Associative plurals

E.G. at
Tue Apr 5 08:57:47 UTC 2011

Dear David,

There's an article on this, focusing on Amharic, with rich data.

Olga Kapeliuk, 1989. Appurtenance as a linguistic concept. Folia Linguistica
23/3-4, 341-352.


On 5 April 2011 03:59, David Tuggy <david_tuggy at> 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

Eitan Grossman
Martin Buber Society of Fellows
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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