ELL: Re: 'Reburial of 500 Huron'...

Victor Golla vkgolla at UCDAVIS.EDU
Wed Dec 8 11:01:31 UTC 1999


Gary Ingle writes:

>  But then, I can imagine
> (at least grammatically) going "out after Mongol" but "shooting 20
> Mongol" also sounds unnatural.  What exactly is going on here?

To me, the most curious aspect of the dehumanizing zero-plural is
that it appears to be used exclusively -- and universally -- with
the names of American Indian tribes (North, Central, and South), but
not with ethnonyms from any other part of the world.  So, while
"shooting 20 Mongol" is ungrammatical (in probably all our dialects)
"shooting 20 Apache" or "shooting 20 Quechua" is just fine (as far
as grammaticality goes).  The covert classification is geographical
and cosmological, not socio-cultural.  The Tasmanians were
every bit as culturally marginal as the Yaghan, but while you can
"go shooting some Yaghan" you definitely can't "go shooting some
Tasmanian."  I am quite amazed that this selectional distinction has
been lying nestled in my English competence all these years, entirely
unnoticed by me.

--Victor Golla
  Native American Studies
  Humboldt State University

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