Variation in plural pronouns, plural & classifiers

Elena Maslova Lena at LH.BICOS.DE
Sun Nov 8 10:16:52 UTC 1998

At 16:22 11/6/98 +0100, Michael Cysouw wrote:

> This exclusive 'we' is probably better
> characterised as an 'associative': it means 'the speaker and
> associates', not 'multiple speakers'.
> For 'you (pl.)' both readings seem readily possible: 'you (pl.)
can refer
> to a group of addressees (hence, a real 'second person plural')
or it can
> refer to an addressee with his/hers associates. I am searching
for a
> language that distinguishes these two meanings by different
> Untill now I have not found any (and I have seen several
hundreds), and I
> am inclined to say that this distinction is not grammaticalised
in any
> human language. Can somebody prove me wrong, please?

Yukaghir seems to have a grammaticalized construction of the type
Michael is looking for. The regular plural marking is -pe-/-pul-.
To render the meaning like "X and her/his associates", one has to
use the following scheme:


where tang is an attributive distal demonstrative (which can be
also used as an NP, but very rarely).

An example:

met cha:cha:-tang-pe "my elder brother and his associates (e.g.,
his family)"
mat cha:cha:-pe "my elder brothers"

Notably, most instances of this construction involve nouns
denoting unique referents (so that the existence of a contrasting
pair live above is rather an exception), e.g.

met emej-tang-pe "my mother and her associates (e.g., the women
who are together with her")
qristos-tang-pe "Christ and his people"

This distribution appears to make the construction semantically
similar to "we" and "you" (a unique prominent referent and
his/her associates). Yet it is impossible to say *met-tang-pe for
"we" (maybe, because this combination is in an obvious
contradiction with the distal meaning of the demonstrative).

To the discussion on plural in general initiated by Bingfu: Note
that Yukaghir generally neither requires nor allows the Plural
marking with generic reference *and* in combination with
quantifiers (there is no class of classifiers). It seems that
Yukaghir is fairly close to Hungarian as far as the distribution
of Plural vs. Singular marking is concerned.


Elena Maslova
University of Bielefeld
mailto:lena at

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