Both isolating languages and inflected languages can have ways of marking noun classes like masculine nouns, nouns that stand for flat things, etc. Some isolating languages, like Chinese, have classifiers that outnumber the grammatical genders in highly inflected European languages.

I'm betting that classifiers in isolating languages don't trigger anything like agreement rules. Are there other disanalogies between noun classification schemes in isolating languages and noun classification schemes in more inflected languages?


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A big thing is that gender is frequently lexical. That is, a noun is a certain gender, and it's ungrammatical to use the wrong one. Classifiers frequently don't work that way. For instance, you could use a "flat round thing" classifier in Chinese with a sunflower if you're focussing on the petals, or you might use "tall skinny thing" if you're referring to the whole thing, stalk included. I can't remember the references talking about this point, but it's generally true.

Also, classifiers are almost always used in particular kinds of syntactic contexts. Normally with numerals, and sometimes with determiners.

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