Linguists have not fully explored the correlation between sociolinguistic variation and pragmatics of nominal classifier systems. When pragmatics is discussed, the focus is usually on anaphora under a restricted conceptualization of “discourse” that closely resembles the co-text of an utterance, that is, the surrounding text context (e.g., Craig 1994; Aikhenvald 1994; Sands 1995; Zavala 2000). Zavala (2000:139) discusses at length the “discourse-pragmatic” properties and functions of classifiers in Akatek Mayan which control “[t]he presence or absence of noun classifiers.” Under this framework, “noun classifiers are used to mark third-person nominals as individuated, referential and thematically important items in discourse” (Zavala 2000:140). However, this notion of “discourse-pragmatic” is quite constrained, in that “discourse” is generally limited to the immediately surrounding utterances (i.e., the co-text) and “pragmatic” largely operates under the sense of other-than-syntactic, such as overt use of a noun classifier in early discourse for purposes of foregrounding that changes to zero anaphora in subsequent utterances.
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