The Associative Plural (Feature 24)
Associative plural constructions consist of a noun X (typically of human reference, usually a person's name or a kin term) and some other material, most often an affix, a clitic, or a word. The meaning of the construction is ‘X and other people associated with X’. An example is Japanese Tanaka-tachi ‘Tanaka and his associates’.
Associative plurals are identified by two semantic properties:
(i)referential heterogeneity and
(ii) reference to groups.
Referential heterogeneity distinguishes associative plurals from additive plurals, which are the most common type in most languages, e.g. English boys. It is additive in the sense that it refers to a set where every member is a boy and thus the set is referentially homogeneous: every referent of the plural form is also a referent of the stem. In contrast, the associative plural designates a heterogeneous set. For example, Japanese Tanaka-tachi does not refer to more than one person named Tanaka: it refers to a group of people only one of whom bears this name.
The second semantic feature of the associative plural is reference to groups: it refers to a close-knit group of individuals rather than to sets without any internal cohesion.
Many European languages have no grammatical expression of associative plurals at all (value 4). If there is an associative plural marker, it may be identical to the additive plural in the language (value 1), because there is rarely a threat of ambiguity (there is rarely a group of ‘Johns’, or a group of ‘my uncles’). If the language has a special associative plural marker, it may be bound (an affix; value 2) or non-bound (a clitic or word; value 3).
|1||Associative plural marker also used for additive plurals||Principense ine Pedu [ass Pedu] ‘Pedu and his family/his friends’ vs. ine ningê [pl person] ‘persons’|
|2||Special bound associative plural marker||Bound associative plural marker not used for additive plural: Sri Lanka Malay Miflal-derang [Miflal-ass] ‘Miflal and his friends’ vs. plural baatu-pada [stone-pl] ‘stones’|
|3||Special non-bound associative plural marker||Clitic/word associative plural marker not used for additive plural: Guinea-Bissau Creole ba Djon [ass John] ‘John and his associates’ vs. ginti-s [person-pl] ‘persons’|
|4||Associative plural absent||No grammatical expression of associative plural. E.g. English and many other European languages (the plural of surnames, as in the Smiths, does not count as an associative plural).|
|5||Other||(Please give details in the “General comments” field.)|