number marking in Basque

aldai aldai at SCF.USC.EDU
Sat Nov 7 07:44:49 UTC 1998

(First, I have to confess i haven't followed the discussion so far. So
perhaps I'm missing some important point).

> (b) Are BOTH singular and plural MARKED vis--vis something else (neither
> singular nor plural) which is UNmarked?
> Lourdes says yes, I have my doubts.

> I reject the idea (standard in present-day grammars) that gizon-A is in a
> marked relationship vis--vis unmarked *gizon, for the fundamental reason,
> that gizon-A isn't in ANY paradigmatic relationship vis--vis *gizon, and
> this because gizon-A is a noun phrase while *gizon isn't (it's just a
> lexeme).  And I would further argue that since *gizon is only a lexeme, it
> doesn't make sense to ask whether it is singular, plural, both or neither.
> The contrast, then, is not between "indefinite" *gizon and singular
> gizon-A, but only between singular gizon-A and plural gizon-AK, or between
> gizon-A/AK 'man/men' with the unmarked determiner, and gizon HURA 'that
> man' or HIRU gizon 'three men' with marked determiners.

It seems the important point Alan's argumentation is missing is
DEFINITENESS. He is only talking about Basque singular/plural markers
but not as singular-definite or plural-definite markers.

> *gizon
> gizon-A 'man'
> gizon-AK 'men'
> gizon HURA 'that man'
> gizon ASKO 'many men'
> HIRU gizon 'three men'

What his paradigm is clearly missing is:

	HIRU gizon-AK 'the three men'

Therefore, THERE IS a contrast between indefinite 'gizon' versus
definite 'gizon-AK'. And obviously the latter is morphologically
marked. (The contrast between indefinite 'gizon' and singular-definite
'gizon-A' can hardly be found, because in current Basque there are not
indefinite-singular NPs in afirmative sentences, and indefinite NPs
in negative sentences show a PARTITIVE marker. But compare the following
example with an indefinite-singular noun (eye-ERGATIVE) from a XVII
century text:

	Ez (h)akusan BEGI-K nigar ez degik
	'L'oeil qui ne te voit pas ne te pleurera pas'
	Lit. "EYE that doesn't see you won't cry for you"

The paradigm for this XVII century variety would be:
begi 'eye-ABS'
begi-k 'eye-ERG'
begi-A 'the eye-ABS'
begi-A-K 'the eye-ERG'

Definite is (markedly) contrasted with indefinite in Basque. It can be
said it is definiteness what is the marked category, no number. In any
case, both definiteness and number go together for Basque, as for many
languages, I believe.

Gontzal Aldai

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