Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Linguistics & Cognitive Science

Reader 1

Michael Diercks

Reader 2

Mary Paster

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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© 2024 Xuehuai He


"There are twenty or thirty people." What exactly does this mean? Is it exactly twenty or thirty, or is it an approximate range? What about "twenty or twenty-six people"?

Approximating number pairs (ANPs) are a kind of approximative expression that takes a number pair and expresses a quantity close to it. There are constraints on the structure and choice of numerals: many combinations would be ungrammatical or denote a precise disjunction rather than being approximative. Studies like Eriksson et al. (2010) statistically generalized the grammar of ANPs through corpus studies on select European languages. However, these surface-level generalizations fail to apply straightforwardly to an analytical, classifier language like Mandarin.

This paper offers a description of Mandarin ANPs, proposing a new set of rules for the well-formedness of ANPs based on grammatical rather than mathematical properties. The new proposals also align with theories of other approximatives in Mandarin, shedding light on the cognition of approximation.