Zero-coded plurals of pluralia tantum

Siva Kalyan sivakalyan.princeton at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 20 22:01:48 UTC 2009

Amendment: "All my trousers have a hole in them!" -> "All my trousers have
holes in them!"

2009/12/20 Siva Kalyan <sivakalyan.princeton at>

> Hi,
> Suppose I had one pair of trousers with a hole in it. I would exclaim, "My
> trousers have a hole in them!". Now suppose I had the misfortune to discover
> that this was true of *all* of my pairs of trousers. Then I would say,
> "All my trousers have a hole in them!". Note that in the first case, *
> trousers* refers to a single pair of trousers, whereas in the second, it
> refers to multiple pairs.
> What I'm curious about is: How common is this in the world's languages?
> That is, how common is it for a language to zero-code the plural of a
> plurale tantum (a noun denoting a singular entity but which is grammatically
> plural)? Is there any other strategy that is used used in such situations?
> (The earlier thread on double plurals comes to mind.)
> Also, why would a language zero-code this kind of plural in the first
> place? Might it have to do with the "repeated morph constraint" (Menn and
> MacWhinney 1984) or "product-oriented schemas" (Bybee 2001)?
> Thanks,
> Siva
> Ref's
> Bybee, Joan. Phonology and Language Use. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
> Menn, L, and B MacWhinney. "The Repeated Morph Constraint: Toward An
> Explanation." Language 60, no. 3 (1984): 519-541.
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