Karen Daley leads the reader into what is perhaps the first discourse study of Vietnamese classifiers to date. After presenting a summary of classifiers and their funciton in languages of the world, she challenges the validity of regarding Vietnamese classifiers as simply fitting the prototypical pattern of phrase-level numeral classifiers. In Vietnamese several of the functions attributed to classifiers imply discourse relations, despite the prevailing assumption that their use is associated with the syntactic relations of phrases.
A coherent pattern of classifier use becomes evident when they are observed in the larger syntactic environment of discourse. Daley uses discourse measurements of overall frequency, referential distance, and referential persistence and compares them with four criteria from a study of classifiers in White Hmong. The results in the present study indicate that the basic function of classifiers in Vietnamese discourse is referential—to mark salience.