Associative plurals

Iwasaki, Shoichi iwasaki at
Tue Apr 5 03:19:02 UTC 2011

Lise is right about Japanese, but 'tachi' can be added to pronouns as well.  And many other Asian languages can do it too.

 Japanese = 
boku-ra; boku-tachi (boku=I, -tachi, -ra = associative plural suffix)

 kimi-ra; kimi-tachi (kimi=you, -tachi, -ra = associative plural suffix)

tanaka-ra, tanaka-tachi (tanaka = family name, ...), 'Tanaka and the gang'

phUak chan (phUak = group, chan = I) Me and my friends/siblings etc.
phUak tEE = you guys
phUak Aew (phUak = group, Aaw = (nick name))= Aew and her friends etc.


-----Original Message-----
From: funknet-bounces at [mailto:funknet-bounces at] On Behalf Of Lise Menn
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2011 8:11 PM
To: David Tuggy
Cc: funknet
Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] Associative plurals

Japanese -tachi would be an example - added only (as I understand it) to personal names, and meaning 'X and those accompanying X'.  It can't be interpreted as a plural, to the best of my knowledge.
	Lise Menn

On Apr 4, 2011, at 8:59 PM, David Tuggy wrote:

> Hello, all,
> I'm interested in a phenomenon that I understand some to have called 
> "associative plurality", in which a plural does not designate a group 
> of items all properly designated by the pluralized nominal entity but 
> rather a group of items associated with such a nominal entity. It 
> shows up dramatically in pluralized personal names, where something 
> like _the Alices_ will mean not 'the group of people each called 
> "Alice"' but rather 'Alice and those associated with her (i.e. her 
> bunch/family/team/crew/party/etc.)' In Orizaba Nawatl (nlv), for 
> instance,
> New͎itzeh n ichpopochtih koxamo tlahtlaniskeh inka n Samueltih.
> yonder.they.come the whether they.will.ask with.them the 
> Those girls that are coming over there are probably going to ask after 
> Samuel and his friends.
> Here is a normal plural, meaning 'group of people each of 
> which is a girl', but is associative. Note too the plurality 
> of the 'agreement-marker' postpositional object in the word 
> 'with.them': sometimes that kind of thing is the only marker for an 
> associative plural in Orizaba: _Samuel inkal_ (Samuel
> means 'the house of Samuel's family/group'.
> My two main questions:
> (1) How widespread a phenomenon is this? What languages allow an 
> associative plural for proper names? (Are there any varieties of 
> English/Spanish/etc. that allow it?) Do they also allow a standard- 
> plural interpretation?
> (2) What other kinds of nominal entities show something similar?  
> E.g. in my English _dishes_ often means 'dishes [= plates] and other 
> such things, e.g. silverware, glasses, pots & pans'; does that count? 
> Does any language allow associative plurals for just any noun? What 
> about 1st and 2nd person plural pronouns, where perhaps only one 
> person is speaker or addressee, but another group is associated with 
> that person to make the plurality. Does any language
> *not* allow an associative plural meaning for them? Does any language 
> distinguish a 'multiple speaker' 1pl pronoun from an associative one?
> Pointers to any good discussions of this in the literature would be 
> appreciated as well.
> —David Tuggy

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