Associative plurals

David Tuggy david_tuggy at
Tue Apr 5 23:04:50 UTC 2011

Yes, a good example of an associative. But if, as you say, it can’t be 
interpreted as a plural, it’s a bit different from the OrizabaNawatl 
case, where the plural and the associative are morphologically 
identical. (Normal ON plurals, I failed to note, also allow marking by 
“agreement” only with no nominal suffix, in many cases.) -tachi would be 
analogous to English suffixes like those mentioned by other posters 
-n’em or even full phrases like “and those associated with her” in that 
it gives an associative meaning without so forcibly suggesting that this 
is the same thing as a normal plural.


On 4/4/2011 10:11 PM, Lise Menn wrote:
> 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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