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

Tony Woodbury acw at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Wed Dec 8 17:57:47 UTC 1999

Victor Golla writes:

>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.

My hypothesis is that the "cryptotype" is an ethnonym that is "tribal,"
carrying all the colonialist freight and baggage that the concept "tribal"

Tasmanian would of course be a counterexample, but I'd further hypothesize
that ethnonyms ending in -(i)an (and perhaps comparable derivational
suffixes like -er, -ite?) are a special case and are excluded from
zero-plural treatment.  I would therefore expect users of zero-plural
ethnonyms to find the following ok:

	The Saami herd reindeer.
	The Maasai herd cattle.
	The Lahu live in the forest.
	The Nunggubuyu live in the Kimberlies.
	The K!ung live in the Kalahari.
	The Chechen are under attack.

I'd also expect them not to accept:

	?The Kiriwinian grow yams.
	?The Hawaiian have a tradition of navigation.

Perhaps Mongol is less idiomatic (see above) because of the parallel
formation Mongolian?

I also don't have a ready explanation for why it seems less idomatic when
the archaic name "Lapp" is substituted for "Saami":

	?The Lapp herd reindeer. (Vs. The Lapps herd reindeer).

Tony Woodbury <acw at mail.utexas.edu>

Professor and Chair
Dept. of Linguistics             Phone:        (512) 471 1701
Calhoun Hall 501                 Fax:          (512) 471 4340
University of Texas              Voice mail:   (512) 471 9988..
Austin, TX 78712                  voice mail box number  117016
Endangered-Languages-L Forum: endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au
Web pages http://carmen.murdoch.edu.au/lists/endangered-languages-l/
Subscribe/unsubscribe and other commands: majordomo at carmen.murdoch.edu.au

More information about the Endangered-languages-l mailing list