number marking (or not)

Alan R. King mccay at REDESTB.ES
Thu Nov 5 23:03:37 UTC 1998

Jim McCawley pointed out:
>Another respect in which Hungarian is interesting with regard to number is
>that a bare singular noun is used as a generic on e.g. shop signs. For
>example, shops would have signs saying "Könyv" of "Virág" (lit. "BOOK",
>"FLOWER"), where an English sign would have "BOOKS", "FLOWERS". 

In English the sign wouldn't say "BOOK", but it might say "BOOK SHOP"  :-)

Not the same thing at all??

That there is no a priori need for English to use the unmarked form in the
BOOK SHOP construction seems to be shown by the fact that in Welsh, even
though a noun + noun construction is employed (in the opposite order to
English), the BOOK part must go in the plural:

llyfr 'book'

siop lyfr-au 'book shop'
shop book-PLU

Oh by the way, by the rules of Welsh morphosyntax, the initial consonant
mutation of LL to L (following the feminine noun "siop" 'shop') in the
compound expression establishes that this IS a compound, not a genitive
(construct) phrase.  It really is "book shop", not "shop of bookS".

Anyway, this feature of Hungarian really is pretty exotic - for Europe.

Alan R. King, Ph.D.
alanking at
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