Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Thu Dec 7 17:30:44 UTC 2000

At 12:04 PM 12/7/00 +0800, you wrote:
>At 9:55 AM -0500 12/7/00, Thomas Paikeday wrote:
>>Why not "a dozen of eggs"? I think the same rule as in "12 of eggs"
>>applies here. But I leave it to professional linguists to give a
>>linguistic explanation.
>I think these are different, at least historically.  "a dozen" and "a
>couple" were originally nominals taking complements, and the former
>still is in its source language, French, while numbers were never
>primarily nominals/substantives (leaving aside the 4 of spades,
>etc.).  The fact that "a couple of Xs", not to mention "a lot of Xs"
>(where again "lotta" is standard colloquial), always determines
>plural agreement indicates that it's no longer the head of the NP but
>a sorta predeterminer, but it did start out as [dozen [of eggs]],
>like [couple [of horses]].  The OED makes it clear that the earlier
>uses of the former did indeed have this form--while also revealing a
>much more understanding attitude toward the cardinality of "dozen"
>than it does toward "couple":
>'Originally as a sb., followed by "of", but often with ellipsis of
>"of", and thus, in singular = twelve. Also, used colloq. in pl.,
>either indefinitely or hyperbolically, for any moderately large

This is the partitive genitive, right?  I recall the term from French
study, where 'des' would be used for "some (of an unspecified quantity of)
<plural noun>.  So, we can also say "I bought some books" with implied "of
an unspecified quantity."  'Many', 'a few/few', 'any' work this way--others?

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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