LINGUIST List 4.364

Tue 11 May 1993

Sum: Number marking, Crazy morphology

Editor for this issue: <>


  • , Number Marking, A Non-Summary
  • , "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'?)

    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.