number marking in Basque-2

aldai aldai at SCF.USC.EDU
Sat Nov 7 08:50:05 UTC 1998

> (a) Is the plural MARKED vis-à-vis the (relatively UNmarked) singular?
> I think so; Lourdes' remarks may suggest otherwise.

(Lourdes was only talking about the genitive case, if I'm right. So she
never claimed that the plural is in general unmarked). As for
the absolutive case:

gizon-A 'the man'
gizon-AK 'the men'

> The above examples are all in the absolutive (unmarked) case, and when case
> morphemes are added (suffixed to the above), the surface forms differ.

gizon-AREN 'of the man'
gizon-EN 'of the men'

"Morphemes are added"? Added to what? Suffixed to the absolutive case?
Does this mean we are to consider an underlying form and a derivation? Or
is it that we are to consider Basque as strictly agglutinating?

> Furthermore, there exist
> morphological analyses (synchronic or diachronic) of the Basque endings
> which imply that even in the present example the plural contains more
> "material" than the singular in their underlying or source forms.  The
> argument is well-known to Basque specialists, and can be summed up for the
> non-Basque-specialist something like this (-A singular determiner; *-AG
> plural determiner; -EN genitive morpheme; -R- epenthetic consonant):
> singular:
> *-A + -EN  -->  -A-R-EN  -->  -aren (dialectal variants -ain, -an)
> plural:
> *-AG + -EN  -->  *-AG-EN  -->  *-AEN  -->  -en (dial. var. -an)
> Personally I don't have much of a taste for the generalized positing of
> abstract underlying forms such as *-ag unless highly motivated in
> particular instances, and I don't believe this Basque underlying form
> specifically is all THAT strongly motivated synchronically, but it gets
> repeated in the literature, so there we are.

Well. It seems it's time to get rid of this kind of reasoning. If we don't
believe in abstract underlying forms, let's forget about them altogether.
Specially the one Alan presents doesn't have any motivation at all. The
motivation, of course, would have been diachronic. But in this case even
the diachronic motivation is absent. (I cannot explain here the details).
In any case, why do we need to posit one only "origin/underlying form" for
all plural cases? Are we forced to do so?

[By the way, what is the dialectal variant that shows -AN as the genitive
plural marker?]

> In any event, the singular is
> in no case *morphologically* more complex than the plural (unlike Welsh
> forms like madarch-en 'mushroom (sg.)').

To me, gizon-AREN 'of the man' is morphologically more complex
than gizon-EN 'of the men'. Both synchronically (just a matter of
phonological material, as Alain says) and diachronically (as I just said
this would be too long to try to prove here).
But these are probably not very important issues for nobody in this list.
Just a matter of proposing quite speculative hypotheses for the historical
development of the case system of Basque.
More important for me is to try to get rid of the many biases we still
unconsciously have from the long formal tradition (not only from
generative grammar): such as, one-form-one-meaning, one-meaning-one-form,
panchronic accounts, and so on and so forth.

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