[Lingtyp] Query: looking for singulatives

Nurmio, Silva M silva.nurmio at helsinki.fi
Mon May 13 03:15:14 EDT 2019


Dear all,


I’m looking for data on singulatives and I’m writing to ask for your help in tracking down more instances of this phenomenon. There is so far no comprehensive list of singulatives in the world’s languages that’s informed by an operational definition of what constitutes a singulative, and my aim is to produce such a database.

My working definition of the singulative is that it is a noun form with any marker (inflectional or derivational) that creates a meaning ‘one’ or ‘(one) unit’ when added to a base, i.e. a singulativizing and individuating marker. Bases for singulatives tend to be mass nouns, plurals, collectives of different kinds, general number forms, and sometimes non-nominal bases like adjectives. Here are four examples of different types of singulatives under my definition:

(1) Bayso (Afro-Asiatic): lúban ‘lion(s)’ (general number), singulative lúban-titi ‘a lion’

(2) Russian (Indo-European) gorox ‘pea(s)’ (mass), singulative goroš-ina ‘a pea’

(3) Italian (Indo-European) cioccolato ’chocolate’ (mass), singulative cioccolat-ino ’a chocolate praline, chocolate sweet’

(4) Welsh (Indo-European) unigol ‘individual’ (adjective), singulative unigol-yn ‘an individual’

These examples show that singulatives occur in different number systems, and they can be productive or unproductive (like the Russian -ina suffix). I also include diminutive markers which have a singulative function, as seen in (3) (Jurafsky 1996 calls this the ’partitive’ function of diminutives). Forms that are singulatives are often not described as such in grammars (especially types 3 and 4), making them harder to find. I am also including singulatives in older language stages which have since been lost (e.g. Old Irish).

Below is a list of languages (alphabetical order) on which I already have data. I would be very grateful for any pointers to grammars, language descriptions or other mentions of singulatives in languages which are not on the list, or if you think there are sources for any of the already listed languages that I’m likely to have missed.

Thank you very much in advance!

Best wishes,

Silva Nurmio

Aari

Akkadian

Arabic (several dialects)

Arbore

Baiso/Bayso

Baule

Berber

Bidyogo

Bora

Breton

Burushaski

Cantonese

Cornish

Dagaare

Dutch

Enets (Forest Enets and Tundra Enets)

Ewe

Fox

Gede'o

Hebrew

Imonda

Italian

Itelmen

Kambaata

Kiowa

Krongo

Majang

Maltese

Marle (Murle)

Masa

Miraña

Nafusi

Nahuatl (all dialects?)

Ojibwe (all dialects?)

Old Irish

Oromo (Borana dialect)

Resígaro

Russian

Shilluk

Shona

Sidamo

Swahili

Tariana

Tewa

Tigre

Tiwa

Towa

Turkana

Ukrainian

Welsh

Yiddish

Zulu



Dr Silva Nurmio

Research Fellow
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Fabianinkatu 24 (P.O. Box 4)
00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

<https://tuhat.helsinki.fi/portal/en/person/sinurmio>https://tuhat.helsinki.fi/portal/en/person/sinurmio
<http://helsinki.academia.edu/SilvaNurmio>

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