associative plurals

Edith A Moravcsik edith at CSD.UWM.EDU
Mon Sep 3 15:37:43 UTC 2001

This is to thank Gideon Goldenberg for his comments on associative plurals
and related constructions in English, French, German, and Amharic.

Expressions such as "the Shakespeares" or "the Newtons" do indeed differ
from "the Smiths" etc. It seems to me that in former construction,
it is similarity (same order of genius) that defines the set but not
grouphood (those referred to as "the Newtons" do not even need to know
each other) while in the latter case, it is similarity (that is, sharing
the same last name) and group-hood (all the Smiths need to form a family)
that are required. In associative plurals, the similarity requirement
is generally relaxed (identity of family name is not required) and,
accordingly, gourp-hood is also relaxed: the members of the set do not
need to belong to a single family.

It is interesting that Amharic -i:nna: is used both for the associative
plural and also for constructions such as "the Newtons". It is also new
information to us that in German, the use versus non-use of the plural
suffix differentiates between "the Smiths" and "the Newtons".


			 Edith A. Moravcsik
			 Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics
			 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
		         Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413

			 E-mail: edith at
		         Telephone: (414) 229-6794 /office/
				    (414) 332-0141 /home/
		         Fax: (414) 229-2741


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