LINGUIST List 2.633

Wed 09 Oct 1991

Disc: Yours, and Distributivity

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Kim Jones, [one of you]rs
  2. Joe Stemberger, Re: 2.614 Queries
  3. , distributive verbs
  4. Logical Language Group, distributive/collective

Message 1: [one of you]rs

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 91 15:18 MST
Subject: [one of you]rs
Re: And Rosta's first question:
 1a Is this book one of yours?
 1b Is this book one of you's?
 2a *This is one of your/our/their book.
 2b This is one of you's/us's/them's book.
 3a *Sophy's picture of your/our/their frame. [not a picture of a frame]
 3b Sophy's picture of you's/us's/them's frame. [not a picture of a frame]
First question: Who *can* accept (1a)? (And (2a), (3a)?)
I can say something similar to 1b, except that in my (Texas) dialect, it
becomes "Is this book one of y'all's?" The only possible permutation of
2a/b for me would make book plural: "This is one of y'all's books," which
would have a rather different meaning (this is one of a number of books
which you-plural own jointly). Otherwise I would say, "This book is one of
y'alls." This is ambiguous, as it could mean either "This book belongs
to one of you-plural" or "This book is one of a number of books which
you-plural own jointly."
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Message 2: Re: 2.614 Queries

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 91 16:13 CDT
From: Joe Stemberger <>
Subject: Re: 2.614 Queries
And Rosta asks about people's reaction to sentences like:
 This is [one of you]'r book.
 This is [one of you]'s book.
To me, both are equally hideous. I don't think that I can do anything
other than avoid the whole construction. Which is unfortunate, since there
is occasionally a need to use it. I have seen people grind to a halt and
get all confused when beginning a sentence of this sort, only to realize
that they have no way to complete it.
---joe stemberger
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Message 3: distributive verbs

Date: 8 Oct 91 12:25
From: <>
Subject: distributive verbs
Re M. Kac's query concerning verbal morphological marking of distributivity:
Languages that have this seem to be quite common, see the typological survey
Xrakovskij, Viktor S. (ed.) 1989. Tipologija iterativnyx konstrukcij.
Leningrad: Nauka.
Dressler, Wolfgang. 1967. Studien zur Verbalen Pluralitaet. Wien.
However, such distributive markers on verbs are typically derivational and
rarely 100% productive.
Martin Haspelmath, Free University of Berlin
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Message 4: distributive/collective

Date: Tue, 8 Oct 91 10:19:41 -0400
From: Logical Language Group <>
Subject: distributive/collective
>From: Michael Kac <>
>Are there any languages which have some kind of morphological marking of
>verbs to distinguish collective vs. distributive interpretation? E.g.
>in an analogue of *John and Bill carried a piano upstairs* a way of mor-
>phologically distinguishing the sense in which John and Bill each
>carried a piano upstairs from the one in which the two of them did it
I would be suspicious of any claim that a language conveys this
information solely through the verb, since it is inherently a function
of the subject/object. If the example were "John carried two pianos
upstairs", would you use the same collective/distributive distinction on
the verb for the two possible interpretations (that he carried them both
up at once, or that he took two trips). If the collective/distributive
is spread over two different objects, any verb-based system would break
down: "John and Bill carried two pianos upstairs" could be distributive
on John and Bill and collective on the pianos, vice versa, or both
collective, or both distributive. A language for which it was important
to make the distinction at all would likely allow for the possibility that
more than one of the NP's/subjects/objects would be plural.
I base my response on my experience with the design of Loglan/Lojban,
which makes these distinctions, but in a different way than you pose.
Lojban distinguishes collective/distributive of this sort by the form of
expression of the subject/object, not by a marker on the verb. In this
example, the 'and' would be the non-logical massifying 'and' to indicate
that they did it jointly, and the logical conjunction 'and' to say that
they each did it separately. In other cases where there is no
conjunction, the 'article' distinguishes individual from mass e.g. "the
three persons carried a piano upstairs".
I am of course interested in languages that run counter to this
analysis. Are there any languages that make the distinction Michael
seeks, but only to refer to plural subjects, and/or to plural objects,
but not multiple plurals in one sentence.
lojbab = Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
 2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273
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