ELL: Re: 'Reburial of 500 Huron', evidence of continuing stereotyping
vkgolla at UCDAVIS.EDU
Wed Dec 8 02:47:05 UTC 1999
Like Dave Harris, I too was at first inclined to dismiss the "zero
plural" formation found with American Indian ethnonyms as of no
great consequence. A little digging, however, has convinced me
that we have here what Benjamin Whorf used to call a "cryptotype."
It may or not be "racist" (whatever that means), but it is an
unconscious linguistic habit that is worth becoming conscious of,
and consciously discarding.
Ethnonyms for American Indian tribes occur with zero plural when
the members of the group are implicitly considered instantiations
of a species or type (frequently in anthropological usage). This
formation is also used for game animals, but NEVER found with
Elk are common around here.
Arapaho are skilled horse breeders.
Hopi do not trust Navajo.
In northern Ontario you mainly encounter Cree and Ojibwa.
*Italian are found in Little Italy.
*Serb had it in for Albanian in Kosovo.
*If you are looking for Jew, go to Israel
This construction is commonest in quantified phrases:
The number of elk in this area. 100 salmon were caught.
The number of Ojibwa in northern Ontario. 500 Huron were
The number of Nootka on Vancouver Island. 100 Apache were
*The number of Italian in Buffalo. Half a million Albanian were
displaced in Kosovo.
*The number of Jew in Manhattan. Six million Jew died in the
*The number of Swede in Stockholm. Many Swede live in Minneapolis.
Interestingly, when Indians are referred to as a racial group, rather than
as individual tribes, the zero-plural construction is not used:
*The number of American Indian in the New World. 100 Indian were
*The number of Hispanic in Los Angeles.
*The number of Caucasian in Eurasia.
Apparent occurrences of zero-plural among non-Indian ethnonyms are:
The number of French in Paris.
The number of Dutch in Amsterdam.
The number of Chinese in Shanghai.
The number of Swiss in Zurich.
The number of Swedish in Stockholm.
The number of English in London.
But these ethnonyms are actually attributive adjectives (or fossilized
adjectival formations), and all have final fricatives or affricate. They
are thus morphological or phonological exceptions, not semantic or
pragmatic parallels to American Indian ethnonyms. Most, furthermore,
have alternate forms that always occur in these constructions with a
The number of Frenchmen in Paris.
The number of Dutchmen in Amsterdam.
The number of Chinamen in Shanghai. (arcahic)
The number of Swedes in Stockholm.
The number of Englishmen in London.
The only exception seems to be "Swiss".
Native American Studies
Humboldt State University
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