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Counting and the grammar: Case and numerals in Inari Sami


By: Diane Nelson and Ida Toivonen

This paper examines new data from Inari Sami which pose a challenge for two basic principles within generative grammar, namely that the lexicon consists of an unordered set, and that rules of the grammar cannot “count”. Drawing on evidence from the system of case and numerals in Inari Sami, we first discuss the data in light of Case Theory, in order to identify the structural relations and mechanisms involved in Inari Sami.

We then examine several theories of numerals from a cross-linguistic perspective, and conclude that none of the existing theories can account for the Inari Sami data while still maintaining the assumptions mentioned above. We claim that the best explanation for the data lies in a structured, ordered lexicon, in which certain lexical items are acquired and stored in a particular numerical order, to which morphosyntactic rules and processes may be sensitive.

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