(L&N) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Post by Otto Kretschmer »

Were there already Jews living in Slavic lands in Proto-Slavic times/ Weird that the word is borrowed from Italian rather than Greek or the French dialect Jews spoke.
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Otto Kretschmer wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:28 Were there already Jews living in Slavic lands in Proto-Slavic times/ Weird that the word is borrowed from Italian rather than Greek or the French dialect Jews spoke.
IIRC, the Vulgar Latin form of Iūdaeus would be, approximately, /ʝudeo/, which is, to my mind, effectively close enough to the Italian form that that's probably why it's rendered "Italian". In writing giudeo seems to go back at least the 9th Century AD, and /ʝudeo/ would have been the pronunciation in around about the 4th Century (from what I can remember), which does give some overlap with Proto-Slavic (about two centuries or so, I think).

It does seem like there were Jewish people living in places like the Balkans and other areas of Eastern Europe during the period in which Proto-Slavic was spoken, but I can't find anything on what languages they spoke (at a brief glance, it probably would have been something related to either Romance or Greek given earlier Jewish settlements in the area were around the Black Sea, when Greek and Romance languages were also spoken in the area).

Honestly, you're probably going to have to do your own digging if you want to find out why one word was borrowed while another one wasn't, especially when dealing with languages that weren't written down until after the borrowing took place.
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Post by Otto Kretschmer »

If the Latin word legion wad borrowed into Balto Slavic at the time of Principate, how would its Slavic reflex sound?
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Otto Kretschmer wrote: 08 Jan 2021 00:44 If the Latin word legion wad borrowed into Balto Slavic at the time of Principate, how would its Slavic reflex sound?
*ležǫ, maybe? Which would give Russian, for example, something like лежу?

By this time, however, I think Slavic is usually thought to be distinct from Baltic, but hadn't undergone the first palatalisation yet, so it'd be borrowed into Pre-Slavic or Early Proto-Slavic (Early Common Slavic) instead, depending on whose dates you go by.
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Post by Otto Kretschmer »

Shat other words vould be borrowed from Latin and earlier, Greek and what could their reflexes be?
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Post by qwed117 »

Silly question, but isn't this thread supposed to be pinned?
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Post by Otto Kretschmer »

If the Western Roman Empire survuved, would development of Romance languages be slowed down/prevented? In such a scenario Iberia and Gallia would continue economic development and integration with each other and would reach economic level of Italy in 6th-7th century.
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Post by Salmoneus »

How about, rather than us giving you a narrow answer, you show us some of your own thinking?

Why might you think that an enduring Empire would affect the linguistic development?
And what makes you think that your answer to that question may not be correct?
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Post by Otto Kretschmer »

I was thinking along the lines that literacy and urbanization slow down linguistic change. I see this as a reason why Greek has changed much less over last two millenia.

But I may be wrong or just partially right.
Basically surviving WRE.= More economic deveopment earlier = more urban development = more movement of population = slowdown of longuistic change
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Post by Salmoneus »

Well, I'm glad you've given it some thought! [it's better to be thoughtfully wrong than unthinkingly right...]

I'll reply in a bit more detail tomorrow, but the key thing to say immediately is: urbanisation and population movement actually both tend to lead to more language change rather than less (although there are some exceptions to this, particularly in the short term). Language change takes place in the cities - if you want to find conservative speech, go as deep into the countryside as you can get!

[in the UK, for instance, the 'oldest' dialects - that retain the oldest features and that have avoided the most innovations - are found in places like Norfolk and Wales, not London]
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Post by eldin raigmore »

Otto Kretschmer wrote: 10 Jan 2021 14:37 If the Western Roman Empire survuved, would development of Romance languages be slowed down/prevented? In such a scenario Iberia and Gallia would continue economic development and integration with each other and would reach economic level of Italy in 6th-7th century.
Slowdown of language split-up, yes;
Slowdown of language change, no.

Assuming Marc Baker (sp?) is right, “imperial simplification” would probably speed up, replacing language fragmentation.

That’s my guess.
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Post by Otto Kretschmer »

In any case, can you see a Greek population (even a few 1000s surviving from the time of Alexander until today?
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Post by Salmoneus »

Spoiler alert: a Greek population HAS survived! (linguistically, if arguably not genetically).

If you mean specifically in Western Europe: probably not, no, but theoretically maybe, but probably not, no. But I can't really answer questions properly, if you don't pause on one before moving to the next...

----------


The Roman Empire and language change...

Languages generally change when:
- babies learn it
- foreigners learn it
- speakers of a different dialect learn the mainstream dialect
- subcultures, mostly of young people, attempt to differentiate themselves from the mainstream by speaking weirdly for fun

We could sum up the first three as 'mislearning', and the fourth as 'innovation'. There's also a fifth way: when speakers of the mainstream language react to speakers of weird dialects by changing their own speech, to ensure they can be understood. We could call this 'accommodation'.

I don't know if there's an academic consensus yet - and note, I'm not a linguist! - but I think it's usually thought that, most of the time, innovation is the biggest driver of change.

Then we can talk about why languages break apart. The answer is simple: languages break into two when the speakers of one dialect do not feel compelled to accommodate speakers of another dialect anymore. This is mostly going to happen when they don't meet speakers of the other dialect as often. Mass movement brings unity, while isolation brings division.

------------

How does this apply to a unified western empire?

Greater urbanisation brings more change - all five types happen more often in more populated areas, particularly when they're connected to large-scale travel networks.
Greater political unity brings more travel, and more travel brings more change: more mislearning (in all ways other than by babies), more accommodation, and even more innovation (travel creates ghettoes, creates subcultures).


So an Enduring Empire would not, you'd expect, lead to less linguistic change. On the contrary, it would probably lead to more linguistic change.

Would it lead to less fragmentation? In theory, yes: more unity across an area, more travel, means more pressure for everyone to keep being able to understand one another.

In practice, though: not so fast. In premodern times, only a tiny number of merchants and politicians actually travelled regularly. They would need to understand one another - but ordinary peasants wouldn't. A peasant outside Lisbon wouldn't need to understand the speech of a peasant outside Bruges. Indeed nobody the one peasant ever met would ever need to talk to anybody the other peasant ever met. The great bulk of the language community would remain several degrees of separation away from any cosmopolitan elite.

So yes, maybe you'd see less fragmentation, but it certainly wouldn't be total, and I don't think it would necessarily be all that major at all.

What you would see would be a lingua franca that the ruling class spoke. And, of course, we had that in real life: Latin. I would expect people would continue to write to one another in Latin, as in reality, and that this would last a bit longer than in real life.

I wonder, though, whether they might actually stop using Classical Latin, and instead - if fragmentation is indeed a bit slower - use a more modern vernacular. You could maybe see 'Old French' as the lingua franca - though this might depend on the political details. You'd probably see polyglossia, as in early modern China: Latin (i.e. Literary Chinese) continuing to be used as the written standard for scholarly purposes, but a specific, compromise Romance language (i.e. Mandarin) being used as a spoken lingua franca by the administrative classes, and possibly written by them also in some informal contexts.

You also wouldn't see the sharp language divides that you see today: dialects would blur into one another. But this is also how things were in reality up to the 19th century: the famous saying is that in 1800 you could walk from Paris to Lisbon without ever noticing the language around you change. Nation states and the enforcement of local standard language forms through standardised education and national media are modern phenomena.


-----

Hypothetically, however, modern romance might be different. In general, large empires with lots of travel have high levels of accommodation and mislearning. They tend to be associated - though the link is controversial - with 'simple' languages, lacking complex morphologies and counterintuitive or eccentric features, because new learners struggle with these things, and natives adjust their speech to avoid thing that confuse the learners. By contrast, highly isolated areas, in which linguistic groups admit few new learners, tend to be more dominated by unfettered innovation: they change more slowly, but their changes may be weirder, and often involve more 'complicated' grammar.

Vulgar Latin, for example, simplifies the nominal and verbal systems of Classical Latin considerably, relying more on prepositions and periphrastic idioms. Many Romance languages, however, have subsequently rebuilt their verbal systems in particular. I do wonder whether maybe a unified Empire might have discouaged this rebuilding, keeping all of Romance more analytical?

I wouldn't necessarily bet much money on that, however.
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Post by Otto Kretschmer »

Regarding Greece I meant a surviving population in...

India.

Assuming it survived until today, would the language be recognized as Greek? Romani still survives
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Post by Vlürch »

In Japanese, what's the standard counter (or I guess it's not really a counter, but I'm not sure what the right term is) for things like locker numbers? There are a results on Google for "[number]号室のロッカー" and also just "[number]号のロッカー", but not many for either like I'd expect if either of them was the standard and/or most common. There are also results for "[number]つのロッカー" and "[number]部屋のロッカー", but those look like they only refer to the actual number of lockers?

While I'm at it, I'll also ask an even stupider question: what's the verb to use for something like mist, fog, etc. rising? Asking because I can't tell if the stuff I find on Google for eg. "霧が上がる" is about fog rising/increasing or clearing up... [>_<] Also, even if it is about fog rising/increasing, on the other hand there are so few results for "靄が上がる" and "霞が上がる" (but those seem kinda clear in referring to mist actually rising/increasing?) that I'm not sure it could be the right verb unless the standard is to use different verbs for the rising of fog and mist or something?
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Even in English, the idea of fog "rising" is confusing. When mists begin, they rise, and so if a mist got thicker you could loosely say it was rising. However, fogs fall, or descend. If someone told me the fog was rising, I would probably assume they meant the fog was lifting (i.e. getting less thick), rather than that it was falling further.


Why does Japanese even have counters for locker numbers? Counters are generally for counting, aren't they - i.e. for cardinal numbers. Here you're dealing with an ordinal, which I wouldn't have expected to act the same way. But I know nothing about Japanese.

It does make me wonder about English, though - what's the analysis of "cashier number 12", I wonder? Should we treat this as an appositive "cashier" and "number 12" are both names for the same person? But we never give it the intonation or spelling of a normal appositive. Should we instead treat this as a single name, with "cashier" being a form of title - as in "captain albert", and so on? But sometimes we use this construction even with inanimates, and while 'cashier' feels like it might be a title, I don't think it feels right to say that "page number 4" is giving the title "page" to something called "number 4", even if grammatically it would make sense. So is "number" a preposition - after all, it does link the presumable head to something in order to modify it. Or maybe it's a conjunction - it's not like a conjunction semantically at all, but it does seem grammatically like one. Or is it part of the number? But it's clearly added grammatically rather than lexically - there are no numbers that don't take "number" before them - so it seems like sophistry to claim it's just a coincidental integral-but-disposable part of every lexical numerical item. So maybe it's its own part of speech - a "numerator" or the like? Weird to have a part of speech just for one word - particularly given that I don't think it's ever actually grammatically required!
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Post by sangi39 »

Salmoneus wrote: 21 Jan 2021 12:53 Even in English, the idea of fog "rising" is confusing. When mists begin, they rise, and so if a mist got thicker you could loosely say it was rising. However, fogs fall, or descend. If someone told me the fog was rising, I would probably assume they meant the fog was lifting (i.e. getting less thick), rather than that it was falling further.
Which is weird, because you get phases like "the red mist descends" as well.
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Post by Vlürch »

Salmoneus wrote: 21 Jan 2021 12:53Even in English, the idea of fog "rising" is confusing. When mists begin, they rise, and so if a mist got thicker you could loosely say it was rising. However, fogs fall, or descend. If someone told me the fog was rising, I would probably assume they meant the fog was lifting (i.e. getting less thick), rather than that it was falling further.
Hmm, I hadn't thought about English having different verbs, so it'd make sense if Japanese does as well.
Salmoneus wrote: 21 Jan 2021 12:53Why does Japanese even have counters for locker numbers? Counters are generally for counting, aren't they - i.e. for cardinal numbers. Here you're dealing with an ordinal, which I wouldn't have expected to act the same way. But I know nothing about Japanese.
I just know room numbers are referred to with 号室, so eg. "3号室" is "room #3" and storeys are numbered with , eg. "3階" is "third floor". There are a lot of results on Google for both "[number]番のロッカー" and "[number]番目のロッカー" (both simply "[number]th locker"), so it could be that there's no specific and 100% unambiguous way to refer to lockers, but I'm a bit doubtful of that.

Also, I never knew about this (or at least don't remember if I had known about it), but in my attempts to figure out how locker numbers are referred to, I found out that building numbers have their own thingy: 号館, so "3号館" is "building #3". There's apparently also 号車 for train car numbers and 号線 for roads and train lines and such... I couldn't find any more, but I'd bet they exist and now I'd like to learn them.

I guess I'll ask on the /r/LearnJapanese subreddit, maybe they'll know. It's kinda embarrassing how simple things like this have taken me this long to even find out about, but it's not like I actually use Japanese in ways that I'd learn about them since my comprehension level in Japanese is unfortunately still really bad. You know, the stage of being able to understand and to some degree talk about weird specific topics but nothing actually IRL practical... [:$]
Salmoneus wrote: 21 Jan 2021 12:53It does make me wonder about English, though - what's the analysis of "cashier number 12", I wonder? Should we treat this as an appositive "cashier" and "number 12" are both names for the same person? But we never give it the intonation or spelling of a normal appositive. Should we instead treat this as a single name, with "cashier" being a form of title - as in "captain albert", and so on? But sometimes we use this construction even with inanimates, and while 'cashier' feels like it might be a title, I don't think it feels right to say that "page number 4" is giving the title "page" to something called "number 4", even if grammatically it would make sense. So is "number" a preposition - after all, it does link the presumable head to something in order to modify it. Or maybe it's a conjunction - it's not like a conjunction semantically at all, but it does seem grammatically like one. Or is it part of the number? But it's clearly added grammatically rather than lexically - there are no numbers that don't take "number" before them - so it seems like sophistry to claim it's just a coincidental integral-but-disposable part of every lexical numerical item. So maybe it's its own part of speech - a "numerator" or the like? Weird to have a part of speech just for one word - particularly given that I don't think it's ever actually grammatically required!
Never thought about that, but now...🤯
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Post by elemtilas »

Salmoneus wrote: 21 Jan 2021 12:53 It does make me wonder about English, though - what's the analysis of "cashier number 12", I wonder? Should we treat this as an appositive "cashier" and "number 12" are both names for the same person? But we never give it the intonation or spelling of a normal appositive. Should we instead treat this as a single name, with "cashier" being a form of title - as in "captain albert", and so on? But sometimes we use this construction even with inanimates, and while 'cashier' feels like it might be a title, I don't think it feels right to say that "page number 4" is giving the title "page" to something called "number 4", even if grammatically it would make sense.

So is "number" a preposition - after all, it does link the presumable head to something in order to modify it.

Or maybe it's a conjunction - it's not like a conjunction semantically at all, but it does seem grammatically like one.

Or is it part of the number? But it's clearly added grammatically rather than lexically - there are no numbers that don't take "number" before them - so it seems like sophistry to claim it's just a coincidental integral-but-disposable part of every lexical numerical item.

So maybe it's its own part of speech - a "numerator" or the like? Weird to have a part of speech just for one word - particularly given that I don't think it's ever actually grammatically required!
It is certainly an interesting construction. And you've got me thinking about it, though my conclusion is rather more prosaic than yours! Of course, loads of things can take cashier's place. House number 3; left turn number four; door number two and the like. Many of these can be replaced by ordinal numbers: third house, fourth left turn, second door. And number can be replaced by "letter", or even "station": "building letter A"; "teller station three". And we can get rid of them altogether: "house 3", "left turn 4", "door 2", "book A", etc.

I'd say that, at least in Leftpondia, "cashier", while it certainly can be used as a job title, rather than a title of rank or dignity, a person who tends the cash till in a shop or a bank, it doesn't have to be. We also use cashier to indicate the station itself, along the counter where the cash register and the credit card reader are. In fact, there is a store that has an automated announcement for people standing in the queue that says "cashier nine" or "cashier number nine", indicating that the customer ought to go to that numbered station, not that they need to go to a specific person.

I don't think this is an example of a title. It's common practice to assign internal numbers to cashiers, for accounting purposes. If there's a discrepancy in the till of Cashier #305, that'll have to be sorted, whether that individual worked at the station of "cashier number 3" or "cashier number 9" that day. In any event, it would be rather odd to address someone as "cashier" the way one might address a captain or a doctor.

While I like the idea of number being a preposition, I don't see what it would indicate. My questions would be: how exactly does the word number preposition? And then, why would that explanation work better than some kind of nominal compound like "White House Press Secretary" (which is a title). Or to follow the pattern, "trousers size 30" or "record tape eight". Do you think a word, any word, that fits in that slot is a preposition because it precedes a number?

I see what you mean by "conjunction" -- number, size, tape, they all "join" two related things. But there again, why that explanation, where we'd kind of have to stretch the meaning of "conjunction" just a little bit, rather than a simpler?

As for being part of the number, there are no numbers that don't take "number" before them, this could be a difference in dialect. "Cashier 3"; "Door 2"; "Record Book L". All of these are perfectly acceptable in US English. I (at least) would understand "Cashier 3" and "Cashier Number 3", "Door 2" and "Door Number 2" to be completely synonymous. I can't honestly think of a situation where either would be righter or wronger than the other. Nor can I think of a situation where the word "number" is actually required.

I don't see how it adds any grammatical function, though. While it being a conjunction or a preposition or an apposition are all interesting, so far I remain unconvinced that any of these are actually what's going on. Sophistry notwithstanding, at least in US English, "number" is entirely dispensable. I think in the end, "number", along with an actual number, is nothing more than an attributive noun phrase, modifying, in your example case, the word "cashier".

It is interesting that the attributive most often follows its head, but it can precede as well, though much more rarely. Airplane engines seem to be regularly so named: "number one engine"; and even cashier stations can be so termed: "number four cashier". Railway tracks in the US, for example, are always named in the usual formation: "track number one".
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elemtilas wrote: 22 Jan 2021 04:32

It is certainly an interesting construction. And you've got me thinking about it, though my conclusion is rather more prosaic than yours! Of course, loads of things can take cashier's place.
Yes, of course - I thought that would be clear from context, and from my suggestion of 'page' as an equivalent. My point wasn't about "cashier", it was about "number". What grammatical part of speech does this belong to, and what function does it serve?
Many of these can be replaced by ordinal numbers: third house, fourth left turn, second door.
Yes, that's the construction we're talking about, and why we're talking about it (c.f. the context of vlurch's question).
And number can be replaced by "letter", or even "station": "building letter A"; "teller station three"
I have never heard these constructions.
I would assume that the former is using "letter" by analogy to "number", in the case of ordination by letter name rather than by number. To the extent that this exists, I would assume "letter" here would have the same function as "number".

However, the latter construction I don't think is related. To me, that's a clear compound followed by a number. Note: cashier number 4 is the 4th cashier, not the fourth "cashier number" (though maybe that's the etymology?); by contrast "teller station three" I could only interpret as being the third "teller station".

(Unless it were some form of condensed press-speak, or war-speak: "teller, station three" (the teller at station three); but this would not be a normal register, and various grammatical oddities arise in these specialised registers.
I'd say that, at least in Leftpondia, "cashier", while it certainly can be used as a job title, rather than a title of rank or dignity, a person who tends the cash till in a shop or a bank, it doesn't have to be. We also use cashier to indicate the station itself, along the counter where the cash register and the credit card reader are. In fact, there is a store that has an automated announcement for people standing in the queue that says "cashier nine" or "cashier number nine", indicating that the customer ought to go to that numbered station, not that they need to go to a specific person.

I don't think this is an example of a title. It's common practice to assign internal numbers to cashiers, for accounting purposes. If there's a discrepancy in the till of Cashier #305, that'll have to be sorted, whether that individual worked at the station of "cashier number 3" or "cashier number 9" that day. In any event, it would be rather odd to address someone as "cashier" the way one might address a captain or a doctor.
Again, I wasn't really talking about the word "cashier" specifically, but about the grammar. [although traditionally one would indeed have used 'cashier' as a title: Cashier Smith, and so on]
While I like the idea of number being a preposition, I don't see what it would indicate. My questions would be: how exactly does the word number preposition?
Well, I agree that it would be a weird preposition.

However, in a construction of the type "X y Z", where X and Z are noun phrases, and the effect is for Z to specify which X is meant, 'y' is typically a preposition. "The cashier at the back", and so forth. And prepositions are used in English in very similar numeric constructions: "the batsman at four", "animals in twos", "the count of four". My biggest problem with this theory might actually be the definiteness: using "number 4" removes the need for (and probably forbids!) the definite article, and I'm not sure there's a reason why a preposition would do that?
And then, why would that explanation work better than some kind of nominal compound like "White House Press Secretary" (which is a title).
Grammatically, this is not alike at all to "cashier number four". For a start, a white house press secretary is a type of secretary, not a type of white house, whereas cashier number four is a cashier, not a four. Also, "white house press secretary" acts like a common noun, whereas "cashier number four" is a proper noun that can't (easily) take an article, and mere compounding probably shouldn't have that effect.
Or to follow the pattern, "trousers size 30" or "record tape eight".
I have never heard the former construction - unless it's a typo for "trousers, size 30", which is clearly a different thing entirely - or for "trouser(s)-size 30", which is also different. I also haven't heard the latter except as a plain ordinal - the eighth record tape.
I see what you mean by "conjunction" -- number, size, tape, they all "join" two related things. But there again, why that explanation, where we'd kind of have to stretch the meaning of "conjunction" just a little bit, rather than a simpler?
The reason I suggest these counterintuitive theories is precisely that I don't see a simple explanation - and I don't think you provide one either.
As for being part of the number, there are no numbers that don't take "number" before them, this could be a difference in dialect. "Cashier 3"; "Door 2"; "Record Book L". All of these are perfectly acceptable in US English. I (at least) would understand "Cashier 3" and "Cashier Number 3", "Door 2" and "Door Number 2" to be completely synonymous.
I'm sorry, I think you've misunderstood. I'm talking about grammar here. My suggestion was that you could consider "number four" simply to be a number - that this was just a lexical item - and hence "cashier number four" is just another way of saying "cashier four". But this seems like sophistry. It would be appealing if some numbers simply had "number" stuck before them sometimes - but ANY number can have "number" stuck before it sometimes. And if there are any rules about when it can appear, they're surely grammatical rather than lexical. So we have a morpheme that can be placed before any member of a certain class, in the same way, indescriminately - this does not seem like a genuine, unanalysable lexical element, but like a grammatical particle!
I can't honestly think of a situation where either would be righter or wronger than the other. Nor can I think of a situation where the word "number" is actually required.
And this is also weird!


My suspicion is that "number" USED to be an obligatory particle in forming ordinal numbers, but has become optional over time, making this primarily a register difference in modern English - but I've not researched whether that's actually true. However, even without "number", and with a zero particle in its place, the syntactical issues mostly still remain, I think.
I don't see how it adds any grammatical function, though. While it being a conjunction or a preposition or an apposition are all interesting, so far I remain unconvinced that any of these are actually what's going on. Sophistry notwithstanding, at least in US English, "number" is entirely dispensable. I think in the end, "number", along with an actual number, is nothing more than an attributive noun phrase, modifying, in your example case, the word "cashier".
Except that obviously it's not an attributive noun. For one thing: it follows the noun, rather than preceding it. But more importantly, it alters the syntactic properties of the head noun in a way that attributives can't do. So, taking an attributive construction like "face mask", we can produce "the face mask", "a face mask" and "face masks". But once we add "number X" to it, we can't: *"the mask number 2", *"a mask number 2", *"masks number two" (unless followed by "and three" or the like). [the article forms can occur, but not in normal speech, only in quotative contexts, where all sorts of weird things can happen in English]

Wikipedia suggests that there are "postpositive noun adjuncts", but the only examples it gives are clear example of titles+names - Lake Ontario, Operation Desert Storm - which only work with specific titles. Again, this looks a lot like "cashier number four", except that the "title" in this case is not always semantically a title, and is not lexically restricted as normal titles are. [we can say Operation War And Peace, but we can't say "book war and peace" - 'book' isn't licensed to act as a title in this way].

However, even this would just be kicking the can along the road: even if "number four" acts as a whole as a "postpositive adjunct", that doesn't answer what we should call "number" itself, and how it relates to other word classes.
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