Zero-coded plurals of pluralia tantum

Siva Kalyan sivakalyan.princeton at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 20 19:47:13 UTC 2009


Hi,

Suppose I had one pair of trousers with a hole in it. I would exclaim, "My
trousers have a hole in them!". Now suppose I had the misfortune to discover
that this was true of *all* of my pairs of trousers. Then I would say, "All
my trousers have a hole in them!". Note that in the first case,
*trousers*refers to a single pair of trousers, whereas in the second,
it refers to
multiple pairs.

What I'm curious about is: How common is this in the world's languages? That
is, how common is it for a language to zero-code the plural of a plurale
tantum (a noun denoting a singular entity but which is grammatically
plural)? Is there any other strategy that is used used in such situations?
(The earlier thread on double plurals comes to mind.)
Also, why would a language zero-code this kind of plural in the first place?
Might it have to do with the "repeated morph constraint" (Menn and
MacWhinney 1984) or "product-oriented schemas" (Bybee 2001)?

Thanks,
Siva

Ref's

Bybee, Joan. Phonology and Language Use. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Menn, L, and B MacWhinney. "The Repeated Morph Constraint: Toward An
Explanation." Language 60, no. 3 (1984): 519-541.
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