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Subject: Morphemes for plurals
Question: Are there any languages whose standard method of showing plurality separates the morpheme or phrase that indicates it from the root word it refers to?
Reply: Yes, at least one, Kawki of the Jaqi family of languages. In these languages the singular/plural distinction is not native. Certain suffixes in Jaqaru and in Aymara have been pressed into service to act as pluralizers, in reaction to the dominant language Spanish. The lack of a plural does NOT mean singular and such use is optional in all cases. But to your question. In Kawki the form used for the plural is the same as in Jaqaru, kuna, but is a separate word, defined precisely as the other two linguists so defined it: other things can come between the item and the 'plural' marker, and it can stand alone. This was a surprise to find and most of the published materials write it as a suffix (they need correction). The stress patterns in Kawki also indicate a separate word. The example here is part of a very very long sentence: misa\t jarp\q"\shi\sh\\k\ishu\\ \\uk"uk"\p\\ illpa\p\w kun\j, . The interesting part is the end: tablecloth(es) + theirs + -wa which is a sentence suffix and after which only other sentence suffixes can occur and not many of them. It marks a syntactic unit. Then comes kunj, the j being an object marker and the kuna being the pluralizer and/or secuencial. Clearly not a suffix and clearly absolutely separated from the illpa (tablecloth). Fun stuff. I suspect that kuna was not a suffix originally and became so under the influence of Spanish. A linguist in Bolivia has also so argued for the Aymara 'plural' -naka, though today it is clearly a suffix. The verb situation is another story.
Reply From: M J Hardman      click here to access email
Date: 06-Aug-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Morphemes for plurals    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (06-Aug-2012)
  2. Re: Morphemes for plurals    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (06-Aug-2012)
  3. Re: Morphemes for plurals    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (08-Aug-2012)
  4. Re: Morphemes for plurals    Susan Fischer     (06-Aug-2012)
  5. Re: Morphemes for plurals    Norvin Richards     (07-Aug-2012)

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