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Article

Numeral classifiers in Udi: a unique contact-induced development among Nakh-Daghestanian?

Following Stilo’s (2018) study of small-inventory classifier systems in a number of Indo-European, Turkic, Kartvelian and Semitic languages of the Araxes-Iran Linguistic Area, the paper presents an account of numeral classifiers in Udi, a Nakh-Daghestanian (Lezgic) language spoken in northern Azerbaijan. Being a pripheral member of the linguistic area in question, Udi possesses an even more reduced version of a small-classifier system, comprising one optional classifier dänä (Iranian borrowing, most likely via Azerbaijani) used with both human and inanimate nouns. A dedicated classifier for humans is lacking, although there is a word tan (also of Iranian origin) only used after numerals or quantifiers, but predominantly as a noun phrase head. The behaviour of dänä and tan is scrutinized, according to a set of parameters, in both spoken and written textual corpora of the Nizh dialect of Udi. Drawing in the data from the related Nakh-Daghestanian languages, the paper shows that among the languages of the family Udi may be unique in possessing classifiers (albeit as a result of contact), Khinalug possibly being the only other exception.