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THE NUMERAL




With numerals, even more than with pronouns, it is difficult to keep the strictly grammatical approach and not to let oneself be diverted into lexicological considerations. O. Jespersen has quite rightly remarked that numerals have been treated by grammarians in a different way from other parts of speech. This is what he says, "...the grammarian in this chapter on numerals does what he never dreamed of doing in the two previous chapters (those on nouns and adjectives. — B. I.), he gives a complete and orderly enumeration of all the words belonging to this class." 2

It seems therefore all the more necessary to stick to the grammatical aspect of things when dealing with this particular category of words. What, indeed, ought to be said about numerals from a grammatical viewpoint?

There are no grammatical categories to be discussed in numerals. There is no category of number, nor of case, nor any other morphological category. The numerals are, to all intents and purposes, invariable. So there is only the function of numerals to be considered, and also possibilities of their substantivisation.

The most characteristic function of numerals is of course that of an attribute preceding its noun. However a numeral can also perform other functions in the sentence (it can be subject, predicative, and object) if the context makes it clear what objects are meant, as in: We are seven, Of the seven people 1 was looking for I found only three.

1 A special ease is another; here the indefinite article has become an integral part of the pronoun in the singular.

2 O. Jespersen, The Philosophy of Grammar, p. 37.


The Numeral 73

An ordinal numeral can also be modified by an infinitive denoting the action in which the object mentioned occupies a definite place; a characteristic example of this usage is, He was the first to come.

The numerals, both cardinal and ordinal, share certain peculiarities of syntactic construction with pronouns. Cf., e. g., five children, five of the children, five of them; some children, some of the children, some of them; also the first travellers, the first of the travellers, the first of them. This, however, does not seem a sufficient reason for uniting pronouns and numerals into one part of speech, and such a union has not so far been proposed. 1

1 Academician L. Sšerba proposed in his paper on parts of speech in Russian to establish a part of speech called quantitative words (количественные слова), which would include both cardinal numerals and words such as many, several, etc. He has not been followed in this by any other scholar. (See Л. В. Щерба, О частях речи в русском языке. Избранные работы по русскому языку, стр. 73.)



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