Individuation and inverse number marking in Dagaare

Scott Grimm

in Count and Mass Across Languages

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654277
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746048 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics

Individuation and inverse number marking in Dagaare

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This chapter examines the inverse number marking system of Dagaare (Gur; Niger-Congo), where a single morpheme marks a plural interpretation for some nouns and a singular interpretation for others. The chapter argues that individuation, the same semantic principle which has been invoked in accounting for the count-mass distinction, also extends to the count domain and explains the core of the nominal pattern in Dagaare. An examination of Dagaare's lexicon demonstrates that nouns designating highly individuated referents are morphologically marked in the plural, while nouns designating less individuated referents, viz. those which tend to come in groups or pairs, are morphologically marked in the singular. This general view is supported both by other phenomena within Dagaare, such as the domain of diminutives and dialect variation, and by cross-linguistic facts that surface in a wide array of language types. A formal semantic analysis of the number marking system is then provided and the implications for formal models of plurality are explored.

Keywords: Dagaare; Gur languages; individuation; inverse number marking; plurality; singulative

Chapter.  9142 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Semantics

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