associative plurals (and such...)

Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol at PLUTO.MSCC.HUJI.AC.IL
Sun Sep 2 00:05:52 UTC 2001

Dear Edith,
As to the plurals of proper names in English, French and other European
languages, it is true that (a)"the Smiths" for the members of the Smith
family is not an associative plural, but the plural of a proper name in
the sense of (b)"people like N" is related in a way ("certain transcendent
geniuses - the Bacons, the Newtons, the Shakespeares, the Miltons";
"les Dons Quichottes" or "les Don Quichotte"; "die Goethe, die Luther,
die Bismarcke, die Sokratesse"). In Amharic, the really associative
ïnnä- prefix, which originally means (or meant) "those of N" is also
used for (b)"people like N" whereas (a)"those who bear the same name N"
will be marked by the ordinary plural suffix -och; in German, on the other
hand, in the sense of (b)"people like N", proper names remain uninflected
in the plural ("die Grimm"), whereas (a) members of the same family will
form the plural in -s ("die Roseners waren zu Hause"), which seems to be
related (or at least identical) to the genitive singular.
The whole subject of associative plurals and related constructions is of
great interest and your comments highly elucidating; thanks a lot.

Prof. Gideon Goldenberg
48 Ben-Maimon Avenue
IL-92261 Jerusalem, Israel.
Telephone (972-2-)5665135
Fax (972-2-)5634891
<msgidgol at>

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