Nonetheless, this pattern of usage has changed over time, as reflected in the spoken corpus of data of present Beijing Mandarin.
In naturally occurring connected speech, the word yi35 with the frozen tone assumes some additional syntactic functions that can be considered grammaticalized in spoken Beijing Mandarin.
When asked if one could say: Da21 *yi51 che55 'Take a taxi', an eleven year-old girl, a native Beijing Mandarin speaker, says:
Although the conversational data have not supplied us with an example of the contrast as proposed in (13), in a separate experimental study, it was found that the syntactic tone does have an impact on native Beijing Mandarin speakers in the task of lexical decision (Tao 2000, Experiment 1).
The impact should be more clearly shown among native Beijing Mandarin speakers because it is from that dialect that the frozen tone has developed.
Ten native Mandarin speakers were tested: five were native Beijing Mandarin speakers, and five were not from Beijing but were also Mandarin speakers; therefore, they were labeled as non-Beijing Mandarin speakers.
The other three were selected from a fiction about a medicine family in Beijing (Guo 2001), which uses Beijing Mandarin in an informal, often colloquial style.
A native Beijing Mandarin speaker conducted the test and recorded the tone of each numeral yi55 on a separate piece of paper that also contained the six sentences.
Native Beijing Mandarin speakers used frozen tone more than did non-Beijing Mandarin speakers in their pronunciation of the numeral yi55 only in the informal written texts.
Native Beijing Mandarin speakers were able to differentiate the bare NP more than other Mandarin speakers were able to.
Native Beijing Mandarin speakers apply the frozen tone to the bare NP in the informal written text; non-Beijing Mandarin speakers may have also sensed the difference; therefore, instead of following tone sandhi changes, they used the default tone to pronounce the numeral yi55; thus differentiating this pattern from the NP in the formal written style.
The current observation on spoken Beijing Mandarin indicates that if the classifier-free practice continues to expand in the language, it could develop into a transnumeral language with only measure words, which could be the answer to Greenberg's question.
It would be interesting to see whether this new function of yi35 would further mark the difference between mass and count nouns in Beijing Mandarin.
It is important to point out that yi35 is not the first numeral that has undergone such a phonological reduction in spoken Beijing Mandarin.
Phono-syntactic conspiracy and beyond: grammaticalization in spoken Beijing Mandarin.