From classifiers to subordination: Nominal origins of relativizers and subordinators in Tù’un na Ñuu Sá Mátxíí Ntxè’è (Mixtec)

AMERINDIA 43: 177-210, 2021

University of California


Abstract: Grammaticalization patterns of nominal classification devices suggest that class terms tend to evolve into classifier systems, which may develop into gender and noun class systems. Additionally, classifiers are involved in the grammaticalization of other morphosyntactic categories, including applicatives, benefactives, and tense. This paper provides evidence for noun classifiers as the source of relative pronouns and subordinators in Tù’un na Ñuu Sá Mátxtíí Ntxè’è (San Martín Duraznos Mixtec, Otomanguean) and identifies a grammaticalization pathway from different generic nouns in the language to noun classifiers, thence to third person pronouns, relative pronouns, and finally subordinators. Each step on the grammaticalization cline is functionally motivated and is consistent with cross-linguistic patterns of language change, and thus this study provides new insight into the sources of relativizers.