[Lingtyp] Query: looking for singulatives

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Mon May 13 04:30:23 EDT 2019


Hi Silva,


In Sinitic languages (especially southern ones), Vietnamese, and 
elsewhere in the region, there is a construction of the general form


CLF N


i.e. a noun preceded by a numeral classifier.  The resulting 
construction is almost invariably singular — the exception being cases 
where the classifier itself has inherent plural semantics. (In addition, 
the construction in question is associated with the classificatory 
semantics of the classifier, plus also various (in)definiteness effects, 
e.g. it is usually definite in Cantonese but indefinite in Mandarin.)


Is this a singulative?  The only reason not to call it such might be 
that the classifier is usually considered to be a "separate word", 
whereas the term "singulative" is generally used in the context of 
morphology.  However — as Martin Haspelmath frequently reminds us — the 
notion of wordhood is problematic and often unduly influenced by the 
standard orthography, which, in the case of Chinese and Vietnamese at 
least, strongly prejudices us towards a "separate word" analysis.


Indeed, one could perhaps make a case that the familiar articles of many 
western European languages are also singulatives ...  This is but 
another example of the problems inherent in the positing of comparative 
concepts that make reference to the morphology/syntax distinction.  I am 
not proposing that we do away with this distinction; in particular, in 
the domain in question, there does seem to be good reason to distinguish 
between the domains of "Number" (morphological) and "Quantification" 
(syntactic).  It's just that the abundance of problematic "in-between" 
cases means that we need to try and make our criteria as explicit as we 
possibly can.


David




On 13/05/2019 14:15, Nurmio, Silva M wrote:
>
> 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
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

-- 
David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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