[Lingtyp] Query: looking for singulatives
Nurmio, Silva M
silva.nurmio at helsinki.fi
Mon May 13 03:15:14 EDT 2019
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!
Arabic (several dialects)
Enets (Forest Enets and Tundra Enets)
Nahuatl (all dialects?)
Ojibwe (all dialects?)
Oromo (Borana dialect)
Dr Silva Nurmio
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Fabianinkatu 24 (P.O. Box 4)
00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
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