Japanese language has morphemes which only appear next to a numeral when a speaker counts things. They are called josuushi or “numeratives”. Typical examples are -ko, -mai, -hon, and -dai. They also categorise the referent of a noun terms of its animacy, shape, size, function, and properties.
It is estimated that there are more than 500 numeratives in modern Japanese. This presentation is going to analyze what kind of cognitive activities are working when a native speaker picks an appropriate numerative out of the vast list of morphemes. For example, -hiki is a numerative used when we count creatures in general, such as insects, fish, reptiles, small mammals and even bacteria. Bigger mammals, such as elephants, horses, and whales are preferred to be counted with -tou, while we have collected several examples which allow the use of -tou to count beetles, butterflies, and small mammals. It proves that speakers see some common features between elephants and beetles when they count.
Another example is -hon considered to be used in counting long objects such as pens, strings, trees and roads. It is interesting that this numerative is also used to count shapeless entities such as homeruns, rehearsals, phone calls, pieces of email correspondence, TV programs, and Judo’s techniques.
In conclusion, we will show the cognitive frameworks which are filtering the morphological application of numeratives in Japanese, and consider the cultural backgrounds affecting them.
Dr Iida holds a PhD from the University of Tokyo and is a professor in the Faculty of Global Management at Chuo University, in Tokyo, Japan. She was a visiting scholar at UCLA from 2015 to 2017, and has been a director of Japan Naming Association since 2019.
Her area of specialisation is in the field of linguistics, focusing particularly on analysing how to count things in modern Japanese, known as “numeratives”. She is one of the pioneers in this field, well known as the author of Kazoekata-no-Jiten (The Dictionary of Counting Things) (Shogakukan, 2004), which has sold more than 110,000 copies worldwide.
Currently she is instructing students who specialise in advertising, and holds a seminar titled “How to Attract Consumers from a Linguistic Approach”. She is an active copywriter winning prestigious advertisement contests, such as The Senden-kaigi Award (2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019). She also was an active member of the “Tokyo Sky Tree” Name Review Committee. Her research regarding the techniques of writing copy is crystallised in the book ‘A, sore hoshī!’ To Omowa Seru Kōkoku Kopī no Kotoba Jiten (I want it! The Word Dictionary of Ad Copy) (Nikkei Business Publications, 2017).