query: associative via noun-verb disagreement

Daniel misha.daniel at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 14 08:04:47 UTC 2008

This is a small addenda to Grev's last posting.

Grev is certainly right when he says that associative distinction is 
orthogonal to singular - non-singular distinction. Associative is often 
nothing else but an interpretation of non-singularity; in most languages 
it is conveyed by regular plural marking and associative intperpretation 
depends on the semantic class of the noun. We should distinguish plurals 
and duals among associative non-singulars, and there are languages which 
have a dedicated associative dual marker (even when associative 
more-than-duals are not reported in the grammar).

However, exactly in the case of David's example I am not sure Grev is 

We can consider the construction N +V(dual) as a construction dedicated 
to associative duals, and N + V(plural) as a construction dedicated to 
associative plurals - that is his approach.

But we also can, I think, consider the associative interpretation as 
conveyed by the whole construction of N - V disagreement. Then there 
would be associative plural disagreement pattern in the language. It can 
be called associative plural because it covers all non-singulars.

Cf., for instance, that if a language has nominal singular vs. dual vs. 
plural system, but distinguishes only singular vs. plural in the verb, 
we do not say the verbal forms are homophonous between dual and plural: 
these are independent components of quantification. Similar approach 
seems at least possible to me in this case.


The English construction Grev mentions is perfectly possible in Russian, 
too (at least for one speaker), although I would not call it associative 
plural by disagreement just as I would not call "How is she?" in this 
case agreement. But this is a matter of definitions.

Greville Corbett пишет:
> Dear All
> David's posting shows again that calling the whole phenomenon 'associative
> plural' is inaccurate and misleading. In (2) the 'Associative Plural via
> Disagreement' isn't a plural, it's a dual. The associative is orthogonal to
> number: you can have associative dual and and associative plural (as in
> Central Alaskan Yup'ik - Corbett/Mithun in JL 1996). Till David's posting we
> had associative plural by disagreement, and he neatly fills in a gap showing
> that you can have associative dual  by disagreement too. Thus associative is
> orthogonal to number: we have associative dual and associative plural, and
> both of these directly or by disagreement. Maybe someone out there has an
> associative trial, of either flavour. (We don't get associative singulars
> for similar reasons to the lack of inclusive singulars.)
> By the way, even English can get the effect, but only at the top end of the
> Agreement Hierarchy, with pronouns not predicates. For some speakers - well
> at least one - this is OK:
>    - Aunty Rosie rang.
>    - Oh, how are they? (Aunty R and her family).
> Very best
> Grev
> On 13/11/2008 15:53, "David Gil" <gil at EVA.MPG.DE> 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

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