query: associative plurals via noun-verb disagreement
gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Thu Nov 13 14:53:05 UTC 2008
I am interested in the cross-linguistic distribution of a construction
type in which an associative plural meaning, eg. 'John and his
associates', results from a singular noun triggering plural number
agreement on the verb, as illustrated in the following examples from
Roon (an Austronesian language spoken in the Cenderawasih bay of New
(1) Amos-i i-berif
'Amos is laughing'
(2) Amos-i su-berif
'Amos and his friend are laughing'
(3) Amos-i si-berif
'Amos and his friends are laughing'
Example (1) shows ordinary agreement, with a singular subject triggering
singular verb agreement. However, examples (2) and (3) illustrate how
an associative plural interpretation is derived via disagreement, with
the still-singular subject occurring in construction with dual- and
plural-subject marked verbs respectively. We might therefore call the
construction in (2) and (3) an Associative Plural via Disagreement, or ASPD.
My question is: how common is this ASPD construction in the languages of
the world? I would be very grateful for examples of other languages
that have ASPDs I would also appreciate any pointers to discussion of
this construction in the literature. The only mention that I am
familiar with is that of Daniel and Moravcsik in their WALS chapter on
associative plurals, where they cite Plains Cree as having a similar
construction; but their chapter does not provide a clear picture of how
widespread this construction is cross-linguistically.
A major challenge in typology is to collect negative data, ie. reliable
reports that a certain language lacks a particular construction (as
opposed to it simply not being mentioned in a couple of grammar books).
Thus, I would also greatly appreciate definitive reports that
such-and-such a language does *not* have ASPDs. (Whereas for languages
with no verbal number agreement, the absence of ASPDs is a logical
necessity, for languages with verbal number agreement, the absence of
ASPDs becomes a substantive and interesting fact about the language.)
For starters, English, even though it has verbal number agreement, lacks
an ASPD: you can't say *'John are laughing' to mean 'John and his
friends are laughing', as in (3) above. Hebrew and Russian are also like
English in this respect. So if the language(s) you are familiar with
have verbal number agreement but lack an ASPD, please let me know too!
While the above Roon example involves subject-verb agreement, one could
also imagine ASPDs arising out of other kinds of agreement, eg.
object-verb. Have any examples of such other kinds of ASPDs ever been
Thanks and best wishes,
Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
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