FW: Zero-coded plurals of pluralia tantum

Hewitt, Stephen s.hewitt at UNESCO.ORG
Mon Dec 21 10:16:12 UTC 2009

Breton regularly forms plurals of pluralia tantum:
-où = most common plural suffix, originally /-ow/
-ier = another plural suffix
bragoù "(one pair of) trousers"
[bragowier] > [bragewier] > brageier "pairs of trousers"
[bragowiow]                    > bragoioù "pairs of trousers" (NE dialects)
Steve Hewitt
s.hewitt at unesco.org


From: Discussion List for ALT on behalf of Siva Kalyan
Sent: Sun 20/12/2009 23:01
Subject: Re: Zero-coded plurals of pluralia tantum

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

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


	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)?



	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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