query: associative plurals via noun-verb disagreement

Balthasar Bickel autotype at UNI-LEIPZIG.DE
Fri Nov 14 06:31:13 UTC 2008

David -- since you also asked for negative data: Belhare (Kiranti,  
Sinotibetan) does not allow ASPD. I tested this when exploring other  
effects of 'disagreement'. (Disagreement in number, with a singular NP  
and a nonsingular agreement marker, results in meanings like 'one of  
them laughed'. I have a paper on this in Studies in Language, 2000).

	-- Balthasar.

On Nov 13  2008, at 15:53, David Gil wrote:

> Dear all,
> 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 Guinea):
> (1) Amos-i i-berif
>    Amos-PERS 3SG:ANIM-laugh
>    'Amos is laughing'
> (2) Amos-i su-berif
>    Amos-PERS 3DU:ANIM-laugh
>    'Amos and his friend are laughing'
> (3) Amos-i si-berif
>    Amos-PERS 3PL:ANIM-laugh
>    '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 encountered?
> Thanks and best wishes,
> David
> -- 
> David Gil
> 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
> Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list