mi’kmaq, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy-Maliseet, and Delaware. We describe the similarities and differences in classifier morphosyntax, lexical semantics, and inventory. Verbal classifiers index a salient superordinate feature of an argument or non-argument in the clause. In this presentation we restrict ourselves to the most commonly identified classifiers. We categorize them by SUBSTANCE (type of physical material), CONSISTENCY (characteristics of the substance), SHAPE (a salient aspect of an object’s form), and RESISTANCE (to movement: flexibility vs. rigidity), in the light of major typologies of classifiers: Grinevald, Aikhenvald, and Allan. The 11 most common classifiers found appear in the Appendix. Despite the disparities in the data available, we establish a first typology of verbal classifiers in Algonquian languages as a springboard for future study.

APPENDIX: Most common verbal classifiers across Algonquian languages


PA (sample)

PA meaning

“water”: liquid


water, liquid (JH)

“water”: liquid


water, liquid (JH)

“stone, metal”: inorganic solid


stone, metal (JH)

“wood”: organic solid


wood, solid (JH); wood, tree, solid (LB46)

“wood”: processed


lumber, boards (JH)

“grass”: organic plant matter


plants, herbs, grass (JH)

“stringlike”: long, flexible


string (JH); elongated thing, string, row (LB46)

“sheetlike”: flat, flexible


cloth (JH)

“berry”: round, granular


berry (JH)

“body, belly”: round, hollow


body, waist, middle (JH); whole body, belly (LB46)



hole, opening (JH)


October 19, 2018
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Event Category:


201 Van Hise