Associative Plurals

Colin P Masica dacotah at MWT.NET
Wed Aug 29 21:04:12 UTC 2001

Dear Colleagues at ALT,

I have been waiting for one of my colleagues (Jim Gair, Annie Montaut) to
bring this up, but have decided it may be time to put in my 2 cents worth.
Could the phenomenon of "echo-word formation", cited by Emeneau 1956 as
characteristic of the South Asian linguistic area (and mentioned earlier by
Bloch, who lumps it together with other phenomena involving reduplication
and word-pairings) be brought under this "associative plural" rubric? It
works like this: the first consonant (or syllable) of a word is replaced by
a conventional consonant (or syllable), as in Telugu /puli/ 'tiger' >
/puligili/ 'tigers and things like that', H. /paanii/ 'water' >
/paaniiwaanii/ 'water and things like that', /khaanaa/ 'food' >
/khaanaawaanaa/ 'food and things like that' (in Dakhini Hindi, spoken in the
Telugu area > /khaanaaginaa/).

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, it should be said that this is not quite
the same as Yiddish-American /shm-/ (/khaanaa-shmaanaa??/ with which it
shares formational features, but which I believe has a pejorative or
dismissive connotation. The South Asian formations do not have that affect;
they may be closer to "etc." -- but these languages have other expressions
for that (although it should be noted, these are typically borrowed from
learned languages, such as Sanskrit and Arabic, e.g., /ityaadi, vaGairah/).

The phenomenon, falling as it does in a no-man's land between grammar and
lexicon, and essentially colloquial, is often not noted in grammars and
dictionaries. As Emeneau said, "we need more evidence and analysis, but it
is clear already that echo-words are a pan-Indic trait". Perhaps by this
time someone has done such work (e.g., Anvita Abbi and her students?) Maybe
someone will jog my memory.

Colin P. Masica

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