Zero-coded plurals of pluralia tantum

Jan Rijkhoff linjr at HUM.AU.DK
Tue Dec 22 22:21:05 UTC 2009

Dear all,

'Pluralia tantum' should not be confused with what I have called 'set nouns', which are attested in many of the world's languages. Set nouns are transnumeral, but do not require a numeral classifier. Instead they may appear with a collective marker (which is typically absent if the noun is modified by a numeral) or (less often) by a singulative marker, both of which are often confused with number markers as attested in e.g. Dutch or English. Furthermore, these set nouns (notice that a set can
have any number of members, including one) typically trigger singular agreement on the verb, even when the NP they head contains a numeral higher than '1' or when they appear with a collective marker. For example:

Oromo (Stroomer 1987: 107)
(1)	gaala  lamaani  sookoo  d'ak'-e
	camel  two      market  go-3SG.M.PAST
	'Two camels went to the market'

See: Stroomer, Harry. 1987. A comparative study of three southern Oromo dialects in Kenya: phonology, morphology and vocabulary (Cushitic Language Studies 6). Hamburg: Buske.

A moe detailed discussion of set nouns can be found in Chapter 2 (on 'Seinsarten') and Chapter (on 'nominal aspect') in:
Rijkhoff, Jan. 2002 (2004 Pb). The noun phrase. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jan Rijkhoff

hartmut at RUC.DK writes:
>What about Classical Greek neuter plural nouns which trigger singular  
>agreement on verbs (like their singular forms)?

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