LINGUIST List 4.364

Tue 11 May 1993

Sum: Number marking, Crazy morphology

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  1. , Number Marking, A Non-Summary
  2. , "Crazy Morphology", a summary

Message 1: Number Marking, A Non-Summary

Date: Mon, 10 May 93 14:35:12 EDNumber Marking, A Non-Summary
From: <>
Subject: Number Marking, A Non-Summary

In response to my suggestion that the following is a true universal:

 While there are languages in which plural is CONSISTENTLY
 more marked formally than singular, there are NO languages
 where the converse is the case.

I have received no counterexamples.

Which leads to the all-important question of methodology: Can we
conclude that a proposed universal is valid if no one on LINGUIST
sends in a counterexample? (And should we make that 'if' and 'iff'?)
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Message 2: "Crazy Morphology", a summary

Date: Mon, 10 May 93 14:31:16 ED"Crazy Morphology", a summary
From: <>
Subject: "Crazy Morphology", a summary

In response to my query about languages where the same morpheme
marks opposite values of a category in different environments,
I received two suggestions (Mark A. Mandel and H. Stephen Straight)
that the English -s suffix (boy-s, run-s) is an example, and
I also got the following example from Mike Maxwell:

< Cubeo (a Tucanoan language of Cubeo) has two classes of verb
< roots, which Nancy Morse (the field worker in that language) and I
< are calling "stative" and "dynamic". As usual, those terms don't
< have exactly the meaning they have in other languages, but they
< were the best we could come up with.
< There are two sets of suffixes which, if not having opposite
< meanings, certainly have different ones. If a suffix from the
< first set is attached to a stative verb, the resulting verb is in
< the present durative aspect; while if the suffix is attached to a
< dynamic verb, the result is in the recent past tense. Similarly,
< attaching a suffix of the second set to a stative verb results in
< the present habitual aspect, while attaching it to a dynamic verb
< results in the nonrecent past.
< Several suffixes switch a verb from the stative to dynamic class
< or vice versa. Some of these have another function (e.g. the
< negative suffix makes the verb it attaches to stative), but two
< have the unique function of switching a verb from one class to
< another.

To these, I would add the example I already posted: Tubatulabal partial
prefixed reduplication (repeating the first vowel of a stem and sometimes
also any following nasal) marks one of two values of a semantically
empty verbal category depending on the verb stem. With some verbs
reduplication occurs only in the presence of a final suffix, with
others only in the absence of one (a final suffix is a suffix which
cannot be followed by other suffixes). Historically, these were
probably two different aspects, but synchronically it would appear
that the description I have just given is the only correct one.
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