Associative Plurals

James Gair jwg2 at CORNELL.EDU
Tue Aug 28 20:01:18 UTC 2001

Sinhala (Indo-Aryan, Sri Lanka) has an associative plural in the
colloquial variety formed with the animate plural -laa (structurally
long /a:/ but pronounced short).

In teaching materials, it has been translated as 'and company',
without the commercial implication. The sense is some
person,represented bu the nominal marked with the plural,  and a
recognizeable group such as a family or group of friends. In one
sense, the person defines the group, at least at the time of usage.

gunapaalalaa heTa eewi ' Gunapala-PL tomorrow might-come'='Gunapala
and his family, (or that group he is associated with) might come

ammalaa iiye aawa 'mother-PL  yesterday came'='Mother and the
others/the rest came yesterday.

The plural affix -la  is the one associated with most kin terms, and
thus the second sentence could ambiguously refer to some group of
mothers. It is also the affix used with some professions, including
borrowed names; thus Drayvarlaa 'drivers'. It can also have a
collective effect in compounds thus ammataattala 'mother and

I don't know whether -maar, the closest Tamil equivalent to laa, at
least in Sri Lankan Tamil, is used in this way, but would certainly
like to.

James W. Gair
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