Associative plurals

Yokoyama, Olga olga at
Tue Apr 5 04:01:43 UTC 2011

In Japanese, you can add them to kinship terms as well (o-kaa-san-tachi 'mother et al'). In the 19th century Russian peasant letters (by speakers of North Russian dialect)) I have found a similar phenomenon with a subject personal name in sg but with pl verb agreement (e.g. John were, meaning 'John and wife were').

Olga T. Yokoyama


Department of Applied Linguistics

University of California, Los Angeles

Tel. (310) 825-7694

Fax (310) 206-4118

-----Original Message-----
From: funknet-bounces at [mailto:funknet-bounces at] On Behalf Of Marianne Mithun
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2011 8:24 PM
To: funknet
Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] Associative plurals

There is an article on this:

Corbett, Grevill and Marianne Mithun. 1996. Associative forms in a typology

of number systems: evidence from Yup'ik. Journal of Linguistics 32: 1-17.

Central Alaska Yup'ik Eskimo, and Central Pomo, among many other languages

have these. You can add them to proper names.

Marianne Mithun

--On Monday, April 04, 2011 9:59 PM -0500 David Tuggy <david_tuggy at>


> 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,


> New?itzeh 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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